By Joe Borelli
January 31, 2022 6:03pm
Make no mistake: Eliminating Republican competition for elective office was always the Democratic Party’s endgame.
The writing was on the wall. Hell, it may as well have been plastered on billboards up and down I-90.
“We must win the redistricting war,” New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney bluntly told Politico Nov. 30, 2020, three days before he was elected chairman of the powerful Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
When Democratic powerbrokers in Albany emerged from their star chamber Sunday with new “fair and impartial” political maps that resemble a snakes and ladders game, the “war” plan came into complete focus: With one hand, point fingers at Republican-led states across the country and scream “Gerrymandering!” while the other hand erases as many Republican-held congressional seats in New York as possible.
Democrats hold 19 of the state’s 27 House seats. With one district to be eliminated due to population loss, these maps they seek to increase that overwhelming advantage to 22 of the remaining 26 districts, wiping out four of the eight GOP seats. These added New York congressional seats could be pivotal to the Dems’ hope to hold onto power in Washington as they head into midterm elections with a dragging economy and a president with abysmal approval ratings.
To accomplish this, Dems have targeted the lone New York City Republican voice in Congress, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, by snaking the lines northward from her Staten Island-based NY-11 district to include the Brooklyn lefty-strongholds of Sunset Park, Park Slope, Gowanus and Red Hook — a move that could dramatically change the district from a Donald Trump +10 in 2020 to a Biden +10.
They drew new lines to merge GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s NY-1 district into Andrew Garbarino’s NY-2, moving NY-1 from a Trump +4 to a Biden +10, and eliminate GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney’s NY-22 altogether.
And to protect liberal Democratic Rep. Nadler, they “Jerry-mandered” his already-liberal district by slithering across the Upper West Side and parts of Brooklyn, detouring through Prospect Heights.
It should surprise no one that New York’s redistricting process has been a complete sham.
No, the New York State Independent Commission Redistricting Commission did not fail in its mission to “rationally” redraw the district maps through “a fair and readily transparent process.” It did exactly what it was supposed to do.
Does anyone believe the commission’s Democratic appointees negotiated with their Republican counterparts in good faith, knowing full well that if they forced a stalemate between the two sides, control of the maps would be ceded to the state Legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority in both houses? Because if you do, I have a Mario Cuomo Bridge to sell you.
For all the pearl-clutching that Republicans are stacking the deck in other states, suppressing voter rights and threatening the very foundations of our democracy, there’s been barely a mumbling word about the blatant partisan chicanery going on right here in Big Blue New York.
Where is the outrage from the good-government goo-goos and the voter-rights warriors? Where is the Department of Justice, which is suing Texas over its redistricting process? Where is the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina over their “unconstitutional” political maps?
But those are Republican-led states, and voters’ rights only seem to matter when those voters are Democrats.
The process that will play out over the coming weeks is entirely predictable. Democrats will justify these dodgy district boundaries with arguments about how they “preserve and strengthen communities of interest.” Then, after much handwringing, Democrats in the Assembly and state Senate will vote to adopt these monstrosities.
Ultimately, the newly drawn congressional maps will head to court. There, the same people who called the redistricting process a “war” will have to explain to a federal magistrate how maps that obliterate districts the opposing party represents in no way violate Article 6-A of the state Constitution, which says that “districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.”
They will reject the notion that they ignored the will of the 3 million New Yorkers who voted for that very amendment in a referendum that created the Independent Redistricting Commission.
I, for one, would love it if for once they just told the judge the truth: They are a bunch of hypocrites. They don’t really care about voter rights or gerrymandering. The redistricting process was never about keeping the core of districts intact or consolidating “communities of interest.” It is about consolidating Democratic power.
Joe Borelli is the minority leader of the New York City Council.