ALBANY, N.Y. — A court released final maps for New York’s 26 congressional and 63 state Senate districts in the midnight hour on Saturday morning, setting in motion a flurry of campaign activity as candidates quickly jockeyed for position in critical seats.
The maps are not a drastic overhaul from drafts that threw the state’s elections into chaos on Monday and threatened Democrats’ hopes of picking up several House seats from Republicans in November.
But the new maps released early Saturday did immediately lead to some clarity for this year’s contests that resulted in an overnight shuffle that included: Buffalo Rep. Chris Jacobs, a Republican, declaring for a seat that looks like Republican Rep. Tom Reed’s old district across upstate New York; Rep. Claudia Tenney ,a Republican, announcing a run for Jacobs’ seat in Western New York, and Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones joining what could be a massive field in New York City for an open seat well south of his current one.
Democrats hold 19 of New York’s 27 seats, and now face the prospect of highly competitive primaries in seats that previously sparked little competition.
A plan that Democrats enacted in February would have made them the favorites in 22 of the 26 seats, following the loss of a district due to population stagnation. Now, Democrats might have advantages on paper in 21 of the 26 districts, but their edge in several of the seats will be slim.
“Today is a good day for democracy. Democrats’ scheme to rig the election is finally dead beyond revival,” state GOP Chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement.
The election upheaval comes after the Democratic-drawn maps were tossed by the state’s highest court, and the mapmaking power went to a Republican judge in small, upstate Steuben County and special master Jonathan Cervas, a Carnegie Mellon University fellow.
Cervas notably did away with a Democratic map that included one safe Democratic seat and one safe Republican one in the parts of eastern Long Island, a critical battleground currently held by Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin and Andrew Garbarino.
In his plan, those two Suffolk County districts will now be split between one that Joe Biden won roughly 50 percent to 41 percent percent in 2020 and one that Donald Trump won 51 percent to 49 percent. And Zeldin’s seat is open as he runs for governor.
Democrats had initially planned to adjust the parts of Brooklyn that Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ seat is joined with to turn the district from one where Biden received 44.7 percent of the vote to one where he received 55 percent. But under Cervas’ plan, it would be a district where Biden received 46 percent of the vote, according to a review from the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center/CUNY.
One of the most seismic shifts in the draft maps released Monday came from Cervas’ decision to end the decades-long practice of splitting Manhattan on an east-west basis. His plan joined Nadler and Maloney into the same seat and created an open one featuring the lower half of the island joined with parts of Brooklyn.
The special master defended the split in a memo accompanying his Saturday morning release.
“The East Side versus West Side distinction tends to break down as we move further south,” he wrote. “Also, even the areas of the city bordering on opposite sides of Central Park do not appear to be as strongly distinguished in terms of economic and demographic differences as they once were.”
Still, the part of Brooklyn that the new open seat would be joined with was adjusted from his Monday plan, in part due a ripple effect caused by adjustments made to Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke’s nearby district following criticism that the draft split Crown Heights.
But the general concepts of the district remain largely unchanged from Monday, and it was immediately confirmed that the open seat will be a Democratic free-for-all with Jones’ late-night announcement.
“I have decided to run for another term in Congress in NY-10,” Jones, who represents a Westchester-area seat, announced on Twitter at 12:30 a.m. “Since long before the Stonewall Uprising, queer people of color have sought refuge within its borders.”
Manhattan Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou is also launching a campaign for the solidly Democratic seat that already includes former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who launched his run even before the final maps were printed. The final list of entrants is likely to be much longer than that.
Jones’ entrance into that race provided some immediate clarity for contests in the Hudson Valley, where Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Sean Patrick Maloney will likely receive their party’s nominations in a pair of districts in the Westchester area.
Maloney, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, set off a firestorm when he announced a run soon after the maps were released Monday that infringed on Jones’ district — leaving Jones with the choice of whether to challenge Maloney in a primary or look elsewhere.
Two open seats a bit further to the north that largely consist of portions of the districts currently held by Tenney and Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, who is leaving Congress to serve as lieutenant governor, lean Democratic on paper, but will likely be competitive.
After Tenney’s district was largely dissolved in the Democratic maps that passed in February, she launched a campaign for a Southern Tier seat that most closely resembled the one held by the outgoing Reed. On Saturday morning, she instead launched a bid for a seat that stretches from Niagara County to the furthest shores of Lake Ontario.
That contains several pieces of the seat held by fellow Republican Jacobs. But Jacobs’ corner of the Buffalo suburbs was joined with many parts of Reed’s old Southern Tier district that borders Pennsylvania in the final Cervas maps. Jacobs announced in the 1:00 a.m. hour that he will be running for the seat.
The most popular request Cervas received from the public following his Monday maps was to rejoin Saratoga Springs and Amsterdam (the home of Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko) with the parts of the Albany area represented by Tonko.
Cervas did make an adjustment: He placed Saratoga in the seat, but left Amsterdam in Republican. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s district. Tonko is still expected to run for the Albany-area seat.
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