Few fans for "new" Assembly districts
By Jim Poole
Assemblyman Pete Lopez and Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney aren't pleased with the new assembly districts proposed last week.
And neither, apparently, is Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The Governor said last week he'll veto the proposed new districts, which are redrawn every 10 years to accommodate population shifts.
The proposal would have drastically altered Assemblyman Lopez's 127th district and Assemblywoman Tenney's 115th. It would have placed the two incumbent Republicans in the proposed 102nd district, pitting them against one another.
The new lines, which include all assembly and senate districts, were drawn by LATFOR, a committee of lawmakers and staff from both major parties.
The redesign is intended to be non-partisan, but in vowing to veto, Governor Cuomo said the new plan was exactly the opposite.
Assemblywoman Tenney agreed.
She lives in New Hartford, on the eastern end of the 115th, and her district stretches north and west into Oneida and Oswego counties.
Under the proposed alignment, she'd lose almost all her current district. Assemblywoman Tenney would keep just two towns in Oneida County and gain all of Schoharie and parts of Otsego, Herkimer, Greene, Columbia and Albany.
"This is a joke," Assemblywoman Tenney said. "It's the most blatant form of gerrymandering.
"There's not one thing here a good government group can justify."
Although a Republican, Assemblywoman Tenney said she's described as the "most independent" member of the assembly and doesn't always side with GOP leadership.
"No one's district was decimated like mine," she said.
Even with Governor Cuomo's threatened veto, Assemblywoman Tenney plans to hire an attorney to fight the proposal.
The plan wouldn't change Assemblyman Lopez's current district as much. He'd keep Schoharie County but lose Saugerties in Ulster County, five towns in Delaware County and some in Greene County. He would pick up two Oneida County towns and seven in Herkimer County.
"Those towns we'd lose are my friends and neighbors," Assemblyman Lopez said.
He is, however, not panicking.
"We'll let the process unfold," the Assemblyman said. "We're watching but not over-reacting. I'm working on representing the district I have now."
Governor Cuomo's expected veto would lead to negotiations about the lines.
Assemblyman Lopez pointed out one sticking point on changing the lines--it's not easy.
"It's like Rubik's cube," he said. "You move one piece, and everyone else has to shift. You move a few towns from one district, and the next one has to change, and the next one."
If the Governor and legislature can't agree on district boundaries, the issue will go to the courts.
It must be done quickly, however, because this is an election year for legislators.
"It can't take years," Assemblyman Lopez said. "There are deadlines--filing dates, primaries and so forth.
"My sense is that the Governor and legislature won't let it get to the courts."
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Senator Jim Seward's 51st district wouldn't change much at all. He'd retain all of Schoharie and Otsego counties, gain some of Delaware County and lose towns in Herkimer County.
In a statement Friday, Senator Seward supported the redrawing of his district, which would remain the 51st under the proposal.