Once Seen as a Victim of Redistricting, Hochul Now May Turn Tables

Gun Rights

Governor Hochul will likely sign off on a state redistricting map that will put in jeopardy the re-election prospects of four Republican members of New York’s House delegation — echoing a situation the Democratic lawmaker faced a decade ago.

At the time, Ms. Hochul was finishing her first term in the House of Representatives after winning a 2011 special election to replace Congressman Chistopher Lee, a Republican.

The state senate was then controlled by Republicans, giving the party some say in the redistricting process that follows each federal Census.

As a vulnerable freshman congresswoman, Ms. Hochul saw her district redrawn to include more conservative voters, and she lost her re-election bid.

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Today, Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and their party has final say over the redistricting process, putting Republicans at a disadvantage.

If she’s noticed the historical parallel, Ms. Hochul isn’t letting on.

The governor’s office declined to comment on how much the redistricting affected her 2012 re-election race. Yet the Brennan Center identified her seat as “flipped from Democratic to Republican control because of redistricting.”

“Redistricting has thrown the 53-year-old freshman into the most conservative district in the state,” the New York Times reported of Ms. Hochul’s race in 2012, “away from the suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester and into a rural area of farms and villages.”

In 2012, Ms. Hochul saw a net of about 10,000 Republican and Conservative party votes added to her district; it lost about 1,200 registered Democrats.

That swing — making a conservative district even more so — pushed Ms. Hochul to redouble her campaign efforts. “If I see three cars in front of a diner, I’m stopping in to say hello,” she said at the time.

Given Ms. Hochul’s experience, the Sun asked whether the governor had any advice for incumbents who may be facing radically different districts next year. The governor’s office has not yet responded.

Today marks the first day when the state legislature can act on a new district district map for New York State, after an obligatory three-day waiting period. New York lost one representative as a result of the 2020 Census.

The proposed map would be the biggest shift in a state’s representation in this redistricting cycle, and while it is not guaranteed yet, Democrats have everything they need to pass it.

Democrats hold a slim supermajority in both the state senate and the assembly, which leaves Ms. Hochul’s signature as the last required piece.

Providing it is enacted, the new map will likely cut New York’s Republican House delegation in half, putting four representatives in the same situation that Governor Hochul herself faced in 2012.

Following the 2010 Census, Ms. Hochul’s seat in New York’s 26th district was moved and she found herself running for re-election in the new, more conservative, 27th district.

The new 27th district grew to encompass large parts of New York’s 28th and 29th districts, which were eliminated in congressional reapportionment, as well as parts of the 26th and the 27th.

Ms. Hochul had won the traditionally Republican 26th district in a special election to replace Representative Christopher Lee, who resigned after an incident involving his solicitation of a woman on Craigslist.

Ms. Hochul lost the narrow bid for re-election in 2012 against Representative Chris Collins, who also ended up resigning, following an insider trading scandal.

Mr. Collins was later convicted of conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI, receiving a 26 month sentence. Efforts to contact Mr. Collins were unsuccessful.

In 2012 both the American political landscape and Ms. Hochul’s own policies looked very different. For example, Ms. Hochul received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and its endorsement in the 2012 election.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the National Rifle Association,” Ms Hochul said. “As a county clerk, I was a staunch advocate for sportsmen, and I have carried through on my commitment to protect their rights in Congress.”

She was also known for voting across party lines. She broke with Democrats in a vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt regarding the Department of Justice’s “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking program.

Ms. Hochul also joined with Republicans in voting for the 2012 Balanced Budget Amendment, a failed effort that would have required the president to submit a balanced budget as well as a three-fifths majority to raise the debt limit.

Her history of bipartisanship stands in contrast to the recent redistricting map, which gives Democrats a leg up across the state and is likely to increase the size of New York’s Democratic House delegation if adopted.

While it is possible the map could be changed before adoption, or altered via litigation, Democrats control both houses of the legislature and every judge on the state’s highest court was nominated by a Democratic governor, giving Republicans little leverage in the process.

Dave Wasserman, an editor at the Cook Political Report, believes that Democrats did a thorough job on the new map.

“I can only find a few isolated places where this New York gerrymander ‘strands’ Democratic votes in GOP districts — and even then, we’re talking fractions of points,” Mr Wasserman said.


Image: Governor Hochul in 2011, when she was a Congresswoman. Detail of official portrait via Wikimedia Commons.

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