A Redistricting Year But Most Incumbents Have It Easy
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
When our forefathers wrote the Constitution, they demonstrated prescience and intellect perhaps never before present in a document that governs a nation.
We all know the beginning of this blueprint to American Democracy: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
But today, my focus is on Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which is the basis of the decennial census and reapportionment which follows.
Every 10 years, since 1790, there has been a census taken nationwide to determine the country’s population. The decennial census day has, since 1930, been designated as April 1, I assume with no bearing or relationship to the other celebration we have the same day.
Once the census figures are reported, the nation adjusts the number of representatives in Congress from each state and then each political subdivision is adjusted to insure fair representation – one man (or one person), one vote. This reapportionment or redistricting was envisioned by the drafters of the Constitution.
Besides envisioning keeping everything fair among political subdivisions, this writer believes those prescient American visionaries foresaw and intended to address the advantages of incumbency.
If districts were redrawn every 10 years, there would logically be turnover in elected officials. The changing of political subdivision lines would enable new blood to enter the system and further the drafters concept of a non-permanent legislature.
But, at least in the sovereign State of New York, the legislature has turned the redistricting process into a bad April Fool’s Day joke. Politicizing the process, especially to the extent done in New York, further slants an already very uneven playing field.
Rather than encouraging the election of newcomers, the political parties utilize the process to further their grip(s) on power.
And so, this redistricting year in Queens, with 27 local legislators at the State and Federal level seeking reelection, we only anticipate three possible close races.
|State Senator Shirley Huntley (left) is being challenged by Councilman James Sanders Jr. in a primary that pits these two popular south Queens politicians against each other. The inclusion of the Rockways in the new District give Sanders a reason to believe.|
|Democratic businessman John Messer (left) gears up a half a million dollar plus campaign to unseat Toby Stavisky whose family dynasty has held this seat for almost 30 years. Redistricting has taken Stavisky out of her home base and made it half Asian favoring Messer the husband of a Chinese woman.|
|Councilman Eric Ulrich (left) has been convinced by the Senate Republican Majority to challenge State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr. The November election will see both parties target this seat making it a multi-million dollar election.
Quickly, our assumptions:
Queens is represented in full or in part by seven members of Congress (presently and in the new redistricting plan). Congressman Gary Ackerman, Ed Towns and newly-elected Bob Turner are not standing for reelection. The other four will be reelected. While Nydia Velazquez does have a race, we don’t categorize it as a threat. Of the 18 members of the Assembly, we are assuming that 6th Congressional candidates Grace Meng and Rory Lancman are not running for their present Assembly seats – they both would easily be reelected if they did. The other 16 will waltz back into office.
There are seven State Senators, all of whom are standing for reelection. However, three of the seven face challenges that could rise to the level of unseating them.
In the General Election in Southwestern Queens, Democratic Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. will have to defend his seat in November against sitting Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich—a driven and popular campaigner.
In south Queens, Senator Shirley Huntley, faces a primary against an energetic sitting Councilman James Sanders Jr.
And in north-central Queens, sitting Sen. Toby Stavisky has been redistricted into a seat with incumbent Sen. Tony Avella, but has chosen to run in a neighboring seat which has no incumbent. She faces a challenge from businessman/attorney John Messer. Messer, who is married to a Chinese woman and has committed $500,000 of his own money to the race, is expected to be very competitive in this district that is half Asian.
Based on our look from now through November, other than the vacant seats, only in the 16 Senatorial District might we see an incumbent elected official lose an election to someone who is not already in elective office. Both Huntley and Addabbo face members of the City Council.
At the end of the day, Nov. 5, 2012, it is conceivable that all 27 electeds standing for reelection may win. Perhaps 1 or 3.7 percent of those standing for reelection or 2 or 7.4 percent will lose.
Such is the abysmal commentary on New York State’s process of open elections.
In non-redistricting years, the odds are much worse.
Does anyone remember the commitment to independent redistricting?
Welcome to New York.
Yes, I’m complaining.
Where are all the races?