ALBANY — A less-convoluted, more Republican-friendly map was offered Monday that would put the entire Capital Region and much of the Mohawk Valley in just two congressional districts: NY-20 and NY-21.
Incumbents Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, are running for re-election in NY-20 and NY-21, respectively.
Both said Monday they’ll continue their campaigns for those districts. But if the draft map issued Monday stands, and if both incumbents win, Tonko would become one of Stefanik’s constituents — his home would be in NY-21.
There’s no requirement that members of Congress live in the district they represent, only that they live in the state.
Tonko nonetheless urged the expert who redrew the districts to consider changes, and keep Albany, Amsterdam, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Troy within the same district, as they have such similar interests.
“Anything less hamstrings our ability to get things done for our communities,” Tonko said in a prepared statement.
Stefanik, who has gained national prominence as the third-ranking Republican in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, offered a short prepared statement:
“I look forward to running for re-election in NY-21 where I have been honored and humbled to earn historic support every election cycle!”
Districts for Congress and the state Legislature are redrawn every 10 years based on the most recent Census data. The maps for the 2022 elections were to be crafted by an independent bipartisan commission to reduce political influence, but the commission could not reach an internal consensus.
So instead, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature drew the districts, coming up with a map that many said was gerrymandered in favor of the Democratic Party. An appeals court with entirely Democratic appointees threw it out and appointed a special master to draw the lines.
The master released his draft plan Monday. A court will take public comment for two days and finalize the maps Friday.
As drawn, Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties would be in NY-20, along with southern Saratoga County.
Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Schoharie, Warren and Washington counties would be in NY-21, along with the northern half of Saratoga County, part of Otsego County, and all or part of seven other counties going north to the Canadian border.
NY-19, which had included parts of the Capital Region, would be shifted much farther south. Incumbent Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, a Schenectady native recently tapped to become lieutenant governor, is not planning to run for re-election.
Tonko said he hopes the master will reconsider.
“I am deeply disappointed that the draft map removes the communities of Amsterdam and Saratoga Springs from a Capital Region district,” the seven-term incumbent said in a prepared statement.
“Ten years ago when another court-drawn map was imposed, it rightly recognized the unique economic, transportation, and social strands that weave the Capital Region together and crafted a Congressional District that united the region’s major population centers. Since that time, our region has only grown more cohesive, as evidenced most recently by CDTA’s expansion into Montgomery County.”
Tonko soundly defeated Republican Liz Joy in 2020, garnering 61% of the votes. Joy is running for Congress again in 2022 and said Monday that the draft map would help her cause.
“I am looking forward to running in the newly configured, stronger, fairer 20th Congressional District,” a statement read. “This is a winnable district and we are determined to take back Congress from the radical left that has completely lost touch with the average voter.”
Stefanik was in a favorable situation even under the first set of district maps that were thrown out by the court. In creating a greater number of Democratic-friendly congressional districts — 22 of the 26 would have had strong Democratic majorities — legislators appeared to sacrifice any chance of taking the mostly rural NY-21, instead leaving it a heavily Republican district.
The current lines also favor Stefanik, a four-term incumbent who won 59% of the vote in 2020.
State voter records indicate 41% of registered voters in NY-21 are enrolled in the Republican Party vs. just 27% in the Democratic Party.
Tonko’s NY-20 as currently drawn is the opposite: 40% Democrat and 26% Republican.
Meanwhile, the state Legislature’s maps are in flux.
The same court decision that tossed the congressional districts also rejected the state Senate districts, which also are now being redrawn. And a new lawsuit seeks to have the Assembly districts similarly tossed.
Reporting by The Associated Press was included in this story.