by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Monday, May 23, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 169 days away. Election Day 2024 is 897 days away.
This morning, I’m diving into a consequential story which calls for some deeper explanation and context: the fight over New York’s congressional maps.
There are a lot of dynamics at play here, as Democrats experience their latest setback in the redistricting wars — and prepare for a pretty awkward primary battle between two of their most prominent committee chairs.
Keep reading for all of that and more...
The New York Shuffle
And what it means for the race for Congress in 2022
New York’s new congressional district lines were finalized by a state court on Friday night, making the Empire State one of the last to finish the redistricting process after the 2020 census.
The new map, which will be in effect for the next 10 years, has caused an uproar among Democrats — both for what it means for their fight to keep control of the House in November, and because it sets up a series of caustic primary battles on their side.
Allow me to explain...
First, some background...
How did New York get into this mess in the first place, where a court had to oversee its redistricting? Well, it starts with an amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2014, which handed over New York’s redistricting process to an independent commission split between the two parties.
That sounds like a nice idea in practice, but the commission deadlocked, and its Democratic and Republican members ended up each sending their own competing maps to the state legislature.
That handed control of redistricting back to the legislature, which Democrats control by a wide margin. As a result, Democratic lawmakers created a congressional map that would have heavily favored their party and likely allowed them to pick up as many as three Republican seats. (In the current environment, with Democrats boasting only a five-seat majority in the House, three seats makes a big difference.)
The Democratic map didn’t last long, however: Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signed it into law in February. By April, New York’s highest court had struck the map down, declaring it to be a clear partisan gerrymander — in violation of the 2014 amendment to the State Constitution.
The court appointed an independent “special master” to draw the maps instead, choosing a Carnegie Mellon University postdoctoral fellow named Jonathan Cervas, who had “few ties to New York and scant experience drawing state lines,” in the words of the New York Times.
Cervas submitted his initial map on May 16; the court finalized it on Friday with a handful of changes.
What the new map means for the 2022 midterms
The legislature-drawn New York map was supposed to be the crown jewel of Democrats’ efforts to combat Republican redistricting wins from the 2010 redrawing cycle. But they “gerrymandered too close to the sun,” as the New Republic put it, and now the party could stand to lose several seats in November.
New York’s House delegation is currently split 19-8 between Democrats and Republicans. According to Cook Political Report’s redistricting maven Dave Wasserman, the Democratic-drawn map would have turned the party’s advantage to 22-4. (The new map includes one fewer district because New York lost a district due to population decline.)
The special master’s map, on the other hand, could make the Democratic advantage as narrow as 15-11, in Wasserman’s estimation. That means New York’s map will be one of the most competitive in the nation, a major blow against partisan gerrymandering — and also Democratic hopes of keeping control of the House.
Although Democrats were originally seen as doing well in the redistricting process, a series of GOP-drawn maps and unfavorable court rulings — in Florida, Maryland, Kansas, Ohio, and other states, as well as New York — have eliminated that progress.
“The legal setbacks and losses Democrats have suffered in the last three months have been staggering,” Wasserman told Axios of the recent redistricting developments.
With historical trends and recent polling already pointed to a devastating election year for Democrats, the reversal in their redistricting fortunes just adds to the party’s 2022 woes.
Some awkward Democratic primaries
In addition to the map’s impact on the general elections in November, the special master’s map also sets up some interesting primary matchups for Democrats this August.
In the past week, ever since the special master’s initial map was released, a high-stakes shuffle has ensued among New York’s powerful Democratic House delegation, which involves a fair share of seniority, personality, and ego.
According to Politico, no less than five pairs of incumbents were drawn into living in the same districts, meaning each pair had to sort out who would run in their home base — and who would have to move.
In one case, both Democrats are refusing to move: Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler will face each other in a primary in the new 12th congressional district.
Maloney, 76, and Nadler, 74, have both served in Congress for three decades; she’s the chair of the House Oversight Committee and he leads the House Judiciary Committee, two of the most powerful congressional panels.
After New York City’s Upper East Side (Maloney’s turf) and Upper West Side (Nadler’s home front) were drawn into the same district for the first time in decades, the longtime colleagues — two Washington powerhouses — are running against each other.
Another matchup that caused a fair amount of drama was between Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Mondaire Jones, who were both drawn into the 17th district in the suburbs of New York City.
Maloney (no relation to Carolyn) quickly announced he would run in the 17th, causing a firestorm among Democrats — many of whom called for him to be removed as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the House Democrats’ campaign arm, if he was going to be running against a fellow incumbent.
That particular fight was avoided, however, when Jones announced on Satruday that he’d run in the nearby 10th district instead. But that sets up an interesting matchup: former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has also announced a campaign in the 10th district, creating another race between two heavyweights.
More news to know
— Speaking in Japan this morning, President Biden said the U.S. would intervene militarily if China attacks Taiwan — an apparent chnage in policy that his aides quickly walked back, not for the first time.
— A federal judge in Louisiana moved Friday to block the Biden administration from ending Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that has prevented migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum in the U.S.
— Russia released an updated list on Saturday of nearly 1,000 Americans who are permanently banned from visiting Russia, including Biden, Vice President Harris, and the now-deceased former Sens. John McCain and Harry Reid.
— The Pentagon is considering sending Special Forces troops to guard the newly reopened U.S. embassy in Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reports. The move would escalate the American presence in Ukraine.
Five numbers to know
In no particular order, some stats that caught my eye this weekend...
— The Dow is on its longest weekly losing streak since 1923.
— At least 44% of Republican legislators in the nine most contested battleground states have taken steps to discredit or overturn the 2020 election results, per a New York Times review.
— President Biden’s approval rating has dipped to 39% according to AP, the lowest of his presidency in their polling.
— Biden has gone 100 days without sitting for an interview with a reporter, longer than any president in decades.
— Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani met virtually with the House January 6 committee for nine hours on Friday.
What’s going on in Washington today
All times Eastern.
President Biden is in Japan, on the second leg of trip to Asia. It’s night there now, but earlier in the day, he met with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, held a press conference with Kishida, met with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), and attended a dinner hosted by Kishida.
- More details: IPEF is a new economic deal with the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other major powers, designed to increase the bloc’s competitiveness with China. Despite pressure from lawmakers, Taiwan was not included in the pact.
Vice President Harris will discuss the Biden administration’s mental health agenda in a visit to Children’s National Hospital in D.C. (2:45 pm).
First Lady Jill Biden is in Costa Rica. She’ll visit a community center partially funded by the U.S. government (11 am) and then return to Washington, D.C.
The Senate will convene for a pro forma session (1:45 pm), a brief meeting in which no business is conducted and few members attend.
The House is out until June 7.
The Supreme Court will release orders (9:30 am) and opinions (10 am).
- What that means: Orders are how justices announce decisions made at their most recent conference, generally whether or not they’re going to hear certain cases. Opinions are how the justices hand down rulings in cases they have already heard.Links to watch for yourself: Biden presser with Japanese PM • Senate pro forma
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