The new Staten Island House district lines could cause problems for the Borough’s GOP. And Dems too (analysis)
STATEN ISLAND, NY – Staten Island politicians will have to wait to expire regarding the new House District lines here.
The independent commission tasked with drawing new legislative boundaries in New York, especially for seats in the House of Representatives, did nothing by releasing two decks of cards last week.
What was supposed to be a non-partisan approach ultimately turned out to be partisan, with Democrats and Republicans on the panel each releasing their own deck of cards.
This means things are still on hold when it comes to the new Congressional Boundaries, including Staten Island.
And there are serious implications here for Republicans and Democrats.
“These cards don’t mean anything at this point,” said a Borough Democrat familiar with the redistribution process. “They are a first draft. It will go through the legislative process.
This meant that the lines, as in the past, would be drawn by state lawmakers themselves, a partisan (sometimes hyper-partisan) process that the independent commission was supposed to suppress.
Due to the population decline seen in the last census, New York State will lose one of its 27 seats in the House of Representatives. With the Democrats in charge of the state government, one of the state’s eight GOP seats is likely to be the one removed.
“New York will make sure it loses a Republican seat,” said a senior Island Republican.
First-term Representative Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island / Brooklyn) holds one of those eight seats and is the only House Republican in all five boroughs.
With Staten Island’s population too small to make the borough a self-sustaining congressional district, the island has shared the congressional district with Brooklyn in recent decades. The district includes GOP-friendly neighborhoods in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.
But as the new maps were in the works, there was speculation that the seat of the 11th Congressional District of Malliotakis could be redesigned to include more progressive Democratic voters in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, tilting the balance of power at headquarters in favor of the Democrats.
NOT SO QUICKLY
Not that the Democrats on Staten Island necessarily wanted to see it that way. If Brooklyn had more influence over the seat, it could prevent a Staten Island Democrat from winning it.
The Dems of Staten Island with rather long memories are reminiscent of the time when the island shared a judicial district with Brooklyn. Kings County party leaders had a say in the selection of judicial candidates, often at the expense of the island.
Island Democrats don’t want to repeat that story with the House seat, the price perch in borough politics. The people of Brooklyn are needed for the Congressional District to be whole, of course, but the Island Dems want the seat to remain a Staten Island seat.
And attracting more progressive voters to the district could also be disastrous, forcing a Staten Island Democrat to run too far to the left in a party primary and likely doom that candidate in November.
“The ability to survive and win a general election should be part of [redistricting]the Borough Democrat said, pointing out that Island Democrats are primarily more centrist and not on the liberal / socialist side of the party spectrum.
A witness to this year’s Democratic Borough presidential primary, said the Dem, where party organization pick Mark Murphy won a pitch that included more progressive opponents.
And the last Democrat to occupy the seat of the district, former representative Max Rose, asserted his antisocialist good faith, going so far as to challenge the extreme left to attack him during a primary.
Regardless, Dem’s initial map avoided Park Slope and redesigned the 11th District to include Coney Island, incorporating more Black voters who favor Dem and voters who backed Democratic President Joe Biden in the district.
House lines issued by Republicans on the Independent Panel keep the 11th District largely as it is, drawing voters from the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Gravesend and Homercrest who favored GOP President Donald Trump in the last election.
But the Dem district said the process was far from over. The Park Slope or Coney Island options remain possible, as does connecting the island to a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan like Battery Park City.
“Everything is on the table,” the Democrat said.
The last time the Island House headquarters were reattached to Manhattan was in the 1970s, when Mark Murphy’s father, Democrat John Murphy, was a member of the House.
The neighborhood was redesigned as Brooklyn for the 1982 House race, after Republican Guy Molinari defeated Murphy in 1980.
Molinari defeated outgoing Democrat Leo Zeferetti in that 1982 campaign.
The First Borough Republican that Advance spoke to said the Democrat-issued district map that draws the neighborhood in Coney Island will likely be the one that stands, saying, “If Democrats put these lines, why would you bend over them if you have the voices?
The Republican said the seat would then become “untenable for a Republican.” A weak Joe Biden in the  halfway could be a saving grace. But in the next presidential election, it will be difficult.
The Republican said connecting the neighborhood to Battery Park City or some other Manhattan neighborhood was not a good idea.
“I don’t think a Manhattan incumbent wants Staten Island,” the Republican said. “We don’t want them, they don’t want us. Where does the political will come from?
This dynamic also makes it unlikely that legislative mappers will divide Staten Island itself, giving one part Manhattan and the other Brooklyn.
The field of candidates to face Malliotakis next year is already forming even if the cards are not finalized.
Max Rose, who lost his reelection candidacy to Malliotakis in 2020, said a 2022 candidacy was “very much on the table.”
Two other Democrats, Brittany Ramos DeBarros and Mike DeCillis have already thrown their hats in the ring.
DeBarros is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. It belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America.
DeCillis is a former police volunteer and paramedic who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Originally from the island, he now lives in Bay Ridge.
All that’s missing is the exact district in which the candidates will run.
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