Why Democrats might need to play dirty to win

Neither the commission nor the legislature can begin its work in earnest until the Census Bureau releases data from the 2020 count, which was hampered by the pandemic. New York is expected to lose at least one of its 27 House seats, possibly two. Democrats would want to ensure that both seats come from the Republican delegation, which currently has eight members. That effort became easier last week when Republican Representative Tom Reed, who had been accused of groping a 25-year-old lobbyist, announced that he would not seek reelection. Legislators could merge Reed’s district with another GOP-leaning seat and create a Democratic-leaning district elsewhere.

Democrats could also pack more upstate Republicans into Representative Elise Stefanik’s geographically enormous district in New York’s North Country, making the Republicans in neighboring districts, Representatives Claudia Tenney or John Katko, more vulnerable. In New York City, Democrats could target the lone congressional seat held by a Republican, Representative Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, by adding to the district more liberal areas of Manhattan or Brooklyn. And on Long Island, an aggressive redistricting map could threaten Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican who has already announced he’s exploring a run for governor next year.

For national Democratic leaders—who include New York Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the DCCC, and Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus—the overriding objective is to have state lawmakers secure every seat they can and preserve the party’s majority in the House. But Democratic members of the New York delegation undoubtedly will have their own political concerns: They may be reluctant to give up certain loyal constituencies or take on more Republican voters that would force them to campaign harder for reelection.