Democrats created a heavily gerrymandered congressional map in New York which was designed to help them pick up a few seats and thereby help preserve their majority in the House. But last month the NY Court of Appeals ruled the heavily gerrymandered map violated the state constitution in part because it was clearly drawn with partisan intent.
Democrats argued that there wasn’t time to do anything about the maps so, even though they were unconstitutional, they would have to be used anyway. The court disagreed and handed the creation of new maps over to a special master, an elections expert named Jonathan Cervas, who would draw up new maps that everyone would just have to live with. We got a preview of the maps Monday and the reaction from Democrats was shock and dismay. Instead of gaining 3 seats in the state, the new, fairer maps mean Democrats could lose several seats instead.
But it’s not just the number of seats Democrats could lose that’s the problem. The new maps will also force a number of Democrats into awkward primary battles with one another. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it “chaos” and for once she’s right.
“Chaos,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Thursday when asked about the state of affairs…
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who lives on Manhattan’s liberal Upper West Side, will compete in a new district against House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has represented the borough’s East Side.
For decades, the two lawmakers have worked together on major issues facing the city – including health benefits for Sep. 11 first responders.
“What he did was atrocious,” Nadler said of the new map proposed by Jonathan Cervas, the court-appointed official. “We’ll see what happens.”
“A majority of the communities in the newly redrawn NY-12 are ones I have represented for years and to which I have deep ties,” Maloney said in a statement.
The thunderdome-style showdown between Nadler and Maloney is just the start of the problem for the state’s Democrats. When the maps were revealed Monday, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced he would jump from the 18th district into the new 17th district. And, to be fair, he appears to be the only Democrat who actually lives in this newly drawn district.
Further, I believe I am the only sitting member who resides in NY17. https://t.co/J7oK4D3EiB
— Sean Patrick Maloney (@spmaloney) May 16, 2022
But that decision creates problems for the current occupant of the 17th district, Rep. Mondaire Jones:
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the centrist head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, was quick to announce after the draft map was released that he would run in the 17th District, currently occupied by Rep. Mondaire Jones, a first-term Black progressive. That leaves Jones with a tough decision of whether to defend his seat or run in the new 16th District, which now encompasses his home of White Plains, against Rep. Jamaal Bowman, also a Black progressive. Some Democrats have expressed concern about Maloney’s decision to run in the 17th, saying it creates a conflict of interest and that he should step down from his position as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Sean Patrick Maloney did not even give me a heads-up before he went on Twitter to make that announcement,” Jones told Politico on Monday. “And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Sean Patrick Maloney.”
So Rep. Maloney’s decision sets up another showdown (“two men enter, one man leaves”), this time between two black progressives. Naturally, progressive activists aren’t happy about the idea and are demanding that Jones remain in the redrawn 17th district and try to take out Rep. Maloney.
If Mondaire runs in Jamaal’s district, he’ll be doing the same thing that Sean Patrick Maloney just did to him.
Leadership and corporate donors may want two progressive black men to scrap it out, but that doesn’t serve working people’s interests.
I hope Mondaire reconsiders.
— Max Berger (@maxberger) May 18, 2022
Mondaire is a rising star in the party and it’s absolutely shameful what Maloney did to kneecap him.
But, we can beat him.
A progressive vs progressive primary would be a debacle with no winners. No one comes out looking good.
— Max Berger (@maxberger) May 18, 2022
Meanwhile, AOC is calling on Rep. Maloney to step down as chair of the DCCC, saying he has a conflict of interest if he’s going to primary another incumbent Democrat.
In an interview Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez called Maloney’s decision to run in the newly drawn district that includes most of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ (D-N.Y.) current constituents “terrible” and “hypocritical” — and she said “it absolutely further imperils our majority.”
“Given the resources that he has at his helm, it creates a conflict of interest,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the Capitol, noting that Maloney declined to run in another district where most of his current constituents now live. “If he’s going to enter in a primary and challenge another Democratic member, then he should step aside from his responsibilities at the DCCC.”
And we’re still not done with all the chaos:
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, could run in the new Ninth District, which is currently represented by fellow Democrat Rep. Yvette Clarke. He has also criticized the new maps for potentially forcing four Black members into competitive primaries.
Rep. Jeffries was not happy about it when the maps were revealed, saying the new map would “make Jim Crow blush.”
The draft redistricting map viciously targets historic Black representation in NY, and places 4 Black members of Congress into the same district.
This tactic would make Jim Crow blush.
The draft map is unacceptable, unconscionable & unconstitutional.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) May 16, 2022
Democrats are desperate to call someone racist but in this case the trouble is entirely of their own making. They knew their heavily gerrymandered map violated the state constitution but assumed they could get away with it. Now they’re stuck with new maps that put incumbents in a scramble to survive. Instead of seeing gains in the House, Democrats will instead see brief but bitter primary battles which result in more bad feelings within the party and, likely, several incumbents having no chair to sit down in when the music stops. The maps are set to be approved sometime today. We’ll only have to wait a few more hours to see if there are any last minute surprises.