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Proposed Redistricting Maps: Incumbency Shines Through
Proposed Redistricting Maps: Incumbency Shines Through

The Happy Couple: While Cuomo might be able to protect Alesi in his new district, potential candidates like Sean Hanna may be gunning for 'Gentleman Jim.'
Rochester, NY (January 27, 2012) -- Every ten years, America undergoes a surreal twist on democracy: instead of citizens selecting legislators, legislators get together and select the citizens they would like to be their constituents for the next ten years. In states like New York, the politicians completely control this redistricting process; in many other states, independent commissions or bipartisan processes guarantee some insulation from political chicanery.

Here in New York, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research -- a joint committee of the Assembly and Senate -- drafts new boundaries for Assembly, Senate and US House districts every ten years. LATFOR recently released its redrawn district maps for the state; unsurprisingly, incumbents fared quite well. Here in Rochester, five legislators are cautiously hoping that these maps take effect because they will all be heavy favorites for re-election in these districts.

Assembly: Gantt, Morelle and Bronson
The three Assemblymembers who represent Rochester have little to worry about. In fact, they have less to worry about than they did in the past, because their proposed districts are in some ways better than their current ones.

Assemblyman David Gantt currently represents the 133rd Assembly District. Under the proposed map, his new district would be the 137th -- but that is probably the biggest change to his district. The present 131st covers much of the Northeast and Southwest of the city and includes the entire town of Gates. The proposed 137th covers the same area with the exception of a few city blocks here and there. In other words, voters used to voting for Gantt will continue to have that opportunity; those not supportive of him will have to see if anyone steps forward to provide them with an option.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle’s 132nd district is proposed to be relabeled as the 136th. Morelle is in line to keep his base of Irondequoit and Brighton -- the only suburbs where Democrats routinely do well. Morelle’s city representation shifts almost imperceptibly: he loses a few blocks from the eastern Park Avenue area and Cobbs Hill. Aside from that shift, Morelle’s district remains virtually identical to his existing one. Like Gantt, Morelle has a huge advantage: virtually every one of his proposed “new” constituents have already had several years to know him. A challenger gains no particular advantage from this new district, it means fighting Morelle on the same turf he has defended for the past decade.

As the junior member of the city’s delegation, Assemblyman Harry Bronson had probably the least influence over the redrawing of his district. Of course, having Gantt’s and Morelle’s districts protected left Bronson’s district with little room to change. To Bronson’s benefit, the changes probably help his re-election chances. The city portion of Bronson’s district remains essentially unchanged: it “curls” from the southern and eastern part of the city around to the northern side. The loss of the far eastern end of Park Avenue and Cobbs Hill areas from Morelle’s district only add some more Democratic votes to Bronson. The biggest change to Bronson’s district is in the Monroe County suburbs. His current 131st District includes the towns of Chili, Riga, Wheatland and Rush -- all fairly Republican areas (though Chili has a decent Democratic vote). The new 138th District loses the smaller towns (Riga, Wheatland and Rush), keeps Chili and adds Henrietta -- part of which Bronson previously represented in the County Legislature. In other words, the new district adds voters who know Bronson or would be inclined to support him.

Senate: Alesi and Robach
Interestingly, Rochester’s Assemblymembers are all part of the majority party in the Assembly and its Senators are part of the majority in that chamber. You have to hand it to Smugtown: we like to have our representatives be in positions of influence.

Rochester’s two State Senators, Jim Alesi and Joe Robach have little to fear from the proposed districts. Indeed, with a Republican majority in the Senate desperately fighting demographic shifts to protect a fragile majority, it was unlikely the mapmakers would put Robach or Alesi in unfriendly territory.

Senator Jim Alesi’s 55th District remains the 55th under the proposed map. But Alesi’s district changes significantly. Alesi currently represents much of the eastern and southern part of Monroe County, including Irondequoit, Penfield, East Rochester, Pittsford, Perinton, Mendon, Rush, Henrietta, Chili, Wheatland and Riga. Alesi also has some constituents in the northwest and eastern parts of the city of Rochester.

The proposed 55th provides Alesi with some interesting trade-offs: he loses Henrietta, Wheatland, Riga and Chili (I guess he can’t hold his health fair in the Dome Arena anymore); he gains new territory in Ontario County: Victor, West/East Bloomfield, Richmond, Bristol, Canadice, South Bristol and Naples. He also gains more constituents in the eastern and southern part of the city of Rochester. This is an interesting result for Alesi: he is a moderate Republican who will be targeted by conservatives due to his same-sex marriage vote. Those foes may be strong in the less populous new towns in Ontario County, but constituents in Rochester may be more inclined to support him -- particularly since the district is no more favorable to a Democratic challenger than it previously was. In short, the new district appears to be a plus for Alesi.

Sen. Joe Robach has worked hard to secure the support of constituents in a district that is about equally balanced between Democratic strongholds in the city and the town of Brighton and Republican strongholds in Greece and Parma. Robach has fended off multiple challenges over the past decade, demonstrating that his outreach and constituent connections outweighed his party and his sometimes conservative votes.

Robach should be happy with what the map making powers have granted him. The new 56th (he will not have to change his stationery either) keeps his base in Greece and Parma as well as the town of Brighton where he has made significant inroads. Robach loses much of the southern and eastern part of the city to Alesi’s new 55th as well as much of the southwestern part of the city to an absurd 61st Senate District. Robach gains friendly territory in Hamlin, Clarkson, Gates and Rochester’s northwest (his family’s old stomping grounds). Robach should have little problem defending this new district, assuming it actually takes effect.

Cuomo Veto? Court Action?
This being New York, nothing is easy. Governor Cuomo vowed to veto any districts not designed by an independent, non-partisan commission. Yet if he vetoes these maps, he leaves little time for an alternative -- candidates need to prepare for primaries and they cannot do that without first knowing where they will be running. Will Cuomo renege on his promise? Will a deal be struck to accept these maps and redraw them once more in two years -- using a process more consistent with Cuomo’s standard? Or will the courts be forced -- as they have in some other states -- to intervene?

The cartography bureau if the Smugtown Beacon will stay on this story until it is resolved.


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