With redistricting comes new constituents
By Tom Brune
March 21, 2012
WASHINGTON -- For Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the new congressional district map presents a different and possibly tougher road.
For Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), however, it represents a "Gold Coast" opportunity.
And for Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), it looked like a ticket back to Queens -- until he said last week that he would retire at the end of the year.
The new boundaries that a federal court approved Monday to shrink New York's delegation from 29 to 27 members will bring significant changes to Long Island when it goes into effect next year, Democrats and Republicans said.
The new map removes one Long Island House seat now filled by Ackerman, reconfigures two districts in the middle of the Island and, according to political experts, creates political opportunities in what could be more-competitive districts.
The map of Long Island's four new districts isn't expected to have a major impact on this year's elections, but it could long-term, said Jessica Taylor, an analyst at the Rothenberg Political Report, which handicaps political races.
Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said he believes the map is good for Republicans in the future.
"A lot of it's going to have to do with the quality of candidates we run and the issues that we speak to," he said.
In its most significant change, the map flips the districts represented now by King and Israel. King will run in a new South Shore 2nd District and Israel will seek re-election in a North Shore 3rd District.
Much of the Town of Islip, North Amityville and Wyandanch in Babylon will shift from Israel's current district into King's new district. Glen Cove and the Town of Oyster Bay will shift from King's district into Israel's new North Shore district.
As a result, King must run in a new district that has more Democrats and minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, than are in his district now.
In the new district, 52 percent voted for President Barack Obama; 48 percent in the old one did. Minorities make up 31 percent of the new district, 18 percent in the old. Hispanics triple to 18 percent.
King said he can win anyway: He's well-known as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has $2.2 million in campaign funds and says he typically outpolls national Republicans in his district by 10 to 12 percentage points.
"Any time you have a new district, there is always a challenge. You're getting new constituents," King said.
He agreed he will have to explain his criticism of illegal immigration to Latinos, a fifth of his new constituents.
"I'll make my case," King said. "If people are registered to vote, they are legal residents. I always say immigrants make the best Americans."
Israel will be in a new district with similar Democratic voter registration. But Taylor said the proportion of Obama voters will drop from 57 percent in the old district to 55 percent in the new.
Israel's district gains wealthy Gold Coast voters in North Hempstead who write checks to parties and campaigns, a potential plus for a congressman moving up in the House Democratic leadership. He is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The map moved Republican challenger Steven Labate out of Israel's new district, but he'll run anyway, said LaValle.
"The court drew the map. I didn't," Israel said. "I'm ready to work hard in every part of the district."
The map makes only small changes on the edges of the districts of Reps. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola).
Bishop narrowly won last year and could face a repeat match this year. McCarthy also faces a challenger.
But the new map does not appear to have a major effect on the dynamics of either race, Taylor said.