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Beacon, Philipstown may get new state senator
Beacon and Philipstown could be represented by a new state senator in January following the approval this week of district boundaries redrawn with data from the 2020 census.
The Highlands is located in the 41st Senate district, represented by Sue Serino, a Republican from Hyde Park. Under the changes, Hyde Park will become part of District 43, while the 41st will expand west to include territory currently represented by Sen. James Skoufis, a Democrat in his second term.
If the maps are approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul, as is expected, that would shift the Democratic majority vote of Philipstown and Beacon from a district reliably held by a Republican (Serino has been reelected three times and won most recently with 52.5 percent of the vote) to one in which a Democrat won the two most recent races with 54 and 57 percent of the vote. Skoufis lives in the Town of Woodbury in Orange County, which would move from District 39 to 41.
The changes for the Highlands in the Assembly and Congress would be less dramatic.
The revised district boundaries were approved this week by the Legislature’s Democratic majority after an independent commission, along party lines, failed to agree on a single plan to send to lawmakers.
Serino voted on Thursday (Feb. 3) against the state plan, which passed the Senate, 43-20, while Sandy Galef, a Democrat whose Assembly District 95 includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose Assembly District 104 includes Beacon, were among the members who voted “yes” in a 118-29 vote.
If Hochul signs off on the maps, there is concern that legal challenges could push the date that they go into effect past March 1, when candidates can begin gathering signatures on nominating petitions for primaries. For instance, three Democratic candidates have declared that they hope to succeed Galef, who said she will not run for re-election in November after nearly 30 years in the Legislature.
Serino said in a statement on Thursday that the new boundaries represented “a sad day for democracy in New York.”
“These maps have been blatantly gerrymandered to benefit the majority party at the state and federal levels, and as a result they completely disregard the will of the people of New York, who voted overwhelmingly in support of an independent redistricting process,” she said.
Beacon would remain in the 104th Assembly district, which would expand to include a larger part of Ulster County to the northwest. Philipstown would stay in the 95th, which would lose part of Putnam County and take in more of Westchester.
The state Legislature also, on Wednesday (Feb. 2), approved maps for the state’s congressional delegation. They passed the Senate, 43-20, with a “no” vote from Serino and the Assembly, 103-45, with “yes” votes from Galef and Jacobson. Beacon and Philipstown would remain in the 18th Congressional District, a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat in his fifth term.
At the federal level, the congressional district maps would give Democrats an advantage in 22 of 26 New York districts. Republicans hold eight of the current 27 seats, but New York lost one because of declining population since the last census in 2010.
In addition to Serino and other Republicans, some policy groups are criticizing the revised boundaries as unfair. Michael Li, who focuses on redistricting and gerrymandering at the Brennan Center for Justice, pointed out in The Guardian on Thursday that Democrats would control 85 percent of the new districts. “It’s a very solidly blue state,” he said of New York. “But it’s not as blue as these maps have it.”
The League of Women Voters of New York State was also not happy. In a statement released Tuesday (Feb. 1), it said Democrats in the Legislature had “steamrolled” the maps through the Assembly and Senate.
“The league believes voters should choose their representatives, not that representatives should choose their voters,” it said. “Partisan gerrymandering is banned under the state constitutional amendment passed in 2014, yet the maps released on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 reflect a Legislature that appears to care more about favoring partisan interests than it does for fair maps.”
For more details, enter your address at newyork.redistrictingandyou.org, a site created by the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.