Lawler praises Democrats for ‘restraint’

Gov. Kathy Hochul approved new maps on Wednesday (Feb. 28) for the state’s 26 U.S. House seats that leave largely untouched the district that includes Philipstown but reshapes the contours of the one that contains Beacon. 

Hochul’s signature capped a whirlwind week in which the state Legislature’s Democratic majority rejected a redistricting plan approved by the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), the bipartisan body created to redraw congressional and state Senate and Assembly districts after the decennial census. 

Despite fears from Republicans that the Democrats would redraw maps to tilt competitive seats in their favor ahead of the November election, the plan approved Wednesday does not contain large-scale changes to the one offered by the commission. 

The state Senate voted 45-17 to approve the new maps, and the Assembly, 118-30. Rob Rolison, a Republican who represents Beacon and Philipstown in the state Senate, voted against the plan. Dana Levenberg, a Democrat whose Assembly district includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose Assembly district includes Beacon, each voted in favor. 

Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican whose District 17 seat in the U.S. House includes Philipstown and is one of the seats Democrats hope to flip in November, said he was “glad to see both the Senate and Assembly exhibit restraint.” 

“While there were numerous attempts throughout this process to engage in a partisan gerrymander, the final map largely abides by the New York Independent Redistricting Commission’s bipartisan version and ensures fair, competitive districts across the state,” he said. 

District 17 will remain mostly as it was when Lawler narrowly defeated five-term Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in 2022. The IRC slightly altered its northern boundary in Dutchess County, removing the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville and adding parts of the Town of Beekman.

The changes to District 18, which is represented by Rep. Pat Ryan, a Democrat, and includes Beacon, were more dramatic. Under the IRC plan, the district would have become bluer by removing parts of conservative-leaning western Orange and Ulster counties and adding Saugerties, Woodstock and other Democrat-leaning parts of northern Ulster.

The finalized boundaries add the same parts of northern Ulster. But instead of removing parts of Orange, the Legislature removed a swath of western Ulster County that includes Ellenville. 

Had they been in place in 2020 and 2022, the changes in Districts 17 and 18 would not have had a dramatic effect on the results for president or governor, according to an analysis by the Center for Urban Research at City University of New York.

Levenberg said in a statement that the Legislature made “minor” tweaks that “reunited some counties and communities of interest. As the elected representatives of the people, it is only right for us to have the final say. We are more in touch with the people in these communities on a daily basis.” 

The maps replace those drawn by a court-appointed expert for the 2022 elections after the IRC commissioners failed to agree and maps created by the Legislature’s Democratic majority were ruled to be an unconstitutional gerrymander.

The state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled in December that the congressional boundaries used in the 2022 election were valid for one-time use only, rather than through 2030, when the next federal census will be conducted.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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