Redistricting Ax Could Fall on Ackerman

Veteran Democrat Might Have to Battle in Weiner's Old District

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 10, 2012, issue of January 13, 2012.
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“Congressman Ackerman is one of the leading voices on issues of importance to the pro-Israel community,” said Josh Block, former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “It’s hard to find a guy who so understands the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and has such a potent way of expressing himself.”

The redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years, aims to ensure parity in size between congressional districts. How the lines will be drawn in New York in 2012, and who will do the drawing, remains a matter of dispute. Representatives of the bipartisan committee of state legislators tasked with drawing up a redistricting proposal had preliminary meetings in December with some House members from New York, Ackerman said. Ackerman’s own meeting was postponed due to the payroll tax vote in Congress, but congressional colleagues told him that committee members offered no hint as to the lines they would propose.

The uncertainty stems from a long-standing dissatisfaction with the redistricting process, which has been driven by partisan concerns, and from a promise by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto any redistricting plan proposed by the state legislature. The process could eventually end up in the courts, which could draw their own lines.

In the meantime, 2012 primaries are fast approaching, leaving elected officials to prepare for an election before they know exactly what district they will be vying to represent.

Of the two congressional seats New York will lose, observers expect state lawmakers to reach a compromise whereby one upstate Republican seat and one New York City-area Democratic seat are eliminated.

Weiner’s Queens district was a prime candidate for cutting, but the district turned Republican following Weiner’s Twitter scandal and subsequent resignation. Now, assuming that state Republicans hope to secure the seat of Weiner’s successor, Robert Turner, insiders say that Ackerman’s district could be in danger. Ackerman is thought to have less local clout than other members of New York’s congressional delegation, such as Rep. Joseph Crowley, who chairs the local Democratic organization in Queens.

Ackerman said that he thinks he could beat Turner if parts of their respective, adjacent districts were to be combined. Ackerman grew up in Queens and has represented parts of the Turner district. “That would be an ideal pickup for me,” he said.

Other scenarios are possible. State Republicans could choose to fortify Staten Island Republican Michael Grimm’s seat rather than Turner’s, potentially sparing Ackerman. Furthermore, court-appointed officials could draw lines that have little to do with the political strategies of the state parties.

In the meantime, Ackerman isn’t letting the uncertainty get in the way of his preparations for 2012. “I start thinking about the campaign the day after the election,” Ackerman said. “I’ve been campaigning for a year and a half.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis


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