Court finalizes election districts

Otsego voters finally learn state, Congressional lines

Court-approved Congressional maps

Otsego County voters finally know their political home for the next decade after a state Supreme Court judge last week finalized new election district boundaries for the state’s congressional and state Senate representation.

A combined five courts – including the state’s highest – rejected boundaries drawn by the state Legislature after the voter-approved independent redistricting commission failed to agree on districts.

The court-approved, final lines keep Otsego County entirely within the state Senate’s 51st district, rejecting original boundaries that sought to combine the region with a wide swath of Montgomery, Schenectady, and Herkimer counties. Senator Peter Oberacker, the Republican incumbent, is campaigning to keep his seat.

“There’s a real sense of relief that I finally know where I’m running,” Senator Oberacker told The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta after the new lines were made public. “I feel regret for the counties I lost; I met some great people and built strong relationships. There are projects underway and I want to tie up some loose ends before I hand it off to the new Senator.”

“I’m excited by the idea of meeting new people and making new relationships in those parts of Ulster and Sullivan counties,” he said. “Until then, my office is open to all the constituents of the 51st district and we’re ready to work.”

Congressional complications

For the United States House of Representatives, the new maps split the county roughly in north/south fashion, with towns from Milford and north falling into the 21st Congressional District; the southern half into the 19th.

The contest for the 21st is shaping up to battle between incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik and Democratic challenger Matt Castelli. The 19th district race, on the other hand, is significantly more complicated owing to this week’s official resignation by incumbent Antonio Delgado, who took his oath of office as New York’s Lieutenant Governor on Wednesday, May 25.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a special election for the current 19th Congressional District on August 23, 2022 – the same day as the newly-scheduled primaries for Congressional and state Senate seats. At press time, Democrat Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said he will challenge Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in the special election.

Come November, though, Mr. Ryan said he will run for the newly-drawn 18th Congressional District, opening the general election race for another Democratic candidate. Mr. Molinaro said he will run in the August special and again in the November general.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, said last week, “The Court of Appeals ripped away the redistricting process from the elected representatives of New York State and set in motion the process predetermined to benefit a Republican party that embraces violent insurrection and refuses to denounce white supremacist replacement theory. The fix was in from the beginning.”

Former 19th District Congressman John Faso, on the other hand, applauded the judiciary’s decision.

“The congressional and state districts created by the Special Master and ordered by the Court maximize political competition and honor the desires of the People as evidenced by their strong approval of the 2014 constitutional amendment on redistricting,” he said. “Five different courts dealt a strong rebuke to Democrat politicians who unsuccessfully tried to rig elections in their favor over the next decade.”

The non-partisan Board of Elections, tasked by the courts to sort the new lines and rules for petitioning and primary dates, said congressional and state Senate primaries will occur August 23, 2022, adding this:

“At this time, we do not foresee the June 28 primary changing for our statewide offices, the state Assembly, judicial delegates and alternates, and any local offices that are scheduled to be on the primary ballot.”

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