2022 was already shaping up to be a very difficult year for Democrats as they contend in the midterm elections with President Joe Biden’s unpopularity, inflation and historically poor odds for the incumbent president’s party. The last thing they needed was a major internal battle to overshadow what seemed to be one of their bright spots this year.
But that’s what they get in New York.
On Friday, a state court is expected to finalize new congressional cards that, if passed without changes from the draft released earlier this week, would suddenly pit high-ranking Democratic incumbent officials against each other in the Aug. 23 primaries. The version originally proposed by Democrats in the state legislature largely avoided those primary battles and would likely have won the Democrats three additional seats in the House. The Democrats finally seemed to figure out how to combat the Republican benefits gained through gerrymandering — the practice of redrawing constituencies for partisan benefits — and New York would be proof A of that success. But the map the Democrats signed on was invalidated by the State Court of Appeal.
New York’s current congressional delegation includes 19 Democrats, seven Republicans, and one free seat. New York lost a chair based on the results of the 2020 census. With the map they initially proposed for this round of reclassification, the Democrats hoped to win 22 seats, leaving the Republicans with four. But under the new map they could split as much as 15 Democrats to 11 Republicansaccording to the Cook Political Report.
This is where things get really ugly and personal for New York’s Congressional Democrats: The new rules drastically alter some of the existing districts, putting them on a collision course with their current colleagues for a chance to stay in Congress at all. Some are waiting for the state court to finalize the new map before announcing where they will be going, but others have made their intentions known, meaning battles between parties have started before the map is even approved.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have already said that they would go head-to-head in a newly created 12th district spanning upper Manhattan. Both have been in office for nearly three decades. Nadler has objected to the draft map, proverb that it defies “constitutional requirements to keep communities of interest together and cores of existing districts largely intact,” but said he would challenge Maloney if he had to.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the centrist head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, was quick to to announce after the concept map was released that he would work in the 17th district, which is currently occupied by Rep. Mondaire Jones, a first term Black progressive. That leaves Jones with a tough decision about whether to defend his seat or fight Rep. Jamaal Bowman, also a black progressive. Some Democrats have expressed concern about Maloney’s decision to participate in the 17th, says it creates a conflict of interest and that he must resign from his position as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Sean Patrick Maloney didn’t even give me a warning before he took to Twitter to make that announcement,” Jones told Politico on Monday. “And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Sean Patrick Maloney.”
Maloney has said that he is the only current congressman living in the 17th district, which would also include many of the Hudson Valley communities he currently represents under the new map.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, could run in the new Ninth District, currently represented by fellow Democrat Rep. Yvette Clarke. He has also criticized the new maps for potentially forcing four black members into competitive primaries.
“The draft reclassification map viciously targets the historic black representation in NY,” Jeffries said† “This tactic would make Jim Crow blush.”
Democrats have argued for the past decade that gerrymandering is unethical and should be stopped after Republicans drew cards that heavily favored them based on 2010 data. Lacking national reform, Democrats couldn’t afford not to live in places like New York. rumble, and they embraced it across the country this year. Doing so is an inherent gamble — courts have a history of involvement. Now it looks like the Democrats could lose that gamble and abandon a slew of high-profile incumbents.