The Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) sexting scandal could be paying long-term benefits for a neighboring Borough of Queens congressman. Because New York is losing two seats in reapportionment, Rep. Weiner’s once personal, now very public, exploits have made his 9th Congressional District (CD) the No. 1 target in New York for collapsing. Of the state’s 29 CD’s, all of which will require more population in the 2011 redistricting process (which is the fundamental reason for the delegation losing two seats), five of the top 10 under-populated districts reside in New York City.
The current scenario favors neighboring Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY-7), because his Queens/Bronx seat is becoming more heavily minority. This make him potentially vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Hispanic Democrat in the ensuing decade, thus he will want more territory from Queens and less from The Bronx in his new district. Since approximately 70% of Weiner’s district encompasses Queens’ territory, it is easy to combine pieces from both NY-7 and NY-9 into a seat totally within the Borough of Queens.
Of the five CD’s that contain all or part of Queens, Rep. Gregory Meeks’ 6th district is the only seat fully contained within the borough. Adding another Queens-specific CD is at least one of the arguments Mr. Crowley’s personal lobbyist will make in Albany when he attempts to secure a favorable district for the seven-term congressional veteran. Three NY Representatives — Crowley, Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) — each have hired a personal lobbyist to make specific redistricting arguments to the governing powers in the legislature.
But, what if Weiner resigns? Crowley has that covered, too. In New York, as we have seen in the four other special congressional elections held in the state during the past election cycle, the local county chairmen are the people who choose mid-cycle election nominees. Who is the Borough of Queens Democratic chairman? None other than Rep. Joe Crowley. So, should Weiner resign, it is Crowley who will virtually decide the identity of the next congressman, meaning he will choose someone who won’t run for a full term, making it a virtual certainty that the current 9th district will be one of the disappearing seats.
The other collapsed district will likely come from upstate. The Buffalo/Rochester area seats, numbered 28 (Rep. Louise Slaughter) and 27 (Higgins) need to gain the greatest number of people. Chances are the upstate loss will come from the Republicans.
With a late September primary, New York is typically one of the last states to complete its redistricting process, so the final lines will not be known until well into next year. Since Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly, and Republicans hold the state Senate, the chances of redistricting ending in a legislative deadlock are high — meaning a court-drawn map likely will be the eventual solution.
Regardless of who draws the map, it is relatively clear that one of the lost seats will come from New York City and the other from upstate, with the Long Island districts all moving west, closer to New York City.
While the Weiner scandal is destroying the congressman’s career within the House, its timing is also poor from his personal political perspective. While he may stay in office to finish the current term, Weiner’s long-term congressional career prospects, because of the reapportionment and redistricting scenario described above, are highly unfavorable.
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