By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023
New York Redistricting: High Court Orders New Map — The high court ruling in Albany Tuesday could change the balance of power in the US House of Representatives. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, on a 4-3 vote ordered that the congressional districts be redrawn for the 2024 election, a move the Democratic plaintiffs sought. The majority agreed with the argument that the court-drawn map for the 2022 elections should stand only for that one period since the voters changed the state Constitution in order to empower the Independent Redistricting Commission with map drawing responsibilities.
With the map being sent back to the commission members, the redistricting process begins again. The high court established a Feb. 28, 2024, deadline for map completion and legislative agreement. Under the constitutional amendment procedure, the legislature must approve the commission prepared map. The New York state primary is scheduled for June 25, and the candidate filing deadline will be set for a date in late March.
NY-26: Leading Contender Won’t Run — Ten-term New York Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) announced last month that he will resign in February to accept a position to lead a Buffalo non-profit organization. Replacing Rep. Higgins largely falls to one man, Erie County Democratic Party chairman Jeremy Zellner.
Under New York election procedure, the various county party chairmen in a congressional district decide who becomes the party nominee in the event of a vacancy. The chairman from counties with the largest population get more influence because the chair votes are weighted. Since 80 percent of the NY-26 constituency lies in Erie County and only 20 percent in Niagara County, the Erie County chairman, i.e., Zellner, will effectively appoint the next congressman. Since the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates NY-26 as D+18 and President Biden scored a 61-37 percent victory here in 2020, the eventual Democratic special election nominee will become the prohibitive favorite to succeed Rep. Higgins.
It appeared that Chairman Zellner was ready to nominate Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D) for the congressional post, but now such won’t happen. Poloncarz surprisingly announced that he will not run for Congress. This leaves, for now, state Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) as the only announced Democratic candidate. Five-term Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D), however, is also indicating interest in the congressional seat.
Mayor Brown is a former New York State Democratic Party chairman and an ex-state senator. He began his political career as a member of the Buffalo Common Council. Brown was actually defeated for renomination in 2021 but returned in the general election to win an unprecedented fifth term as a write-in candidate. Once Rep. Higgins resigns in February, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will call a special election to fill the balance of the current term. At that point, Chairman Zellner will make his decision.
TX-18: Primary Forced Against Rep. Jackson Lee — Updating the story of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) quickly turning around to file for re-election after losing the Houston mayor’s race on Saturday, the congresswoman will now face an active primary campaign for renomination. Former Houston City councilmember and ex-US Senate candidate Amanda Edwards says she will continue with her campaign and challenge the incumbent.
Edwards originally filed in case the 18th District seat would open because of a Jackson Lee victory in the mayor’s race. Instead, we will see a legitimate primary challenge in the March 5 Super Tuesday election. Three other Democrats also filed in anticipation of an open seat. Therefore, if none of the candidates reach the 50 percent plateau, a runoff would occur between the top two finishers on May 28.
Rep. Jackson Lee will be favored for re-election, but the Edwards challenge merits attention. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates TX-18 as D+43, so the Republican primary becomes irrelevant.
California: Two Ex-Congressmen Running for Legislature — With the California candidate filing deadline closing last Friday, we see the unusual situation of two retired eight-term US congressmen now running for seats in the California legislature. Former Rep. Jerry McNerney (D), who retired from Congress at the beginning of this year, filed for the open Stockton-anchored state Senate seat, and George Radanovich (R), who left the House at the beginning of 2011, is running in an open Fresno area Assembly district.
For Radanovich, this will be his second try for the legislature. In the 2022 election, he ran for an open state Senate seat but failed to advance into the general election from the all-party jungle primary.