This post will continue to be updated.
Owens comments — sort of
From our Marc Heller:
WASHINGTON — How does Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, like the idea of representing Utica as well as Watertown? This morning, at least, he wasn’t saying.
The plan floated Wednesday by the Democratic-led state Assembly not surprisingly gives Mr. Owens more Democratic-friendly territory in the Utica-Rome area and perhaps an easier route to re-election.
The GOP-led Senate came up with a map that keeps the district in Republican, rural territory.
Asked about his impressions, Mr. Owens dodged, emphasizing that with several proposed maps now circulating, the process has a long way to go. And seeing as he has “absolutely no input or control,” he said, he’s not about to offer any specific ideas of his own.
The lines must change in order to trim two districts from the state, in accordance with population shifts from the 2010 census.
On one point, Mr. Owens is clear: he does not want the lines drawn by a court, which would happen if politicians cannot agree.
“Clearly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a court make this decision,” Mr. Owens said.
The raw figures
According to a painstaking analysis based on Board of Elections data — and this should come as very little surprise — the Senate GOP's proposal makes the 23rd District more Republican, while the Assembly Democratic proposal makes it more Democratic.
The current voter registration edge — leaving out, for the sake of sanity, the third parties and blanks — is 163,662 Republicans to 120,993 Democrats.
The Assembly proposal would have about 163,000 Republicans and 134,000 Democrats, a significant jump in Ds.
The Senate proposal would have about 179,000 Republicans and 127,000 Democrats.
The Utica gerrymander
The 23rd Congressional District wouldn't dramatically change under proposals from the Republican-controlled Senate or the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but you can tell who drew which map by looking at one city: Utica.
The congressional district that Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh represents needs to add tens of thousands of residents to bring it up to constitutional snuff. It has to go into neighboring districts to pluck out their residents. But what residents should Mr. Owens receive — and more important, what are their party registrations?
The Republicans gave him the rest of Fulton County, the rest of Essex County, Herkimer County, plus a bit more of Oneida County, while taking away Madison County, according to a copy on the website Politicker (copies are available through the federal court's website, but they are taking approximately forever to load).
The areas that Mr. Owens would gain are solidly Republican under the Republican plan.
The Assembly's plan, on the other hand, takes Mr. Owens out of the rural swaths of Hamilton, Essex and Fulton counties while also giving him the city of Utica. There are about two times more Democrats than Republicans in Utica, according to this Observer-Dispatch story. It was one of the few places that Mr. Owens' district could go that would be helpful to him in terms of registration. And under the Democrats' plan, it did.
Since the Board of Elections' data doesn't give good town-by-town figures, and it's a late hour here, it's hard to say whether this would help close the ~43,000 voter registration advantage that Republicans have in the 23rd District. But it stands to reason that it would. Mr. Owens would lose some heavily Republican territory in Madison, Hamilton, Essex and Fulton counties, while picking up a big Democratic stronghold in Utica, all the while missing out on some of the more heavily Republican areas of Oneida County.
The panel of state lawmakers that draws these maps is often accused of having incumbents' interests in mind. The Republican dodge of Utica and the Democratic plunge into it provide solid evidence for that accusation.
Because the Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats couldn't agree on a plan, these maps are sort of the opening statements in a court process that will last about two weeks and could ultimately be decided by a special master appointed by the federal courts.
Friends of Doug Hoffman, a Republican who was the Conservative Party congressional candidate in 2009 and 2010, have said that he's much more likely to run if his Lake Placid home is in the 23rd Congressional District.
And the Senate GOP didn't do the candidate who's already established in the 23rd and doesn't want to see Mr. Hoffman in the race — that's Matt Doheny — any favors. The entirety of Essex County, including Lake Placid, is in the 23rd District.
Again, I'll offer a strong caveat here by saying that these are just initial proposals, likely to be changed quite a bit.
Mr. Doheny might want to send a thank-you note to Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Assembly's maps completely excise Essex from the district, so he'd have no Hoffmania to be worried about.
Dem map dilutes Watertown
If the Assembly Democrats' map were accepted, Watertown (27,000) would become only the third-largest city in the district. behind Utica (62,000) and Rome (35,000).
Watertown is the biggest city in the district right now, and area pols want to keep it that way. They said as much at a LATFOR hearing in Syracuse.
You can't please them all, as LATFOR so ably proves time and again.
As a result of the Dems bringing in two relatively large cities, the sprawling 23rd Congressional District would become much more compact and much less rural. It no longer appears to be the largest congressional district by land mass in the state in the Dem map, taken over by the 20th Congressional District.
In other words, by expanding its population into two Oneida County cities, the district under the Democratic plan shrinks considerably.
The Republican proposal keeps the district large, Watertown-centric (the lines are thick and vague in the proposal that I'm looking at, but it appears to skirt Rome) and rural.
Here is the Assembly Democrats' map.