109th Lineup: 20 D, 9 R
108th Lineup: 19 D, 10 R
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When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, New York elected 43 congressmen and California 30. In 2002, New York elected 29 congressmen and California 53. Reapportionment is carnage time for New York: the state lost five districts in the 1980 Census, another three in 1990 and two more in 2000. In 2002, as in 1992, New York produced the latest and most convoluted redistricting plan. New York has more than 200 state legislators, but legislative decisions are made by three men, Governor George Pataki, Republican state Senate President Joseph Bruno and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: party discipline is so strong that Bruno and Silver can always deliver majorities in their chambers, and Pataki has a veto. New York lost two seats in the 2000 Census, and before the Census numbers came in, it was assumed that the final plan would cut one Democratic district in the City and one Republican district Upstate. But the Census figures showed that, for the first time in more than 50 years, most of the state's growth had come in New York City; its population was up 9%, the suburbs up 6% and Upstate up only 1%. So congressmen hired well-wired lobbyists and negotiations began.
Negotiators usually don't reach agreement until they have to; in this case, the deadline was in June 2002, when candidates have to start circulating their petitions. In January Republicans talked of targeting Republican Benjamin Gilman and Rochester Democrat Louise Slaughter, the oldest members of the delegation; Silver would have none of it. In April 2002 a three-judge court appointed Frederick Lacey, a former federal judge, as a special master with orders to draft a plan that could be adopted if the legislature failed to act. To that court Pataki in May submitted a plan that targeted Maurice Hinchey and Manhattan Democrat Carolyn Maloney: an obvious negotiating ploy, since Silver would never accept it. Senate Republicans prepared a plan putting two pairs of Democrats in the same districts; Assembly Democrats prepared a plan putting two pairs of Republicans in the same districts: more negotiating ploys. On May 13 Lacey presented a plan placing two pairs of Upstate members--Republican Sherwood Boehlert and Democrat Maurice Hinchey, Republican Jack Quinn and Democrat John LaFalce--in the same districts. On May 23, the court adopted the plan, but gave the legislature more time to act and said it would gladly accept its plan if it did so.
The pressure was on. Silver wanted to protect Hinchey and other Democrats discommoded by the plan. Bruno got a call from Dick Cheney urging him to deal, since the Lacey plan put some Republican seats at risk. Nita Lowey, chairman of the House Democrats' campaign committee, and Tom Reynolds, on the inside track to become chairman of the House Republicans' campaign committee, let it be known they wanted safer districts so they could concentrate on helping their parties across the country. The three decision-makers decided to target Slaughter and Gilman, though Slaughter said she would run in the primary against LaFalce and Gilman threatened to switch parties and run against Republican Sue Kelly. The last hitch was on Long Island. State Senate Republicans there didn't like the incumbent-protection plan agreed on by the Island's two Democratic and two Republican incumbents; they wanted a better shot at Democrat Carolyn McCarthy's district. But they were brought in line. The new plan was passed and signed June 5. Slaughter went into court and asked it to adopt the Lacey plan. On June 25 the court accepted the legislature's plan and the Justice Department gave it clearance under the Voting Rights Act. On June 26 LaFalce announced that he would not run against Slaughter. On July 2, Gilman, who was 79 and was serving his 30th year in the House, announced that he would retire. All the incumbents running were easily reelected, except for 1st District Republican Felix Grucci, who lost for reasons having nothing to do with redistricting.
In 2005, Democrats began talking about redrawing the congressional map before the next census. The party seemed likely to win the governorship in 2006 and some were hopeful it could pick up the four seats needed to control the state Senate. If that were to happen, a new map would be drawn in 2007, a payback of sorts for the mid-decade Republican redistricting in Texas. "In New York, we know how to hit back," Congressman Joseph Crowley told National Journal in June 2005.