2011-08-05 / Top Stories

Speculation Grows As To Demise Of NY's 9th

By Howard Schwach

Congressman Joseph Crowley Congressman Joseph Crowley In political years, it has been a long time since Congressman Anthony Weiner gave up his 9th District, New York seat in the House of Representatives; plenty of time for the politicians and would-be politicians who want his seat to begin the election dance.

The two candidates that everybody knows, of course, are David Weprin and Bob Turner, the two men who are running for the seat in the coming September 13 special election. The two were chosen by their respective party leaders to run and, of course, one of them will probably win, unless the electorate, angered at Governor Andrew Cuomo for not giving them the choice in a primary election, vote for the Socialist Party candidate.

While the two candidates are out front and running for the office in a short-form election, insiders say that there are others already in the House, intent on carving up the district to give themselves an electorate that is more likely to keep them in office than the one they presently represent.

Congressman Gary Ackerman Congressman Gary Ackerman To those men and the political leaders behind them, carving up the 9th District is a politically expedient solution for Democrats: Neuter Weiner’s former district in the redistricting process, which will require New York to lose 2 of its 29 seats in the House of Representatives.

No discussion of redistricting is simple, especially in New York, so some background is in order.

The 9th Congressional District is the second most conservative in New York City, after the 13th (Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, now represented by Congressman Michael Grimm). Conservative, of course, has a relative meaning in the context of New York — the 9th District remains Democraticleaning — but it has become much more competitive than might have been expected.

Anthony Weiner Anthony Weiner In 2000, the 9th District, which takes in a number of middle-class white ethnic communities in southern Brooklyn as well as communities in central and southeastern Queens, including the west end of Rockaway, gave Al Gore 67 percent of its vote. John Kerry, however, drew just 56 percent of the vote four years later, a shift that was initially seen as an anomaly caused by the political after-effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks. There was no rebound in 2008, though: Barack Obama drew just 55 percent in the district, barely better than his national average of 53 percent. The 12-point decline from Gore’s performance to Obama’s reflects one of the largest shifts against Democrats in the country, insiders say; the only comparable examples are in the South or in Appalachia. Then, just last year, Bob Turner got 40 percent of the vote in a Weiner reelection victory.

Surrounding districts remain staunchly Democratic, though, giving Obama between 63 and 91 percent of their votes in 2008.

The 2010 census dictates that New York State’s Congressional districts include a population of 717,707 on average, and the 9th’s current borders encompass only 660,306 residents. There is almost no way to add the necessary 57,000 residents — roughly 9 percent of its current population — from neighboring districts without also making the 9th more Democratic than it is now.

So, while the district could be competitive if an election were held using the current boundary lines (for example, in the case of a special election later this year), it is less likely to be competitive in 2012 after the boundaries are redrawn.

Of course, the present 9th District could itself be carved up and its population used to beef up neighboring districts. That would be fairly sure to cost the Democrats a seat. But with the two parties sharing power in Albany and each holding a veto over the redistricting process, it is probably inevitable that one of the two seats the state loses will be a Democratic-held one.

If they must lose a seat, the 9th might be an attractive option for Democrats, both because it is the only one they now hold in Brooklyn or Queens that would be vulnerable with a poor Democratic candidate or in a strong Republican year, and because it is centered in an area with relatively slow population growth.

Although New York City grew at the same rate, 2.1 percent, as the rest of the state between 2000 and 2010, the number of Congressional districts it can support has declined from 12.2 to 11.4 because of the overall reduction in the state’s allotment. The slowest growth in New York City has been in Brooklyn and Queens, which together added just 0.9 percent to their populations over the past decade.

Should the Ninth district be deleted, there are a number of men who now represent their own districts nearby the Ninth that could take over during a redistricting process.

Grimm, who represents the 13th District, and is the only Republican who represents any part of New York City in Congress, might benefit from gaining some of the Brooklyn communities in the 9th, such as Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

He now reprresents all of Staten Island and a small portion of Brooklyn. Some question whether he would give up any of his Republican Staten Island constituents to take on largely Democratic Brooklyn, however.

At the same time, there are two Democrats who could easily lose portions of their districts to take on Forest Hills and Rockaway.

One of those is Joseph Crowley, who has long said he would like to represent the west end of Rockaway, where he grew up during the summer months when he was young.

The other is Gary Ackerman, who also now represents parts of Queens and would probably covet the west end as well.

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