It’s almost too perfect.
Just two weeks after the New York legislature’s job of drawing new congressional districts in the state’s northern reaches became tougher with the special election victory of Rep. Kathy Hochul (D), its job drawing districts downstate became a piece of cake.
Or at least that’s how it looks right now.
Over the last week and a half, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has turned himself into the sacrifical political lamb and plopped himself (and his 9th district) down on a silver platter for a state legislature that was going to have to make some very tough choices about whose seats to eliminate in the coming round of redistricting. (The state is losing two congressional districts due to slower population growth than the nation as a whole.)
And now, if you ask those who know about redistricting in the Empire State, they say Weiner could very well find himself without a district for the 2012 election — no matter how his sex scandal plays out over the next few days or weeks.
“People look at this as a possible release valve that wasn’t there before,” said a senior Democrat monitoring the process.
Clarity won’t likely come on the congressional lines in New York for some time since the state may not take up congressional redistricting until next year, but eliminating Weiner’s seat makes a lot of sense.
Control of the legislature is split between Republicans and Democrats, but because both of the Republicans who represent downstate districts are hard to draw out of their seats, it’s long been assumed that a Democrat in the New York City area would be eliminated.
Often, talk has focused on Democratic Reps. Gary Ackerman, Carolyn McCarthy, Carolyn Maloney and Joe Crowley. All four of them have to be breathing much easier now.
“It may be the legislature says, ‘OK, this is the seat we eliminate in the city,’” former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Martin Frost (Texas) said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
Other Democrats were privately more blunt.
“After the last two weeks, Weiner is the most likely incumbent to lose his district,” said a Democrat familiar with the state’s redistricting process.
Others say Weiner’s seat is number one on the chopping block regardless of his reelection/resignation plans. Even if he throws in the towel and resigns, the seat will feature a freshman special election-winner alongside a bunch of longtime incumbents who have much more clout.
“Is it better to have a dead man walking in that position, [when] it gets carved into three or four districts?” said the senior Democrat.
But let’s say Weiner can weather the storm and decides to run for reelection. His Queens and Brooklyn-based district borders the seats held by Ackerman and Crowley, and parceling out his constituents between those two would be relatively easy with such a jumbled map and so many Democrats in the area.
There are only a few potential hang-ups.
First, even though Weiner’s district leans Democratic, its far less safe than other neighboring districts. (As the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar has written, it could potentially be competitive under the right circumstances). And other Democrats may not be so eager to take on some of Weiner’s more conservative constituents.
Second, Weiner’s lengthy district borders mostly majority-minority districts, despite having very few African-American voters and relatively few Hispanic voters within its borders. That means it could be difficult to move Weiner’s white constituents into neighboring districts, which aren’t supposed to have their minority populations diluted. Most of his constituents would likely have to be handed off to Ackerman and Crowley, and potentially Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
There’s also the possibility that a nearby incumbent doesn’t seek reelection. In that case, state lawmakers would have to choose between eliminating an open seat and cutting out an (albeit scandal-tarred ) incumbent in Weiner. If someone like Ackerman were to opt for retirement, Weiner’s chances of keeping his district intact would be significantly enhanced.
Of course, at that point, he would still have to win reelection, and given his personal problems, neither a tough primary nor a tough general election are out of the question.
This could very well be Weiner’s last term in Congress. It’s just a matter of what exit route he takes.