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Moving in with mom: Redistricting creates upheaval for New York lawmakers

Earlier this year, New York’s tumultuous redistricting process rocked state House races, sparking intraparty drama that sparked free-for-all primary contests and forced senior Democrats to run as one. against others.

But the court-drawn maps also threw Albany into chaos, upending district lines in the Democratic-controlled state Senate, and with a similar effect: lawmakers were pushed into the same districts, forcing some to make inconvenient living arrangements to report to nearby August 23 Primary districts.

For State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., a Democrat from Queens, the changes meant he would be likely to move in with his mother, who resides in the new district he is running in, if he wins. Mr. Addabbo’s home in Howard Beach has been excluded from his current district.

“Thank God I’ve been kind to my mum all these years,” said Mr Addabbo, 58, who faces a major challenge for the first time since being elected in 2008. “I think my old bedroom is still available.”

The redistricting saga forced the incumbents to campaign in uncharted territory and face unexpected challengers, injecting an element of unpredictability and igniting primary struggles defined by ideology, ethnicity and local political power struggles. , as well as public safety and affordability issues.

Residency requirements are relaxed in redistricting years, meaning applicants only have to live in the county they are running in, not the district. They must, however, move to the district if they win.

In the Bronx, State Senator Gustavo Rivera faced a choice: stay in the rent-stabilized apartment he’s lived in for more than two decades and face off against State Senator Robert Jackson, or find another neighborhood where to present oneself. He chose the latter and face off against the Bronx party machine’s preferred candidate.

“I’m not looking forward to getting into the rental market, but I’ll be thinking about this pain after August 23,” said Mr. Rivera, a Democrat, referring to the main date of the disputed races in the Senate and the State Congress. “I’m not happy.”

At least seven Democratic incumbents of the 63-seat Senate, where Democrats hold a supermajority, face major challenges, while two newly created districts in New York are among a handful of open seats up for grabs.

Despite the redistricting upheaval, Democratic incumbents are optimistic about their chances in the August primary, after the party establishment crushed insurgent challenges in numerous Assembly primaries in June, as well as in the race for governor and lieutenant governor.

There may also be fewer state Senate seats ripe for leftist hopefuls to target, following a series of incremental upheavals that led Democrats to regain a majority in 2018 and placed incumbents in state of alert, according to political agents.

“They’ve lost the element of surprise,” said Bhav Tibrewal, policy director of the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, which represents hospitality workers. “Traditional Democrats are afraid of them and therefore take their challenges much more seriously.”

The incumbents far outspent their opponents in the June 28 primary, but unions also played a key role in mobilizing their members in an election with low turnout.

Endorsements from unions, whose members tend to show up at higher rates than the average voter, could be a powerful stamp of approval for incumbents rushing to meet new voters in new neighborhoods.

On a recent weekday morning, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who represents a pro-Trump district in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, was campaigning outside a vying subway station to attract the attention of far more liberal voters in Brooklyn Heights, which is now part of the new neighborhood in which it runs.

A councilman campaigning with him, Lincoln Restler, spotted a janitor ordering coffee from a nearby food truck and approached him to let him know that his building service workers union, 32BJ SEIU, planned to support Mr. Gonardes soon.

“Oh, we got you!” replied the workman, picking up a leaflet from the Gounardes campaign.

But about 80% of Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhood is new territory for Mr. Gounardes, 37, creating an opening for his challenger, David Yassky, 58, a former Brooklyn Heights councilman. Mr. Yassky runs on terrain he knows the district’s brownstone neighborhoods more intimately than Mr. Gounardes.

“I have more in-depth knowledge of these neighborhoods than anyone else in the race,” he said, adding that he was coming forward to voice his district’s concerns about subway affordability and safety.

Challengers from all ideological backgrounds have launched campaigns, hoping the new cards will soften the playing field and lead to the removal of longtime incumbents.

The Democratic Socialists of America endorsed two insurgent candidates hoping to win new seats, including David Alexis, 33, a rideshare driver and community organizer challenging State Senator Kevin Parker in Brooklyn. To overcome what is expected to be abysmal voter turnout, Mr Alexis said his campaign has been mobilizing potential voters since last year, knocking on more than 60,000 doors with the help of 750 volunteers.

Mr. Parker may have benefited from the new Senate maps: His Flatbush-based district no longer includes Park Slope, removing a ward that could boost a leftist challenger.

“I don’t need to turn atheists into Catholics,” said Mr. Parker, 55, who was first elected in 2002 and clashed with young progressives in Albany. “I just need to get the Baptists to come to church.”

“For me, it’s just highlighting the date of the election and the fact that I’m on the ballot,” Mr Parker said.

In the Bronx, Mr. Rivera’s primary sparked an intraparty clash.

To avoid running against a fellow lawmaker, he chose to run in a district that encompasses about 50% of the heavily Hispanic district he currently represents, but now also includes the more white and affluent neighborhood of Riverdale.

A new candidate is also in the running, Miguelina Camilo, who had been endorsed by the Bronx Democratic Party before the courts redraw the lines. The local party stuck to its endorsement after Mr Rivera entered the race, a move he called “terribly disappointing”.

“The lines put me in the worst case scenario,” said Mr. Rivera, 46, first elected in 2010.

“bend the knee” at the local festival.

Ms Camilo, a family law lawyer, described the situation as “unfortunate”, stressing that she had received the party’s endorsement when she launched her campaign in February, before the courts intervened, to run for the seat vacated by the state. Senator Alessandra Biaggi, candidate for Congress.

“It wasn’t just a game to pick a seat just to get to Albany, I want to speak for this district,” said Ms. Camilo, 36, a first-time candidate from the Dominican Republic. She said her experience working at her father’s bodega while becoming the first member of her family to go to college made her “a strong voice for working families.”

In Queens, Mr. Addabbo’s heavily warped neighborhood, which stretched from Maspeth to Rockaway Beach, was made more compact, getting rid of Rockaways, who are predominantly white. Richmond Hill, home to a strong South Asian community and the largest Sikh population in the city, was added to the neighborhood, which now has a significantly higher share of Asians and Hispanics.

Among those running against Mr Addabbo, who is white, is Japneet Singh, 28, an accountant and part-time taxi driver who is Sikh American and has focused his campaign on anti-Asian hate crimes affecting his community .

“I saw the pain of these people; it’s not safe here,” said Mr Singh, who ran unsuccessfully for city council last year. “I represent a demographic that nobody cares about.”


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