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Good Morning from Steuben County…

Wow. In a state known for the unusual, bizarre, and unexpected, the ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals to throw out New York’s Congressional lines was a BFD made bigger by the Court’s startling decision to also negate the districts for the New York State Senate. All this just 58 days before the scheduled Primary Day.  

The Court cited two main reasons for their decision. Procedurally, that the Independent Redistricting Commission was required by the 2014 Constitutional Amendment to provide proposed maps that the Legislature and Governor could then accept or reject (this happened and they were rejected) and then, as the language clearly says, provide second maps that the Legislature and Governor needed to also accept or reject. This did not happen; therefore the Congressional and Senate maps are not constitutionally valid. The Court also found that the Assembly maps were equally at fault but noted that these lines had not been challenged.

The fact that the Independent Redistricting Commission could not—or would not—agree on a second map was met by the Court with a recommendation more theoretical than a practical: ” Legislative leaders appoint a majority of the IRC members and, in the event those members fail either to appear at IRC meetings or to otherwise perform their constitutional duties, judicial intervention in the form of a mandamus proceeding, political pressure, more meaningful attempts at compromise, and possibly even replacement of members who fail to faithfully perform their duties, are among the many courses of action available to ensure the IRC process is completed as constitutionally intended.” 

Second, the Court found the Congressional maps unduly partisan.  The decision stated “a comparison of the enacted congressional map to ensembles of 5,000 or 10,000 maps created by computer simulation revealed that the enacted map was an “extreme outlier” that likely reduced the number of Republican congressional seats from eight to four by “packing” Republican voters into four discrete districts and “cracking” Republican voter blocks across the remaining districts in such manner as to dilute the strength of their vote and render such districts noncompetitive.”

It will now be up to Court-appointed special master, Jonathan Cervas, to decide what New York’s electoral maps look like for the next decade. Cervas, a research fellow at Carnegie Melon University and a Ph.D. in political science, has served in a similar function in other states. The Court set May 16th as the deadline for coming up with new lines. He was preemptively selected by state Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister in the event that the maps were thrown out.  

 However, the ruling left more questions than answers. In addition to the obvious question about what the lines will look like, here are a few of them:
–One of the biggest questions is will state lawmakers move to consolidate the statewide, judicial, and assembly primaries from June 28th to the same day as these new primaries on the 23rd of August?
–Will candidates need to go through a new petitioning process? In previous redistricting cases, some judges have allowed candidates to use their old petitions to qualify them in a new district. In other cases, judges have allowed political parties to authorize candidates.
–If they are consolidated, would assembly, judicial, and statewide candidates have to petition? Would the process be open for new candidates? (Enter Andrew Cuomo?!?)
—Whether a federal court ruling from 2012 will come into play? The case required New York to move primary elections from September to the fourth Tuesday in June, which Democratic Uber-Election Lawyer Marc Elias says trumps any decision or order by a state court.

–Mostly though, what will the lines look like?

The decision may also provide the opportunity for Governor Kathy Hochul to jettison former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin and his legal problems from her ticket. A bill was introduced late Friday afternoon which would allow an individual to be removed from the ballot in the event of an arrest and indictment. 

However, this would have to happen quickly. The language allows a candidate to decline their spot on the ballot until “the last day to certify”, which is Wednesday. 

On a side note, congratulations to Governor Hochul and her family on the birth of her granddaughter this past weekend. The Governor reportedly went to Washington, D.C. yesterday to meet Baby Sofia, born on Saturday, and was expected back in New York last night, according to a tweet.

Down in D.C….

Democrats in Washington were counting on New York’s Congressional map—and those potential Dem pick-ups—to help weather the storm. There was other bad news.

The stock market drop was another bad sign for Democrats as we get closer to midterm elections.  The economic turmoil is reflected in voter concerns and President Biden has been aware for quite some time

The S&P 500 tanked 3.6 percent on Friday, erasing 9.1 percent of value in April, its worst month since March 2020. And it’s down 13.8 percent in 2022, the worst economic start of the year since World War II. Troubles include soaring energy, food and housing prices. Yet there is optimism from the tremendous labor market, pent-up demand, consumers with high savings, and continued strong business investment. Which economic forces prevail will make a huge difference in which party wins in November. 
Democrats argue the 1.4 percent annualized drop in gross domestic product was a reflection of broader economic forces including additional shortages in global supply chains because of the war in Ukraine—pointing instead to more encouraging economic indicators, including a continued burst in hiring and the low unemployment rate as well as sustained consumer spending.
Republicans attribute the economic contraction to Democrats spending and as further fodder to oppose any Democratic legislative fixes including any of Democrats’ potential efforts to whip inflation, for example, which Republicans blame on Biden’s spending policies.

Meanwhile, President Biden announced his support for a $33 billion aid package for Ukraine this past week, as many military and security experts warn that the war is shaping up to become a long, protracted war of attrition for territories in the east and south of the country. The comprehensive aid package is aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s combat capabilities, reinforcing NATO’s European security posture, and supplementing the Ukrainian economy. 

Politics, of course, does not always end at the water’s edge and the plan is already facing opposition. Some Republicans do not want to tie the $33 billion to a separate, $10 billion COVID relief package even though one of the key authors of the COVID relief proposal was Republican Senator Mitt Romney. Republicans have also threatened to delay both bills until President Biden deals with border issues. Supporters of pairing the legislation see this as an opportunity to address two priorities without getting bogged down in the usual legislative and political process. 
The White House and Congressional allies are also working to change legislative language in a way that would make it easier for the government to sell the seized yachts of Russian oligarchs and send the funds to Ukraine. 
On the domestic front, Biden is expected to release his plan regarding student loan forgiveness, an important priority of the Progressives. The White House has twice extended the pause on student loan payments and some form of debt forgiveness is extremely popular with young voters, an important block heading into the midterm elections. The biggest remaining questions are just how much debt will be forgiven and whether the policy will be means-tested. Much to the chagrin of those same Progressives, Biden has said he is not considering a $50,000 debt reduction
The annual White House Correspondents Dinner—unofficially known as Nerd Prom—returned on Saturday for the first time since the start of the pandemic. President Trump famously refused to attend the event, making this the first Correspondents Dinner in six years to feature the President. Biden opened his remarks to the press with “I’m excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.” 
And finally, you will want to keep an eye on Tuesday’s Ohio GOP Senate primary. The race will be a big indication of just how much former President Trump’s endorsement matters in current Republican politics. As Republicans try to hang onto retiring Senator Rob Portman’s seat, Trump has endorsed JD Vance while others in the MAGA orbit are supporting Josh Mandel. 


  -Jack O’Donnell


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