New York Democrats propose new congressional lines that could help them in battleground races

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Democrats are proposing a new congressional map that could shift a few battleground districts in the party’s favor, potentially giving their candidates an advantage in House races that could determine control of Congress.

The bill, introduced late Monday, will now work its way through the Democrat-dominated state Legislature, where it is expected to pass in a vote this week. The legislation was unveiled hours after Democrats rejected a map drawn by the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission.

The plan falls far short of the aggressive gerrymander many expected when Democrats seized control of the state’s unusual mid-decade redistricting process. The party is trying to avoid having its new map tossed by the courts, as a prior one was in 2022.

The lines are similar to the state’s existing congressional map, as well as the bipartisan redistricting commission's proposal, with just a small handful of tweaks that could help Democrats in suburban areas important to the party's strategy for winning control of the House.

The map would boost Democrats' chances of holding on to a district on Long Island that was won this month by Democrat Tom Suozzi in a special election. And it would make the central New York district currently held by Republican Rep. Brandon Williams more Democrat-friendly with the addition of a couple left-leaning cities.

In the Hudson Valley, Democrats are pushing to reverse proposed changes from the state's bipartisan redistricting commission that would have helped incumbent Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro, instead drawing lines that make the district more competitive.

Congressional elections in New York will be heavily contested this year because races in the state, particularly in the suburbs of New York City, could have a major impact on which party controls Congress.

Democrats had criticized the bipartisan commission's map and said it split up what they called communities of interest, among other issues. Many expected Democrats to kill the proposal so they could draft maps that gave their congressional candidates a bigger edge.

“We thought there were areas that could be improved upon, and that's what we did,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Tuesday.

Republicans have been threatening a legal challenge throughout the redistricting process but did not spell out their plans as a party on Tuesday. Still, Democrats, anticipating a lawsuit, have begun to move a separate bill that would limit where a redistricting suit can be filed — a bid to keep cases from landing in front of conservative judges.

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said he wasn't aware of a lawsuit from Republicans in his chamber and said his understanding is that the party's congressional delegation is “generally happy” with the maps. “They could be worse,” he added.

A vote on the Democrats' proposed map could come on Thursday or potentially sooner, if Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul allows lawmakers to expedite the process. Heastie told reporters that conversations are ongoing with the governor's office.