ALBANY, NY — It's been a big few weeks for politics in New York State. At stake: the Lieutenant Governor position, and the fate of the state's redistricting maps.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced on May 3 her choice of Representative Antonio Delgado to serve as her new lieutenant governor.
Delgado served in New York's 19th Congressional District since 2018, representing Sullivan and other upstate counties. While in congress, he served as the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit; co-founded the Delaware River Watershed Caucus with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a group of congresspeople advocating for the Delaware River; and had 18 bills signed into law.
Hochul chose Delgado to replace former lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin, who assumed that position on September 9, 2021.
Hochul and Benjamin were both on the ballots for their respective positions in the 2022 Democratic primaries. During that campaign, the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, charged Benjamin with bribery and related offenses.
Benjamin used his authority as a New York state senator to direct a $50,000 grant to a non-profit in exchange for campaign contributions from the organizations behind that non-profit, according to the indictment.
Benjamin resigned on April 12, the same day the charges were announced.
Benjamin's resignation left him as an active candidate on the Democratic primary ballot for lieutenant governor. Existing New York state election law includes rules allowing candidates to decline their nominations, but only under very specific conditions.
Following the charges brought against Benjamin, the legislature introduced a bill expanding those conditions, allowing candidates to decline their nomination if arrested, charged or convicted with misdemeanors or felonies.
Hochul signed this bill into law on May 2, the day before announcing Delgado as her choice for lieutenant governor. Delgado is expected to take Benjamin's place on the primary ballot following Benjamin's withdrawal, according to published reports.
The move has attracted criticism for changing the rules of the election mid-cycle for perceived partisan gain. "Today, we are voting on a blatantly political bill," said Sen. Mike Martucci, who represents Sullivan County in the 42nd district. "It is the opposite of good government; taking a probable felon off the ballot to protect and benefit a gubernatorial candidate and her political party."
Another election decision—New York state’s redistricting maps—has faced legal challenges in the past few weeks.
Hochul signed an initial redistricting map into law on February 3. That map, which took Sullivan County out of the 19th congressional district and placed it in the 17th, attracted criticism for its process; according to statistics website FiveThirtyEight, control of the map is held by the Democratic majority, leading to an “egregiously biased map.” Justice Patrick McAllister of the Steuben County Supreme Court ruled against the state’s maps in Harkenrider v. Hochul on March 31. That decision was upheld by the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court on April 21 and by the New York Court of Appeals on April 27, according to Ballotpedia.
The fate of the state’s legislative maps remains in question. According to FiveThirtyEight, the New York Court of Appeals requires that a new map drawn up by a neutral expert be finalized by May 20, but while the process begins, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has filed a lawsuit in federal court asking the court to block that decision on the grounds that new maps could not be created in time for the previously-scheduled primary on June 28.
While waiting on the Court of Appeals decision, McAllister appointed Dr. Jonathan Cervas as an independent special master to develop new congressional and state Senate maps. Cervas is a postdoctoral fellow with the Carnegie Mellon University Institute for Politics and Strategy; he is the redistricting consultant to the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and has assisted a federal court special master in drawing remedial maps for three separate redistricting cases.
In a follow-up order issued on April 28, McAllister pushed back the deadline for the new maps to May 20. The following day, he updated the primary dates for both elections, ordering that the state and congressional elections take place on August 23, pushed back from June 28, and that the deadline for military and overseas ballots to be mailed be July 8.
Motions to intervene are currently being filed by interested parties to mark state Assembly maps as unconstitutional alongside congressional and state Senate maps. This is based on the Court of Appeals decision that both sets of maps showed gerrymandering and the practice of unconstitutional procedures. New York residents and activists called for Assembly maps to be held as unconstitutional, as those maps hold the same procedures the other maps have.
An emergency motion to intervene was filed by Gavin Wax, the president of New York’s Young Republican Club, and an additional motion was filed by Gary Greenburg, an activist and former Senate candidate. Both motions called for Assembly maps to also be marked as unconstitutional.
Both of their hearings are set for this month.
As of right now, there is a May 20 deadline for the Congressional and Senate maps to be finalized. However, the addition of Assembly maps could be added into this deadline depending on the outcome of the Greenburg and Wax motions.
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