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N.Y. Lawmakers and Gov. Candidates Headed for a Showdown on Redistricting

Top New York state lawmakers now appear to be on the path toward a showdown on redistricting reform with whoever is governor next year.

Various reform advocates — including New York Uprising, a coalition of groups led by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (D) — have pressed the state to turn over redistricting control to an independent, nonpartisan commission. Koch’s group announced last month that it had gotten the four leading candidates for governor — former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio (R), Suffolk County Exec. Steve Levy (R), Buffalo developer Carl Paladino (R) and state Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo (D) — to commit to creating a redistricting advisory commission and to veto any plan that includes partisan gerrymanders. Currently, a legislature-controlled commission controls redistricting, with the governor having veto power over any plan.

State Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) both said at a government reform forum Wednesday they were not in favor of creating an independent commission, instead advocating incremental changes to the current redistricting process.

State Senate President Malcolm Smith (D) sparked controversy when he weighed in on the issue during a party dinner on April 30. He claimed that if Democrats still control both chambers next year, they should “draw the lines so that Republicans will be in oblivion in the state of New York for the next 20 years.”

Former Gov. George Pataki (R), who was in office during the last redistricting cycle, told NBC New York he did not believe legislators would allow their districts to be changed in a way that might threaten their re-election prospects.

Koch said he disagreed with Pataki’s assessment, citing growing voter discontent as a good reason for the legislature to reconsider.

This is the year they’ll agree to change the system because all incumbents are in danger. The voters are ready to throw them out and the legislators have to show that they’re ready to reform the government if they want to get re-elected.

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