By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
ALBANY — Depending on whether the state Senate’s or the state Assembly’s congressional redistricting plan is adopted, freshman Congressman Bob Turner’s (R-Brooklyn/Queens) 9th Congressional District will be either changed substantially or eliminated entirely.
The Democratic-dominated Assembly and Republican-dominated Senate have submitted their redistricting proposals to a court panel. Based on Census figures, the state legislature must eliminate two congressional seats within New York state. Both houses have agreed to eliminate the Hudson Valley seat held by Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat who plans to retire soon.
For their second seat, the Democratic Assembly majority proposes to eliminate Turner’s district, while the Senate Republicans would instead eliminate the neighboring district held by Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/Nassau County).
The court and its designated “special master” could eventually use the two proposals and potentially others to redraw the lines. But the Assembly and Senate majorities still could negotiate a solution, which could be accepted by the court.
Spotlight on Bob Turner
Turner, who lives in Queens, spent four decades as an advertising and television executive before coming out of retirement to challenge Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner.
A conservative, he is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, is a supporter of upstate hydrofracking, believes in teaching “intelligent design” in the schools, and is suspicious of efforts to create a Palestinian state.
Still, he opposed Republican-backed efforts to privatize aspects of Medicare and Social Security and refused to sign Grover Norquist’s “no new tax” pledge.
Turner’s seat was mentioned as being at risk even when he was running for election in a special contest last September. Turner won the race to succeed Weiner, who resigned in disgrace after a “sexting” scandal.
One political commentator said this is primarily because Turner, as a freshman, is the “low man on the totem pole” when it comes to protecting his political interests.
Drawing the Lines
Turner’s current district includes Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Gerritsen Beach, the western half of Rockaway, the western half of Broad Channel and a large part of southwestern Queens.
In the Republican Senate plan, Turner’s district would now be the called 10th C.D. It would lose a little less than half of its Queens territory but would pick up parts of Gravesend, Midwood and Borough Park in Brooklyn. These areas contain many Orthodox Jewish voters who have a conservative, and thus potentially Republican, agenda.
In the Democratic Assembly plan, Turner’s 9th C.D. would be totally split up among neighboring districts now represented by Congress members Gary Ackerman, Joseph Crowley, Ed Towns, Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler — all Democrats. There would be a district called the 9th, but it would be in Staten Island.
Regardless of which plan is adopted, or if the two parties agree on a compromise plan, Turner has said he plans to run again this fall. Even if the Democratic plan is adopted, the congressmen who take over his territory are all Democrats and thus potential opponents.
As a result of Turner’s recent election, Republicans saw a growing conservative and Orthodox Jewish constituency that they thought could keep the seat in GOP hands for years, However, Democrats — and most political watchers — said the election of Turner was an anomaly driven by the Weiner scandal and anger over President Barack Obama’s Israel policies.
A panel of three federal judges recently appointed Magistrate Roanne Mann in Brooklyn to review the proposals and recommend a plan by March 12. The districts shall be “substantially equal in population,” as well as “compact, contiguous, respect political subdivisions and preserve communities of interest,” the court order said.
Mann was directed to consider any proposals already submitted and authorized to invite others. Objections are due by noon March 14, with a court hearing scheduled the next day.
— Additional material by Michael Gormley,