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State redistricting panel hears case for, and against, keeping NY-23 congressional district

Congressional Representative Tom Reed listens to testimony while leaning on his hand
Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
NY-23 is vulnerable to change, as incumbent Rep. Tom Reed has decided not to run for re-election.

New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission heard public comment from residents of the Southern Tier and Central New York Monday. Some commentators wanted a change in congressional districts, while others sought the continuity of the existing district lines.

Currently, the 23rd Congressional District runs from Tioga County west to Lake Erie and is represented by Republican Tom Reed. Reed announced he is not seeking re-election after he apologized to Nicolette Davis for touching her inappropriately while he was "powerless over alcohol." The district has also been called the most Republican in the state.

Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson told the commission she would like to see Tompkins be incorporated into continuous districts with neighboring Cortland County to the east. She argued the two counties share similar traits because both host colleges and universities.

Cortland County, which is currently part of New York’s 22nd district, is held by Republican Claudia Tenney. She beat out incumbent Democrat Anthony Brindisi last year in a race decided by just over 100 votes.

“Please include Tompkins in whatever senate and congressional districts include Cortland County, because of the shared interest, culture and economy that link our two communities,” Robertson said.

Robertson, a Democrat, unsuccessfully ran for the 23rd district seat in 2014 against Reed, who has held the current 23rd district seat since the lines were last redrawn a decade ago.

Steuben County Republican Committee Chair Joe Sempolinski declared his candidacy for Reed's seat earlier this year. He also spoke to the commission Monday, but made the case for keeping the Southern Tier district largely the same due to similar economic and social conditions.

“I humbly ask the commission to respect the needs of the rural areas of New York state,” Sempolinski said. “Precedent, math and social and economic realities of the region call for a rural Finger Lakes, Southern Tier congressional district to be preserved.”

Chairman of the commission, David Imamura, said the panel expects the Census Bureau to deliver final apportionment data later this week. He said following the commission will then craft draft maps and release them around the middle of September.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the draft maps before they are delivered to the state legislature for approval early next year.