Local experts weigh in on Tenney’s candidacy for new 23rd Congressional District
Republican Claudia Tenney currently represents New York’s heavily Republican 22nd Congressional District. Despite how right-leaning her district is, she narrowly beat her Democratic opponent, Anthony Brindisi, in the last election cycle, and lost to Brindisi in 2018.
Luke Perry, a political science professor at Utica College, said because Tenney is very right-leaning she doesn’t tend to stack up well against Democratic candidates, especially when it comes to appealing to more moderate voters.
“She tends to be better positioned in a primary, where you have more ideological voters than in a general election where Democrats and Republicans are even or the Democrats have an advantage,” said Perry.
She’s doing something similar to western New York Rep. Chris Jacobs, who’s now running in the 24th district in central and northern New York.
“They face a choice of battling for their seat in a less favorable situation, or to try to find a better opportunity in what I call and Republican super-districts that are being created,” Perry said.
So instead of battling for one of the 22 seats expected to go to Democrats, she went for an already heavily Republican district like the 23rd. Perry said there’s a reason she so quickly made this decision.
“I think her decision to declare immediately after the boundaries were proposed, reflects an effort to try to deter other potential Republicans, particularly ones that live there, from running,” he said.
This could be good news for Democrats if she does advance beyond the primaries since she tends underperform against Democratic candidates.
However, Perry is unsure of how much flipping that district will matter since he expects Democrats to lose the house this midterm cycle anyway.
“So I think the Democrats are likely to lose the house because of President Biden's current approval rating and because it's his first midterm,” he said.
If Republicans only have a shot at winning in a handful of upstate districts, it begs the question of how fair these maps are. Perry said he’d absolutely categorize the congressional map as partisan gerrymandering on the Democrats’ part.
“I think what we've seen is the Democrats engaged in a national gerrymandering battle that's unfolding in several states,” he said.
However, Jeff Wice, a professor at New York Law School who specializes in redistricting, said he thinks the new map is very fair.
“The district lines meet the federal requirement of exact population equality, where the difference in the size of the largest and smallest districts doesn't exceed literally one person,” said Wice.
He’s correct. Each of the 26 congressional districts has precisely 776,971 constituents. Wice added that the new map also maintains downstate’s minority districts, complying with the Voting Rights Act.
“I think this plan is one that will likely withstand any court action,” he said.
In fact, a lawsuit has already been filed against the new map, but Wice said that even if opponents win the lawsuit and the maps are redrawn, it won’t happen in time for this year’s elections.
“Even if a lawsuit is filed against the plan, and with petitioning for the spring primary to get underway March 1, there's almost no chance of a court preventing the use of this map for the 2022 election cycle,” said Wice.
Either way, Perry said he’s not confident this will have much impact in the House of Representatives, which he expects to flip.
“I think what happens in New York with with redistricting is probably not going to be instrumental in regards to what party controls the House after the next election,” said Perry.