Teachout goes after Cuomo’s redistricting compromise

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Teachout. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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ALBANY—Democratic insurgent Zephyr Teachout is urging voters to reject a constitutional amendment establishing a new redistricting commission, saying it's an “incumbent protection scheme” representing a glaring broken promise by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Teachout, a Fordham law professor seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, is aligned with most good-government groups who say the amendment, which was crafted in 2012 in exchange for Cuomo abandoning a promise to reject new district lines drawn by legislators, doesn't go far enough.

The commission must be affirmed by voters on the November ballot. Teachout said Cuomo's decision to sign off on the current set of district lines—which were decried and challenged, but ultimately upheld in court—prevented Democrats from taking control of the State Senate.

“With a fair redistricting system we would have a Democratic Senate, and he ran on this: he pledged that the way we would draw districts would mean the way we have representatives in Albany would mirror the people of the state of New York,” Teachout told Capital. “The failure of the Dream Act and the failure of Fair Elections are all traceable to the fact that we don't have a Democratic Senate, and we don't have a Democratic Senate because Governor Cuomo has not acted like he's wanted one.”

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Spokesmen for Cuomo did not comment.

The governor argued in 2012 that the constitutional amendment was a great step forward: currently, a bipartisan, bicameral commission of lawmakers draws districts, with the current majority in each house doing its best to lock in partisan advantage.

The independent commission would still be mostly appointed by legislators and give lawmakers the power to draw their own districts if two sets of the commission's draft lines were deemed unacceptable.

Several good-government groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause, say this level of legislative involvement is a fatal flaw. They're holding a Monday press conference in Albany to make their case, and to give out an award for the oddest-shaped district.

Teachout said her campaign was moving forward, and now has offices in Bay Ridge and lower Manhattan. In addition to campaign manager Mike Boland, who left the Working Families Party to support Teachout after that party struck a deal to back Cuomo, she's brought on the party's "statewide canvass director" Elizabeth Pitt as her finance director.