Diaz is fine with changing Rangel’s district, but not at the cost of Bronx congressional seats

Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Bronx. (William Alatriste, via flickr)
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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. articulated what may very well be a sticking point in redrawing congressional districts for Rep. Charlie Rangel and others in the New York City delegation.

There's speculation that Rangel's no-longer-majority-black district in upper Manhattan will extend north, all the way to Mount Vernon, in order to regain enough African-American voters to make it more likely that Rangel will get re-elected, and to make it easier, theoretically, for an African-American to succeed him.

To do that would require taking some of the Bronx.

"I understand that Charlie Rangel, there's talk about [him] coming to the Bronx," Diaz told me yesterday at Christine Quinn's State of the City address. "I understand there's other conversations about another seat being made that's a 'Latino seat' coming to the Bronx. What I haven't heard is how those seats are majority-Bronx seats.

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"We've done our fair share, we've done our job, we've increased our population and we deserve a say in these conversations," Diaz said.

"And I understand there's a lot of dilemmas in other counties," he said but "we are not going to be allowed to be picked apart."

In other words, creating another district in the Bronx is OK, so long as most of the voters in it are in the Bronx. 

The issue of which borough has a "majority" stake in a given congressional seat is important because that traditionally determines which county committee (and, by extension, county leader) gets to play a decisive role picking the party nominee for that seat in special elections. If the new "Latino seat" in the Bronx is also a "majority-Bronx seat," for example, it could create an opportunity for Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion to take it. Carrion has a lot of campaign money in the bank now, high name recognition, and is leaving his job at H.U.D. and signaling he'd like a return to elected office.

If the seat was, instead based in Manhattan, it could favor someone like Adriano Espaillat, the newly elected state senator in northern Manhattan, who has spoken about the need to diversify New York's congressional delegation and, if elected, would be the first congressman ever of Dominican descent.

Currently, the Bronx has one congressional seat wholly within its borders, represented by Jose Serrano. Another seat that is mostly in the Bronx is represented by Rep. Joseph Crowley, who is the Queens County Democratic chairman. Another district that incudes parts of the Bronx is represented by Eliot Engel. That district is anchored in Westchester and goes up to Rockland.