State Senate Republicans haven’t totally given up on Bob Turner’s district

Bob Turner. (Reid Pillifant)
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Republicans in the State Senate are making one more last-ditch plea to protect Bob Turner's congressional seat.

Turner, who won a special election for what had been Anthony Weiner's seat in September, declared for the U.S. Senate yesterday, citing the proposed elimination of his district by the court's special master, Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann.

Mann took charge of the redrawing of the congressional lines after the two houses of the legislature failed to agree on a proposal on a deadline necessitated by this year's early primaries.

In a series of objections to the judge's lines filed today, the attorneys for the State Senate majority argued that the elimination of Turner's district needlessly divides communities of interest—in particular, the Jewish communities in Brooklyn that helped deliver Turner to the House. The filing also argues that the district needlessly crosses into Nassau County.

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The judge's maps would pit Turner, an Irish-American businessman from Breezy Point, against Democratic representative Gregory Meeks, an African-American incumbent in a district that would be heavily African-American and Democratic.

The majority expressly hoped that a change in the lines might undo Turner's decision to run for the Senate. "[I]f this gratuitous pairing is undone, Rep. Turner’s choice might be reversed," the attorneys argued.

But Turner's seat is tricky for the Republicans. His status as a folk hero within the party made him difficult for Republicans to sacrifice in redistricting, but the demographics of the district made sacrificing any other member to protect him a gamble. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he would have been happy to retain Turner's district, on the expectation that Democrats could easily win it back in the near future.

Separate from theor objections to the Turner seat, the Republican majority also argued against changes to districts in Nassau County, which effectively rotated the second and third congressional districts from their current north-south split to a more east-west orientation, which swapped a number of voters between the districts of Democratic congressman Steve Israel and Republican Peter King. King's district, in particular, becomes more difficult to defend under the proposed plan.

The core of the majority's argument is a recitation of its general argument before the court: that incumbents should be granted a certain deference in the drawing of district lines.

Mann has demonstrated, through two sets of maps, that she's unpersuaded by that argument, leaving the three-judge panel overseeing the process as Turner's last hope.