New York Redistricting Sets Up More Incumbent v. Incumbent Races

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- State government leaders have come up with a redistricting plan that could threaten a veteran Republican congressman and create a so-called fair fight between two western New York Democratic incumbents, officials said Monday.

The plan, according to the state officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity, would put Rep. Benjamin Gilman of Orange County and fellow Republican Rep. Sue Kelly of Westchester County into a new lower Hudson River Valley district.

Gilman was elected to Congress 30 years ago.

The new plan, which could be approved by the state Legislature as early as Monday, would also place Rep. John LaFalce of the Niagara Falls-Buffalo area into a new district with fellow Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of Rochester.

The officials cautioned that details of what they said was a tentative agreement were still being ironed out Monday morning.

"Some of the details are still lacking this morning," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno told radio station WROW of Albany that his house was printing several versions of a redistricting bill, and one of them could be passed by Monday afternoon if an agreement is reached.

New York, because of slow population growth, is losing two of its current 31 congressional districts.

While Gilman, 79, had said late last week that he would seek re-election no matter what was done to his district, The New York Post, quoting unidentified sources, said Monday that Gilman would likely retire.

Gilman spokesman Brian Walsh reiterated Monday that the congressman had no plans to retire. Walsh said Gilman wasn't likely to comment until he saw the new redistricting map. Gilman is serving his 15th term in Congress, representing 635,820 residents of Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Westchester counties.

Kelly, in a prepared statement, said she had not been officially notified but "I am heartened to know that the 19th congressional district will stay basically intact. I look forward to representing the new towns that have been added to my district."

In Rochester, Slaughter held a news conference flanked by local officials and vowed to fight a plan she said would dilute the city's congressional representation.

"We want our voice heard," Slaughter said. "I will fight to the last ounce of strength I've got."

The new congressional redistricting plan is designed to replace one drawn by a special master appointed by federal judges overseeing the New York redistricting process. The master's plan would have placed Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey in a new district against Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert. It would also have put LaFalce in a district against Republican Rep. Jack Quinn.

Facing that possibility, LaFalce had threatened to run against Republican Rep. Thomas Reynolds in a neighboring congressional district. Reynolds is a favorite of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

On Monday, Slaughter said she would run in one of the new congressional districts if she has to, possibly against Reynolds.

The federal master's plan could have also made life more difficult for Rep. Nita Lowey of Westchester County, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

With those possibilities, top Washington politicians, including Vice President Dick Cheney on the Republican side, had called New York state leaders to urge them to come up with a plan that would replace the federal master's plan.