2020 Census data released Thursday showed liberal New York City’s population swelled to a record 8.8 million people – far more than what pre-census estimates predicted – whereas more conservative Upstate New York lost population or had more tepid growth in the last decade.
Overall the state of New York gained residents in the last decade, but big population booms in places like Texas and Florida means the Empire State is slated to lose a congressional seat in time for the 2022 midterm elections, bringing its total from 27 to 26 seats in the House of Representatives.
With Democrats firmly in control in Albany and having the final say on the new congressional district maps, a leading redistricting expert is predicting New York Democrats will not only target a Republican district for removal, but could redraw congressional lines to lock in a blue tsunami for the next decade.
Armed with the new census data showing population growth in liberal strongholds, Democrats could make the case the number of GOP-held congressional seats in New York should drop from eight to just three, Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told Fox News.
"I think New York could turn into a bloodbath for Republicans," Wasserman, a prominent expert on congressional redistricting, said in an interview Friday. "Democrats could convert the existing 19-8 delegation into a 23-3 delegation through redistricting alone."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., could use all the help she could get from New York in her battle to retain control of the House in 2022, since history and redistricting are not on her side.
Republicans need just a net gain of five seats in 2022 to regain the majority.
The party in power in the White House traditionally loses seats in Congress during the first midterm election, which doesn’t bode well for Democrats. Former President Obama famously suffered a self-described "shellacking" in 2010 after Republicans won in a landslide midterm election and retook the House just two years after his historic White House win.
Republicans also have the advantage in redistricting with the GOP holding the final redistricting authority in 20 states totaling 187 congressional districts, while Democrats control eight states totaling 75 districts, Wasserman found. Republicans are expected to make gerrymandered gains in Texas, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere.
Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), said Friday that the new redistricting census numbers "are good for Republicans."
"We should do well in redistricting because American voters voted for Republicans in their state Legislatures," Emmer, R-Minn., told Fox’s "America’s Newsroom."
But New York is expected to be a bright spot for Democrats, thanks to the Big Apple clocking in 7% more residents than pre-census population estimates suggested.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., took credit for the strong showing, citing her $3 million campaign effort to encourage residents in her district to participate in the Census. "It worked," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted of the organizing blitz. "The Bronx & Queens were top performers nationally."
Ocasio-Cortez's seat was once considered a possible target for elimination since she's ruffled feathers in New York and elsewhere by supporting progressive challengers to establishment Democrats. But the strong New York City numbers shored up the Democrats' strength downstate.
The prime target for elimination is the largely rural Upstate 23rd District, which includes the cities of Ithaca, Corning and Jamestown, Wasserman says. It’s currently represented by GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who in March announced he wouldn’t seek reelection following a sexual misconduct claim from a female lobbyist.
Wasserman said he expects part of Reed's district to be absorbed by the 27th District in western New York, the reddest district in the state, which is currently represented by Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs.
And the bluer parts of Reed’s district, like Ithaca, would be added to purplish districts to ensure Democrats have the edge, such as GOP Rep. John Katko’s Syracuse-based 24th District or Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney’s 18th District in the Hudson Valley.
Look for Democrats to also redraw GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney’s swing 22nd District so it turns blue, Wasserman said. Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik's North Country district is likely to become redder, and therefore safer for the newly elected House GOP Conference chairwoman.
The new census data documenting sizable growth in New York City and its surrounding communities in comparison to Upstate New York means "it will be even easier than we thought for Democrats to eliminate a Republican district upstate," Wasserman said.
Downstate, Wasserman says the new maps could "easily" be redrawn to turn GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’s Staten Island/Brooklyn district and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s Long Island district into blue strongholds.
Reed, the retiring GOP congressman, said he expects Democrats in Albany to use all their political levers to redraw districts in their favor in an effort to preserve Democrats’ majority in the House. He called out Democrats for "hypocrisy" for railing against political gerrymandering elsewhere, while fully embracing gerrymandering when they are in power.
Reed thinks the most likely scenario would be New York GOP representation in Congress going down from eight seats to four seats after the 2022 maps are drawn. But he dared New York Democrats to try Wasserman’s three-seat scenario because he thinks it wouldn't survive a legal challenge.
"I hope the Dems try to do a three-seat Republican map," Reed told Fox News. "That means Republicans would easily and successfully challenge maps in court resulting in a much more favorable Republican map – likely preserving all eight GOP seats in the House for New York."