Finalized congressional districts by a court-appointed special master released shortly after midnight on Saturday will alter upstate New York politics for the next decade that could maintain competitive congressional races for years to come.
The maps released by Carnegie Mellon University expert Jonathan Cervas for New York's U.S. House and state Senate races come as the state's redistricting process this year has been upended by a court challenge that rejected the lawmaker-drawn districts earlier this year.
In a court filing, Cervas wrote his districts will split only 16 counties in New York as opposed to 34 counties split by the lines drawn by lawmakers. He also estimates eight of these U.S. House seats in New York will be competitive districts compared to three contested seats drawn by the Legislature.
Upstate New York has already been home to multiple competitive House seats over the last decade. Democrats had hoped New York could be a state in which the party is able to maintain control of the narrowly divided U.S. House of Representatives this year ahead of what's expected to be a good political environment for Republicans.
A Republican-backed lawsuit had challenged the lawmaker-drawn lines. On Saturday, former Rep. John Faso called the new lines fair.
“The congressional and state senate districts created by the Special Master and ordered by the Court maximize political competition and honor the desires of the People as evidenced by their strong approval of the 2014 constitutional amendment on redistricting," said Faso, who had advised the Republican-allied suit.
Cervas' maps will stretch the district of Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko to include all of Saratoga County, which is currently split with Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik. That district will include Capital Region cities Albany, Schenectady and Troy.
Stefanik will largely maintain a sprawling North Country House seat that encompasses most of the Adirondack Park and parts of the Mohawk Valley.
In central New York, Syracuse and Utica will be drawn into the same U.S. House seat. A Hudson Valley congressional seat, the 19th district, will stretch from the Catskills to heavily Democratic Tompkins County.
The 24th congressional seat will stretch from the Thousand Islands region to areas south of Rochester to the Lake Ontario shoreline. And the 23rd district will include parts of western New York south of Buffalo and the Southern Tier.
Already the changes have scrambled some House races. Hudson Valley Rep. Mondaire Jones on Saturday announced he would run for the increasingly crowded 10th congressional district in New York City after he was initially drawn into a seat with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney announced she would run for the 24th congressional district, noting that it includes areas she currently represents in the House.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, meanwhile, is set to run for the newly drawn 19th district. Molinaro had initially challenged Democratic incumbent Antonio Delgado for his Hudson Valley House seat. But Delgado is set to become the next lieutenant governor following the resignation of Brian Benjamin.
Delgado's pending resignation from Congress will trigger a special election likely to be held on Aug. 23. Molinaro and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan are expected to compete for the 19th district under its current configuration.
New York's congressional and state Senate primaries will be held on Aug. 23 as a result of the delayed map approval. State lawmakers took control of the map drawing process this year after a commission created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment failed to reach an agreement on new district lines.
The state is losing a House seat because its population did not grow as fast as other areas of the country.