Why Presidential Toplines Don’t Mean Everything: The New York Senate

As long as I’ve been interested in politics, I’ve never understood how the NYS Senate was controlled by Republicans for so long, especially in a state as Democratic as New York.

So the purpose of my diary was two-fold: to understand the situation as it is now (our tenuous 2-seat majority), and to look at what a potential redistricting would look like that would cement Democratic control (for the next time…I don’t feel like formatting too much html.)

I started by analyzing Obama’s performance in each Senate district – after Pres-by-CD and the NY political data in Dave’s app, this wasn’t too difficult. Just follow me over the flip…

Here’s the massive table with results from Pres-by-SD.

Senator Residence Pop Black% Hisp% Asian% Obama McCain Total Obama% McCain%
1 Kenneth LaValle Port Jefferson 305,989 5.65% 7.71% 1.45% 85,057 74,138 159,269 53.40% 46.55%
2 John J. Flanagan East Northport 305,990 1.79% 4.68% 4.21% 73,525 77,560 151,625 48.49% 51.15%
3 Brian X. Foley Blue Point 305,989 7.95% 16.96% 1.99% 69,082 56,640 126,318 54.69% 44.84%
4 Owen H. Johnson West Babylon 305,991 9.78% 12.99% 1.88% 67,460 59,076 127,606 52.87% 46.30%
5 Carl Marcellino Syosset 305,990 3.42% 7.75% 4.92% 80,451 72,539 153,670 52.35% 47.20%
6 Kemp Hannon Garden City 305,993 16.66% 11.91% 3.24% 76,903 60,223 138,096 55.69% 43.61%
7 Craig Johnson Port Washington 305,991 8.80% 9.91% 8.47% 78,686 61,958 141,659 55.55% 43.74%
8 Charles Fuschillo Merrick 305,990 15.92% 11.20% 1.96% 80,004 63,438 144,437 55.39% 43.92%
9 Dean Skelos Rockville Centre 305,990 6.25% 9.29% 3.60% 77,566 70,225 148,869 52.10% 47.17%
10 Shirley Huntley Jamaica 318,481 54.20% 15.06% 8.00% 94,634 10,726 105,714 89.52% 10.15%
11 Frank Padavan Bellerose 318,482 6.27% 14.14% 25.93% 63,743 37,329 101,850 62.59% 36.65%
12 George Onorato Astoria 318,484 6.01% 33.07% 16.75% 69,037 17,247 87,177 79.19% 19.78%
13 Hiram Monserrate Jackson Heights 318,484 10.63% 55.89% 19.37% 51,451 10,827 62,586 82.21% 17.30%
14 Malcolm Smith St. Albans 318,481 54.54% 15.40% 7.07% 91,373 16,100 107,878 84.70% 14.92%
15 Joseph Addabbo, Jr. Ozone Park 318,484 3.28% 26.14% 11.77% 51,596 32,016 84,227 61.26% 38.01%
16 Toby Ann Stavisky Flushing 318,483 5.17% 15.07% 33.35% 58,858 30,976 90,539 65.01% 34.21%
17 Martin Malave Dilan Bushwick 311,260 22.03% 56.36% 4.36% 79,343 8,342 88,205 89.95% 9.46%
18 Velmanette Montgomery Boerum Hill 311,260 59.93% 24.45% 2.53% 116,578 3,794 120,895 96.43% 3.14%
19 John Sampson Canarsie 311,258 72.29% 15.14% 2.05% 96,181 6,859 103,181 93.22% 6.65%
20 Eric Adams Crown Heights 311,259 60.67% 14.96% 4.36% 100,485 8,865 109,880 91.45% 8.07%
21 Kevin Parker Flatbush 311,259 59.29% 10.53% 5.11% 77,979 14,333 92,623 84.19% 15.47%
22 Martin Golden Bay Ridge 311,260 0.75% 8.52% 16.34% 40,627 41,851 83,124 48.88% 50.35%
23 Diane Savino North Shore 311,259 17.56% 24.10% 14.04% 53,004 25,977 79,520 66.65% 32.67%
24 Andrew Lanza Great Kills 311,258 1.88% 7.26% 5.69% 47,334 74,699 122,819 38.54% 60.82%
25 Dan Squadron Brooklyn Heights 311,258 7.58% 19.53% 23.43% 100,660 20,183 121,874 82.59% 16.56%
26 Liz Krueger Upper East Side 311,260 2.11% 5.19% 8.32% 113,824 35,817 150,786 75.49% 23.75%
27 Carl Kruger Sheepshead Bay 311,259 5.62% 8.10% 11.49% 36,870 45,244 82,638 44.62% 54.75%
28 Jose M. Serrano Spanish Harlem 311,261 33.60% 56.68% 2.49% 85,514 6,496 92,391 92.56% 7.03%
29 Thomas Duane Upper West Side 311,260 5.96% 11.49% 8.10% 138,600 22,000 162,132 85.49% 13.57%
30 Bill Perkins Harlem 311,263 52.91% 29.44% 2.85% 124,514 5,631 130,838 95.17% 4.30%
31 Eric Schneiderman Washington Heights 311,257 10.44% 57.43% 3.09% 102,547 13,211 116,688 87.88% 11.32%
32 Rubén Díaz Soundview 311,260 34.51% 59.44% 2.72% 85,434 6,587 92,269 92.59% 7.14%
33 Pedro Espada “Bedford Park” 311,258 27.05% 59.68% 4.47% 68,950 6,677 75,885 90.86% 8.80%
34 Jeffrey Klein Throgs Neck 311,260 14.26% 22.93% 4.62% 62,555 37,231 100,472 62.26% 37.06%
35 Andrea Stewart-Cousins Yonkers 311,259 14.57% 20.29% 5.67% 82,773 45,243 128,999 64.17% 35.07%
36 Ruth Hassell-Thompson Williamsbridge 311,259 66.51% 28.03% 1.12% 102,049 4,246 106,465 95.85% 3.99%
37 Suzi Oppenheimer Mamaroneck 311,260 9.94% 17.33% 4.53% 91,559 48,668 141,325 64.79% 34.44%
38 Thomas Morahan Clarkstown 320,851 10.25% 9.76% 5.01% 78,407 71,146 150,561 52.08% 47.25%
39 Bill Larkin New Windsor 305,749 8.15% 10.70% 1.49% 72,792 62,702 137,003 53.13% 45.77%
40 Vincent Leibell Patterson 303,372 4.92% 7.65% 1.94% 78,210 69,735 149,355 52.37% 46.69%
41 Stephen Saland Poughkeepsie 301,528 8.84% 5.71% 2.33% 79,672 63,768 145,287 54.84% 43.89%
42 John Bonacic Mount Hope 301,290 5.90% 7.85% 1.12% 77,302 57,670 137,089 56.39% 42.07%
43 Roy McDonald Stillwater 302,261 3.15% 1.81% 1.47% 82,892 71,019 156,507 52.96% 45.38%
44 Hugh Farley Schenectady 302,248 3.92% 3.15% 1.20% 70,892 66,854 140,427 50.48% 47.61%
45 Betty Little Queensbury 299,603 3.19% 2.28% 0.46% 71,424 57,271 130,725 54.64% 43.81%
46 Neil Breslin Albany 294,565 11.08% 3.08% 2.72% 93,937 50,586 147,110 63.85% 34.39%
47 Joseph Griffo Rome 291,303 4.18% 2.40% 1.09% 57,564 58,571 117,986 48.79% 49.64%
48 Darrel Aubertine Cape Vincent 290,925 3.28% 2.66% 0.60% 54,020 52,929 108,583 49.75% 48.75%
49 David Valesky Oneida 291,303 11.65% 2.55% 1.77% 74,545 50,788 127,516 58.46% 39.83%
50 John DeFrancisco Syracuse 291,303 4.12% 2.03% 1.73% 79,553 59,549 141,861 56.08% 41.98%
51 James Seward Milford 291,482 1.88% 1.90% 0.51% 63,396 63,827 129,509 48.95% 49.28%
52 Thomas W. Libous Binghamton 291,961 2.44% 1.67% 2.04% 65,428 60,553 128,108 51.07% 47.27%
53 George H. Winner, Jr. Elmira 294,378 3.31% 1.77% 2.52% 63,163 58,440 123,246 51.25% 47.42%
54 Michael Nozzolio Fayette 291,303 3.33% 2.40% 1.03% 67,947 66,843 136,824 49.66% 48.85%
55 James Alesi East Rochester 301,947 6.20% 3.39% 2.61% 88,764 69,674 160,354 55.36% 43.45%
56 Joseph Robach Greece 301,947 24.50% 7.97% 2.44% 86,216 43,226 130,931 65.85% 33.01%
57 Catharine Young Olean 295,288 1.93% 2.74% 0.45% 53,902 62,151 118,065 45.65% 52.64%
58 William Stachowski Lake View 298,637 3.94% 4.80% 0.80% 74,167 55,222 131,724 56.30% 41.92%
59 Dale Volker Depew 294,256 2.21% 1.60% 0.49% 65,450 78,887 146,642 44.63% 53.80%
60 Antoine Thompson Buffalo 298,636 37.84% 4.14% 1.24% 87,908 25,277 114,604 76.71% 22.06%
61 Michael Ranzenhofer Clarence 298,635 2.40% 1.28% 2.57% 77,641 74,020 153,935 50.44% 48.09%
62 George D. Maziarz Newfane 301,947 4.68% 2.55% 0.92% 62,703 69,048 133,837 46.85% 51.59%

In case you’re wondering, McCain won a scant 9 districts of 62. Since one, the 27th, is represented by Carl Kruger, there are a whopping 22 “Obama Republicans” in the NY Senate. There are 8 black-majority districts: 2 in Queens, 4 in Brooklyn, 1 in Manhattan, and 1 in Bronx/Westchester. There are 6 Hispanic-majority districts, 1 in Queens, 1 in Brooklyn, 2 in the Bronx, and 2 Bronx-Manhattan hybrids.

Is this surprising? Not really – Presidential toplines aren’t necessarily indicative, and this is certainly true here. But looking at the results a little differently, a pretty clear line is drawn in the Obama 58-60% range.

So I’d like to propose Obama at 59% as the ‘safe’ line for a Democrat in the NY Senate – only two Republicans live above this line, and six Democrats below: Brian Foley (54.69%) and Craig Johnson of Long Island (55.55%); David Valesky (58.46%), whose district which runs between Rome, Syracuse, and Auburn; Darrel Aubertine of the North Country (49.75%); and Bill Stachowski (56.30%) of Buffalo, and Carl Kruger of Sheepshead Bay, who I don’t think counts for many reasons maybe better saved for a diary on voting patterns in Brooklyn.

Only two Republicans live above this line – both of whom faced stiff challenges in 2008 and nearly fell victim to the Obama tide, Frank Padavan of Bellerose (Obama+26) and James Robach of Greece (Obama+33) (!!…Robach is a former Democrat).

There aren’t too many other surprises on this list, except for maybe that the most Republican district in all of New York is Andrew Lanza’s Staten Island district…

So now you’re asking…what does this mean for redistricting?

Well, a few things moving forward:

  • the goal, unlike Congressional redistricting, is no longer solely to squeeze every Democratic district out possible, it’s to get to the magic number for control first.
  • at a certain point, the weakening effect (on the margin) from creating another Democratic district becomes greater than the effect of that marginal Democrat. (For example, is there really that much of a difference between 43 and 44 Democrats out of 62?) [Sidenote: Yes, in some cases, like marriage equality, it does…but if we had 11 more Dems in the Senate, I’m pretty sure the bill would have passed…]
  • the NYS GOP pushed the 5% up-or-down rule to the limit. Given the ideal district size of 306,072, districts in the city, on Long Island, and in Westchester have an average population of 311,344; the average population upstate is 298,269!
  • the GOP gerrymandered well upstate: they conceded two districts in Buffalo and one in Albany, but split Syracuse and Rochester two-ways, and Ithaca three to dilute Democratic votes. This happens on Long Island as well, where the Democratic center of Nassau County in Uniondale and Hempstead are split between Kemp Hannon (who did almost lose), Carl Marcellino, and Dean Skelos.
  • in a revised upstate (and Long Island) map, we simply need to uncrack these Democrats. This isn’t like congressional redistricting where Republicans need to be cracked so we can preserve our overwhelming advantage; we can concede a few districts without too much trouble. The same holds for Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.
  • the opposite holds true in the city, where we have a large surplus of Democratic votes that we can dilute the influence of Republican voters.

My plan made 43 districts above the safe line. Assuming we can’t knock off Robach and we keep both Stachowski and Kruger, we’d be talking 44 or 45 Democrats. Funny how much tweaking boundaries can change things. Stay tuned for the map itself.\

Update:As Andrew says, maps would be helpful. Here’s the senate as it currently is. I’m working on final maps for my proposed districts.





37 thoughts on “Why Presidential Toplines Don’t Mean Everything: The New York Senate”

  1. I think what you’ve demonstrated is that it’s going to be really quite difficult to make all (or even most) upstate Dem Congresscritters safe. OTOH, If Dems can retain even the slimmest majority in the chamber next year, the Republicans will have a hard time ever controlling it again.  

  2. Carl Kruger is perfectly understandable; conservative Jews won’t vote for Barack Obama, but they’re perfectly content voting for a local (white) Jew. The three NYC Republicans are the most obvious ones to squash. It’s pretty easy to see what to do with Martin Golden and Frank Padavan, but getting rid of Lanza does involve a little trick. You’d have to make Savino’s district entirely within Staten Island and hug the northern coast, which would make for a 57% Obama district, and stack the rest of Staten Island to form a 33-67 McCain mixture. Then, you need to hop across the Verrazano Bridge and immediately skip to some liberal white areas near Manhattan, which ultimately makes Lanza’s district around 61% Obama. Yes, Savino is under the “safety line”, but I would imagine Staten Island voting patterns to be a little like that of Brooklyn Jews, with whom Obama was just a really really bad fit.

  3. “Stay tuned for the map itself”, BOOOOO!!!!!  😉

    One suggestion, can you post a map or link to the current senate map?  Id love to see the differences.

  4. If I were the Democrats, I would be going on the offense, even in this political environment. All of those 54%+ Obama districts are potentially attractive targets.  Arguably the Republicans are still overstretched in upstate.  

  5. I was looking for this information the other day before I started on a NY Senate map. If I ever get around to writing a diary, you wouldn’t mind me using this data, would you?

  6.  If you want to do a Democratic gerrymander for the New York State Senate: Before the Delaymander in Texas, there were many Democrats who won areas carried by Bush in 2000. Delay changed the lines of the districts so the Democrats found themselves in unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar voters. For a Democratic State Senate map, chop up the district of a Republican you want to eliminate and the district with his or her home should be heavily Democratic.

    Summed up: The key is to get the Republican to run in an area he or she is not entrenched in.  

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