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Capital Region mayors want cities to remain in same Congressional district

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan speaks at a press conference alongside four other Capital Region mayors
Lucas Willard
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan speaks at a press conference alongside four other Capital Region mayors

Ahead of Friday’s deadline, the Democratic mayors of five Capital Region cities are urging the court-appointed special master to keep their communities together in New York’s new 20th Congressional District.

A proposed electoral map released Monday would separate Amsterdam and Saratoga Springs from Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

At Albany City Hall Wednesday alongside four of his counterparts, Amsterdam Mayor Mike Cinquanti said the five cities face nearly identical challenges and opportunities.

“The special master’s proposal effectively reduces and waters down the representation the people of Amsterdam will receive in Congress, and that just should not happen, ever. So we’re calling on the special master to put us back together again.”

The mayors argued that the nearly million-person Capital Region functions as one large community, where residents often travel between localities for work and essential services.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim is a licensed attorney.

“Many of our residents come here to work, they go to Schenectady, Troy. They come down here almost on a day-to-day basis. My previous career, I was down in Albany basically once a week at the courthouses here,” said Kim.

In addition to businesses, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said the five cities share social and economic interests, a network of supportive non-profits, a mass transit system in CDTA – which was recently expanded into Montgomery County…

“And from anyone old enough to remember, we also used to share a single phone book,” said Madden.

Wednesday’s press conference in Albany was reminiscent of another by the mayors in Schenectady in December.

At the time, New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission was considering a pair of proposed Congressional maps. A plan proposed then by Democrats on the IRC included Schenectady in one district, Albany and Troy in another. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy:

“We have put this message out before that there’s value in working together, having the Congressional representation that covers all of our communities in a unified voice, in a unified goal to make things better,” said McCarthy.

A deadlocked IRC later released two maps. Both kept Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs, and Amsterdam together in the 20th District. Those maps were rejected by the Democratic-led legislature, which drew its own districts that also kept the cities together. But those maps, approved by Governor Kathy Hochul, were thrown out by a federal judge – leading to the proposal released this week by the special master.

Incumbent Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko, a native of Amsterdam, says he will run in the newly drawn 20th district that leaves out the Montgomery County community.

Amsterdam Mayor Cinquanti is not pleased about his city potentially losing its hometown Congressional rep.

“We’re gonna lose him as our representative in Congress if the special master doesn’t make this adjustment. And it’s not a tremendously significant adjustment. It’s a small adjustment that could be made,” said Cinquanti.

A final map is expected to be released on Friday. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan is hoping for a change.

“I’m going to take the special master and the judge at their word. They said that they wanted comments. We’re providing those comments and we’re urging our residents of all five of our cities to make sure that they are also making their voices heard to the special master,” said Sheehan.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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  • As New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission considers new electoral maps, the leaders of three Capital Region cities gathered this morning, pushing the IRC to keep Albany, Schenectady, and Troy together in the same Congressional district.