LONSBERRY: Court Returns Freedom to New York

 Power to the people.


               That’s the lesson of New York over the last year.


               An all-powerful governor was toppled, and an all-powerful legislature has been humbled.


               The latter came yesterday in a thunderous 4-3 decision by the Court of Appeals, which ruled that on the two questions before it – the constitutionality of new congressional and state Senate boundaries – the Democrat legislature had broken the law and must be overturned.


               That means the horrendously gerrymandered boundaries must be scrapped, a primary election delayed, and new boundaries drawn by a special master appointed out of the quaint and historic courthouse in remote Bath, New York.


               There may also be significant implications for Democratic primaries involving governor and lieutenant governor candidates.


               But the biggest implications involve the rule of law, and the fact that there’s something even more powerful than a supermajority in the Assembly and Senate. The Democratic Party in New York controls every part and office of the state government, and it exercises its power with a stunning and often cruel arrogance, and with a complete disregard for the Republican Party and those parts of the state represented by it.


               That was reflected in a pledge by unelected Gov. Kathy Hochul that she and New York Democrats would use the decennial redistricting to deliver extra Democratic seats in the House of Representatives, to help that party maintain control of that half of Congress.


               She was as good as her word.


               After a voter-mandated redistricting commission was jockeyed into a deadlock, legislature Democrats drew lines of their own, which not only assured themselves a supermajority in the state Senate, but also cut the number of likely New York Republicans in the House from eight to four. Lines were drawn in such a way as to cluster Democrat votes and disperse Republican votes, completely disregarding regionalism or shared interest.


               It was one of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering the nation has seen in years.


               It screwed voters in the suburbs of New York City, and in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. It created monstrosities serving no other purpose than electing Democrats and ensuring Democrat control of the House of Representatives.


               And such was the power of the Democrats in Albany that they did this with audacity and braggadocio, boasting of how well they had delivered for the national party.


               But they spoke too soon.


               And they discounted the courts too much.


               And when the matter was laid before a Steuben County Surrogate’s Court judge, a former solo-practitioner out of tiny Wayland, the first shudder ran through the Democrats’ kingdom of power. He said the lines were no good, and he ordered a remedy to commence – a special master, an expert out of Carnegie Mellon – just in case.


               Nobody thought just in case would come.


               Because after the Republican judge in Steuben County, every appellate level to hear this matter was stacked with Democrat judges.


               Who showed us something about their courage and integrity.


               Because it was Democrat judges who shut down Democrat legislators.


               And it is all New Yorkers who win. The legislative branch tried to steal elections, and the judicial branch stopped it.


               So what does that mean?


               It means, for people who live upstate, that the destruction of districts currently represented by Republicans John Katko and Claudia Tenney will be reversed. Specifically cobbled together to push those two from office, the Democrat monstrosities were drawn with “impermissible partisan purpose,” wrote the state’s chief justice.


               Hopefully, the drawing of fair districts will convince Katko to reverse his announced retirement from Congress and Tenney to run in her home area, instead of in a Southern Tier district. He is an excellent centrist representative of a fundamentally centrist region and she is a born-in-the-blood servant of the Mohawk Valley.


               Syracuse and Utica were sacrificed to Nancy Pelosi by legislature Democrats, and that needs to be reversed.


               Buffalo and Rochester fared pretty well in the redistricting, with their Democrat-leaning congressional seats representing the Democrat-leaning voter enrollment – while making sure that the two metropolitan areas had dedicated representation in the House. The Southern Tier retained a dedicated district, and will still have one when Ithaca is returned to it. Elise Stefanik’s North Country district was hard to screw with, and the long Ontario shore district was hard to understand, and will probably be significantly changed when the gerrymandering is undone.


               Upstate, undoing the Democrats’ dirty tricks will make Republican retention of the current Katko and Tenney seats at least a fair fight – and that’s all any party or voter can ask for.


               So what about the impact of this on the races for governor and lieutenant governor?


               Though primary ballots for those seats are supposed to be finally certified next Wednesday, and a primary held on June 28, the petitioning to get on the primary ballot is done by congressional district. That means the petitioning for the governor and lieutenant governor primaries was done based on congressional district boundaries that were rejected by a court yesterday. That has left some in the hours since seriously questioning whether that forces a delay in that primary.


               And if there was such a delay, with new petitioning in new boundaries, could that be an opportunity to change whose names are on those petitions? Namely, could disgraced former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin be replaced with a candidate more to the liking of Gov. Kathy Hochul?


               And ever more in the weeds, could a new primary petitioning allow for disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to jump into a four-way primary for his old job? Support for that possibility is found in the rumor that in recent days Cuomo associates have been doing polling to determine how he would fare in such a scenario.


               Behold the miracle of our Republic.


               The people actually get to vote, in fair districts.


               And the powerful, even those who control the levers of state government, have to answer to the rule of law and the balance of power.


               It’s like, if only briefly, New York is part of America again.

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