News & Politics

Hochul changes her tune, insisting she’s not letting politics color her role in New York’s redistricting saga

As the governor awaits new maps from the dysfunctional Independent Redistricting Commission, she says current court-drawn maps don’t represent New Yorkers’ interests.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new funding for child care Wednesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new funding for child care Wednesday. Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a press conference Wednesday that she wouldn’t get involved in the next round of redistricting to tip the scales in favor of Democrats – and she also plans to OK whatever maps the Legislature puts on her desk. 

“My own personal views have to be separate from my role as the governor of the state of New York,” Hochul said. Asked by Politico’s Nick Reisman if she had discussed the lines with any members of Congress, she replied that she had not. “The process has to play out in an objective way, the way that was set up by the voters of this state.”

Hochul has certainly weighed in on the lines already. She and state Attorney General Letitia James filed an amicus brief in April aimed at throwing out New York’s current court-drawn congressional maps, which proved to be a successful effort with the New York Court of Appeals decision to toss the lines earlier this month. Hochul is also part of a group of top New York Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, hoping to make gains in Congress after a disappointing showing in the 2022 elections. 

And in 2021, Hochul was explicit about her desire to help Democrats through redistricting. Asked by the New York Times if she would use her position to help Democrats gain House seats, she responded: “Yes. I am also the leader of the New York State Democratic Party. I embrace that.” 

Hochul said Wednesday that new maps should be drawn up by the Independent Redistricting Commission or, failing that, the Legislature, and it’s not her job as governor to weigh in. Her approval of new maps would be a formality, she added in response to a query from WNYC’s Jon Campbell. 

“This is where you do not want a governor saying well, let's see if we can help this person over here a little bit more and I got a friend…” Hochul said. “That's not what we're going to do. We didn't do it last time. We're not going to do it this time.”

In 2022, the Independent Redistricting Commission failed spectacularly to agree on new maps – leaving the job to the state Legislature, which is dominated by Democratic supermajorities in each chamber. The New York Court of Appeals struck down a heavily gerrymandered Congressional map and the state Senate maps drawn up by the state Legislature and signed off on by Hochul. Labeled a partisan gerrymander, the maps were viewed as giving an unfair advantage to Democratic candidates in New York. A court-appointed special master then drew new lines that were less advantageous to New York’s Democrats and contributed to losses in the upstate suburbs and Long Island. 

In a statement about the latest Court of Appeals ruling, Hochul has stressed that the push for a new batch of redistricting was about providing fair maps, not influencing political outcomes. However, redistricting will inevitably color top state Democrats' plans to rebound next year. 

“The voters of New York never said that they should go to a single judge in a small part of our state to make a decision that affects the ability of 20 million New Yorkers to have proper representation,” Hochul said.