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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Turf War Looms

A  primary election between Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn) could materialize this year, according to a story published last week in the Daily News.

One of the reasons for this potential showdown is that New York’s Congressional delegation must drop to 27 from the current 29 U.S. House Members. The U.S. House of Representatives consists of 435 Members, and the state-by-state seat allocation is made every decade after the U.S. Census report is released. The 2010 Census found that other parts of the country saw greater population growth than New York over the previous 10 years.

The Democrat-controlled state Assembly and the GOP-majority state Senate are charged with drawing the new Congressional District (CD) lines and conventional wisdom holds that one upstate CD and one downstate CD will be eliminated. The incumbents in those two CDs can either retire or seek re-election in a new CD that may have little in common with their old one.

The Daily News article laid out a scenario whereby Rep. McCarthy’s 4th CD, which covers southwestern Nassau County, would be blended into one district along with parts of what is today Rep. Ackerman’s 5th CD, an area including northwestern Nassau County and northeastern Queens County. The story also correctly noted that Albany’s Democrats may be willing to set the stage for a McCarthy-Ackerman Democratic primary because they want to reclaim Rep. Robert Turner’s (R-Rockaway Point) seat in New York’s 9th CD, which covers portions of Queens and Brooklyn. The sight of a New York City Republican sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives, an opportunity created by the 2011 special election called after Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation, is probably too much for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to bear. And Silver is in a position to make Rep. Turner’s re-election bid in November 2012 a challenging one by redrawing the 9th CD’s boundaries and filling it with even more registered Democrats.

Let’s get back to the prospect of a Democratic primary between Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Ackerman because all signs indicate neither one of them wants to leave Congress. Rep. McCarthy has been in the nation’s capital since first winning election in 1996, and Rep. Ackerman arrived in D.C. in the early 1980s. Every two years, they’ve been returned to office without breaking too much of a sweat.

A political steel cage match between Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Ackerman could also create an opening for a Republican in November’s general election as the two Congressional veterans throw everything they have at one another.

I wrote last November about a mailer Rep. Ackerman sent to the registered Democrat in my household. In the meantime, this registered Republican received a brochure late last year from Rep. Ackerman. The front-page headline read, ‘Congress Needs to Put Partisanship Aside—and Get People Back to Work.’ But the Congressman is quoted on the next page saying, “It is inexcusable that not one jobs bill has reached the House floor in 2011.” Why not just say the Republican leaders in the House are blocking those jobs bills? The reason: you cannot credibly do that when in the same mailer you’re calling on Congress to put partisanship aside.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: