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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Cutting Up The County

Few issues animate political junkies more than redistricting, the redrawing of legislative district (LD) boundaries in accordance with the most recent U.S. Census.

The 19-member Nassau County Legislature is expected to adopt no later than March 2013 a map that will determine the communities falling within each of the county’s 19 LDs starting with the November 2013 election, and the next 10 years after that. County legislators serve two-year terms.

There are various proposals, but with Republicans holding the majority in the legislature, it is not an unreasonable assumption that a GOP-drawn map will be adopted. And the latest map from the Republicans has been controversial, to say the least.

The Republicans were not supposed to be the majority party in 2013 in Mineola, at least not according to the Democrats who sat in the county Legislature in 2003. The Democrats held a 10-9 legislative majority a decade ago and adopted 19 LD boundaries aimed at allowing them to hold, or expand, that advantage. Things went well for the county’s Democrats at the polls in 2005 and 2007 but the GOP regained an 11-8 majority in 2009, something the Republicans barely held onto in 2011. Today, the GOP holds a 10-9 edge in Mineola.

Overall, in its 18 years of existence, the county Legislature has been for the most part closely divided. The Democrats were in the majority for 10 years, and the GOP has called the shots for eight years (1996-1999, 2010-2013).

Each party’s map-making plans in 2013 are aimed at leaving most entrenched incumbents on both sides of the aisle alone while targeting the electoral demise of newer legislators, making them run for office in communities where their name recognition was either low or non-existent.

This time around, Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) meets that criterion for the Republicans. She was narrowly elected in 2011. DeRiggi-Whitton represents what is today the county’s 18th LD. Under the Republican plan, Glen Cove is divided into separate legislative districts. Whitton lives in what would be the 16th LD, under the GOP proposal. This district would have the western part of Glen Cove, dip south through Sea Cliff and extend east to Plainview and the Suffolk County border. Current legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) would fall into the same district as Whitton.

Legislator Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) won election in November 2012 to fill the one year remaining in the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt’s term. The GOP proposal would keep his district relatively secure. However, a portion of South Farmingdale would be added, while North Massapequa would shift to another district. This leaves Legislator Joe Belesi (R-Farmingdale) in the same district as Venditto. Belesi narrowly unseated David Mejias in 2009, and then held on to his position with a razor-thin margin in 2011. The balance of power in the county legislature has in recent years hinged largely on elections in this LD. The GOP proposal would take this district out of play, as neighboring districts that lean Republican would swallow it up.

Given that the county spends $2.8 billion a year, control over its expenditures is worth fighting for, even when that power must be shared with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state agency. Drawing the maps is where the battle begins.

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