Bellone Vetoes Suffolk Dem's Gerrymander
by Maureen Daly
A controversial redistricting map for the Suffolk Legislature, pushed through by the outgoing, lame-duck Democrats by a 11 to 8 party-line vote, on New Year's Eve - just hours before they left office - has been vetoed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Babylon).
The map, denounced as a "Gerrymander," was drawn by the outgoing lame-duck Legislature, which had a Democratic majority, after the Republicans won a majority in this past November's elections. The Democrats ignored the County Charter which assigned the job of drawing districts to a bi-partisan Redistricting Commission, and drew - and then rushed through - their own, highly-partisan map without appointing the bi-partisan Commission.
The Democrats' Gerrymander map "would never have survived legal challenge," stated Bellone. "What we will have now is a process that is legally sustainable and will definitely result in equitable maps that reflect the demographic realities of Suffolk County,"
The Democrats' map would have merged four newly-elected Republicans together, as "punishment for defeating Democrats in the election, and drawn many Republicans out of their existing districts, to try to force Republicans to sell their homes and move, in order to be eligible to represent their districts.
The Suffolk County Attorney, Dennis Cohen, a Bellone appointee, issued a legal Opinion that the Democrats' partisan map was "illegal."
In the days leading-up to Bellone's veto, he met repeatedly with the new Presiding Officer of the Legislature, Kevin McCaffrey (R-Babylon). The two struck an agreement that Bellone would veto the Democrats' map, and then McCaffrey would appoint a bi-partisan commission. At least four of the 18 legislative districts would be "majority-minority" and have a black or Hispanic majority population.
The rump Democrats in the Suffolk legislature tried this past Wednesday to block the Bellone McCaffrey agreement, but failed. Bellone ignored their antics and vetoed the map as per his agreement.
According to inside sources, NY Governor Kathy Hochul called Bellone and urged him to betray the agreement he made with McCaffrey, and sign the Gerrymander map. Bellone rejected Hochul's demands.
The Legislature is now expected to appoint the bi-partisan Redistricting Commission, which will draw new districts in accordance with McCaffrey's agreement with Bellone.
"We are going to get a truly bipartisan agreement... and a fair, open and transparent process," stated McCaffrey.