In a new political landscape, some Central New York voters will see a rematch between U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, and Democrat Dan Maffei of DeWitt for the recently redesigned 24th Congressional District.
“It’s going to be a close election, a tough election,” said Maffei campaign manager Clay Schroers.
Buerkle faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from Robert Spencer of Parish. That primary will be on June 26. The winner will face Maffei and Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum of Syracuse in the general election on Nov. 6.
The landscape will be different this time because the 25th Congressional District is no more. In March, a three-judge panel approved the final proposed Congressional Districts for New York, creating Central New York’s new 24th District.
This process of redistricting happens once every ten years. After a new census is taken, districts are redrawn based on population changes. The number of Congressional seats are based those population changes. There can only be 435 members of Congress, so states gain or lose seats depending on changes in their population compared to the rest of the country.
This year, New York is losing two congressional districts based on the new numbers. One is being dropped New York City and another in Upstate.
Last election, the 25th Congressional District encompassed all of Onondaga and Wayne counties, the northern portion of Cayuga county, and three Rochester suburbs in Monroe county.
In a political face-lift, the 24th Congressional District will still include all of Onondaga and Wayne counties, but also include all of Cayuga county. Western portions of Oswego county including the towns of Oswego and Fulton are also being added.
The State Assembly and Senate were deeply divided over district’s new make-up. One proposal included removing staunchly Republican suburbs of Rochester from the 25th Congressional District and adding heavily Democratic Tompkins and Ithaca counties.
In the final picture, unofficial numbers from the State Board of Elections show the scale tipping slightly from Democrat tor Republican. The old 25th had 5,000 more Democrats than Republicans. The new 24th has 4,000 more registered Republicans. Overall, the district is shrinking by about 17,000 registered voters, or 4 percent.
Last election, Buerkle won the district with just under 700 votes.
Here is a snapshot of the candidates running in the new 24th Congressional District:
Ann Marie Buerkle (Incumbent, Republican)
The Buerkle campaign is pleased with the shape of the new district, particularly the inclusion of all of Cayuga county which includes Buerkle’s childhood home, Auburn.
“This is the best district,” said Buekle’s campaign manager David Ray, “We’re excited to be able to introduce Ann Marie Buerkle to voters in Cayuga and Oswego county.”
On April 17, Buerkle also picked up the endorsement of the Independence Party. The Independence Party has 20,246 registered voters, or about 5 percent, in the 24th Congressional District.
Dan Maffei (Challenger, Democrat)
Maffei teaches at the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry located on the SU Campus. He also worked as a reporter for WSYR-9 in Syracuse before being elected to Congress in 2008.
Maffei campaign spokesman Schroers said they believe their candidate will be as competitive with the new map. They say the new district is made up of communities that have the same interests in central New York.
“Dan represents the values of most of the people in this district,” said campaign manager Clay Schroers, “including protecting Medicare and Social Security and ensuring that we keep taxes away from middle class workers in Central New York.”
Ursula Rozum (Challenger, Green Party)
Green party candidate Ursula Rozum, 28, said she got in the race for change. Neither Maffei or Buerkle, she said, are willing to take a stand on issues that might draw criticism from the interest groups helping to fund their campaigns.
“We’re all upset at how wasteful and inefficient Congress is,” said Rozum. “I think even conservatives can relate to that message.”
Rozum works as a community organizer and activist for the Syracuse Peace Council.
Robert Spencer (Challenger, Republican Party)
Robert Spencer did not respond to repeated emails to comment for this story.
According to his website, Spencer works as a senior IT manager. He served in the army reserves. He’s a member of the NRA. If elected, he promises to work on simplifying the tax code. He vows not to vote for an unbalanced budget.
Although Parish is outside the 24th Congressional District, New York State law allows candidates to run in districts they do not live in.
(Matt Porter is a graduate student in broadcast and digital journalism.)