November 28, 2021

County’s House representation could split

As news broke this week that New York would lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when New York fell 89 residents short of filing U.S. Census forms, Cortland County Democratic and Republican officials said Thursday they hope the county will remain entirely in one district.

Data released Monday from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that because 89 people did not complete their Census questionnaires, the state would lose one congressional seat, bringing the total to 26, according to news media reports.

This comes even as the state’s population grew about 4% between 2010 and 2020, though other
states grew more. The drop continues a trend, as the population has been growing faster in other parts of the country since the 1950s and 60s, said Robert Spitzer, a distinguished service professor in SUNY Cortland’s political science department.

Spitzer attributed the slowing growth to the decline of manufacturing businesses in Northern states while growing in the South and overseas.

As for why 89 people weren’t counted, Spitzer said it likely came down to former President Trump’s administration shortening the completion deadline. Additionally, because of the coronavirus pandemic, having Census workers going house to house as done previously was a greater risk.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on state Attorney General Letitia James to review legal options to challenge the decision for the state to lose a seat.

“It would seem that filling out the census is as important as voting,” said Tim Perfetti, chairman of the Cortland County Democratic Committee.

Perfetti said it remains to be seen which district will go and how the map will be redrawn, although Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) in the neighboring 23rd District that represents Tompkins County has already announced he would not seek another term, following allegations of sexual harassment.

Perfetti he offered two best cases for Democrats in Cortland County:

*The first would have the county join the 19th Congressional District which is represented by Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck). The district covers Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Ostego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.

*If not that, Perfetti said he would want Cortland County to be consolidated into the 24th Congressional District, which is represented by John Katko (R-Camillus). Katko, Perfetti said, has more experience and recognition in the House of Representatives than Claudia Tenney (R-Oneida), the 22nd District who now represents Cortland.

Whatever may happen, Perfetti said it would be most beneficial for the county to be under one representative.

Connie White, chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee, agreed.

“What would be good for Cortland County, no matter what party, is that we are in the same congressional district,” she said.

Nearby, Tioga County is divided into both the 22nd District and Tenney, and the 23rd District, represented by Reed.

White gave the example of how since the county is represented by two districts in the state Assembly, that creates a divide over representation. Anna Kelles (D-125th District) represents the southwest corner, including Cortland and Cortlandville, while John Lemondes (R-126th District) covers towns in the northern and eastern parts of the county, including Marathon and Homer.

“Each one says they’re representing Cortland County, but no one represents the whole piece of the pie,” White said.