The dust has settled on New York City’s primary election, but the tumultuous redistricting process has left after-effects that will be felt all across the state for some time to come.
It was the second primary election to be held this summer after the Court of Appeals ruled that state Senate and congressional electoral maps didn’t comply with the state’s constitution. While the court-appointed “special master” redrew the new district lines, the Board of Elections split the primaries between the June and August dates.
The state’s redistricting woes created a rare August primary for New York’s congressional and state Senate seats, raising concerns about low voter turnout. On the day of the primary, QNS reported that voter turnout across Queens was abysmally low.
One district which saw some of the most significant changes to its lines during this year’s redistricting process was District 15, represented by Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. It once included parts of Maspeth, Glendale, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Howard Beach and the western portion of the Rockaway peninsula. The redistricting excluded the Rockaways and also cut out his home base of Howard Beach. The senator gained more of Richmond Hill and South Richmond Hill, as well as Middle Village, Forest Hills and Rego Park.
The redistricting altered the ethnic makeup of the district as nearly half of the voters in the previous construction of the district were white. Now, only around 28% are white. The district’s Asian population grew by nearly 10%.
The newly gained territory issn’t entirely unfamiliar to Addabbo, as he represented Richmond Hill and South Richmond Hill in the City Council from 2002 to 2008 and then in the Senate from 2009 to 2012. The areas have changed significantly in the last 10 years, which posed an element of unpredictability in the campaign. He ran against two challengers, Japneet Singh, an accountant, and Albert Baldeo, an activist. Addabbo is posed to win the election by a landslide, having received over 55% of the vote. Singh won almost 29% of the vote and Baldeo won nearly 14%.
Despite his success in the primary, Addabbo told QNS that it was strange not to be door-knocking in his old stomping ground during the campaign.
“It was disarming, obviously, for areas I represented for 20 years not to have them anymore. It felt a little weird, not shaking hands and campaigning in Rockaway and Howard Beach,” Addabbo said.
Addabbo said that while he had represented the Richmond Hill areas, he couldn’t take that for granted.
“It was almost like a reunion for me to be with the residents there in Richmond Hill. But you never know with a campaign; you really never know what’s going to happen. I’ve been around long enough to see incumbents lose because 3%, 4% of the people vote. And that was always my concern. How many people are gonna come out and vote for me on Aug. 23?” Addabbo said.
Addabbo faced opposition from a group called the People’s Alliance for Fair Redistricting, Representation, Justice & Equity. The group identifies themselves as “Latinos, South Asians, Indo-Caribbeans, African Americans and other minorities” and says that they “live with our families side by side in these hitherto indivisible, compact and contiguous neighborhoods, built up by our blood, sweat and tears. It has been justly configured as a minority-majority district.”
The group supports the new district lines and accused Addabbo of objecting to the redistricting for self-serving reasons.
“Joseph Addabbo tried to keep their districts gerrymandered, were independently drawn to fairly keep our neighborhoods and communities intact, with established ties of common interest, ownership and association, grounded in historical, racial, economic, ethnic, religious and other ties.”
When asked to respond to the group’s objections, Addabbo told QNS that he would do his best to prove to residents that he was the best candidate for the district.
“I can’t please everyone. I do try my best, though. I’m hoping that people get to know me and my work ethic and judge me not on where a certain district is but judge me on the work that I’ve done in that district. That’s what I want to be judged on. Hopefully, I can convince them that I’m the best for the residents in the 15th District,” Addabbo said.
The People’s Alliance accused Addabbo of “acting in flagrant violation of the New York State Constitution Art. III § 7, and the Public Officers Law § 3, which demands that a state senator be a resident of a district for 12 months immediately preceding election.”
Residency requirements are eased in redistricting years, meaning candidates only have to live in the county they are running in, not the district. They must only move to the district if they win.
“Right now I’m laser-focused on winning the November election. If I am elected in November, then I will take all the appropriate measures to legally run as a senator again in the 15th Senatorial District. So right now focused on winning and then I will deal with the residency issue after,” Addabbo said.