BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When state lawmakers drew new congressional, state Senate, and state Assembly maps earlier this year, they may have drawn one Western New York official right out of a job.
The 63rd Senate District – which currently covers Cheektowaga, Buffalo’s East Side, South Buffalo, and most of Lackawanna and is represented by Democrat Tim Kennedy – has been redrawn to exclude Cheektowaga and include Amherst. That means Senator Ed Rath – an Amherst Republican who currently serves the 61st District – and Kennedy will be living in the same district when the new maps take effect in 2023.
Only one person can represent it. While enrollment data isn’t yet available, it appears to be a heavily Democratic district. Kennedy says he’ll run for the seat, while Rath says he is, “evaluating each and every option.”
Rath’s current district stretches from Amherst all the way out to the City of Rochester, and includes Clarence, Newstead, Genesee County, and Southwestern Monroe County. But with Democrats in the Legislature having drawn the new maps, University at Buffalo political science professor Shawn Donahue said it was likely to disappear.
“With Democrats in control, I think they were not going to draw those kinds of districts. I think it was kind of inevitable that one of the two remaining Republicans in Erie County probably were going to end up in a district with someone else,” Donahue said in reference to Rath and fellow Republican Senator Pat Gallivan.
While his path is unclear, Rath said he would fight for Western New York “in whatever capacity” beyond 2022.
“It is too bad because in many ways, what they’re doing is they are eliminating a district from Western New York,” Rath said. “Where is it going? It’s going to New York City.”
If he were to pass on challenging Kennedy for the 63rd District in November, Rath could run for the 146th Assembly seat. That district is currently represented by Democrat Karen McMahon, and has been redrawn to be coterminous with the Town of Amherst. The New York State Constitution also gives Rath the flexibility to run for a small handful of other state legislative seats, since it will be the first election after redistricting.
“(I)f elected a senator or member of assembly at the first election next ensuing after a readjustment or alteration of the senate or assembly districts becomes effective, a person, to be eligible to serve as such, must have been a resident of the county in which the senate or assembly district is contained for the twelve months immediately preceding his or her election,” says Article III of the state constitution.
However, Rath declined to elaborate on the options he is considering. “This process has been quite jarring in many ways for me,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kennedy maintains that the new districts were drawn in a fair and equitable way.
“I believe the task force on legislative redistricting actually corrected many of the politically gerrymandered districts of the past, where Amherst unfortunately was carved into Rochester,” Kennedy said.
A group of voters is challenging the new congressional map in New York State Supreme Court. Last week, they filed paperwork in an attempt to challenge the state Senate map as well.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.