BY TODD ALDINGER, ESQ
New York State Republican donors have for a long time treated the Assembly as little more than an afterthought in favor of the State Senate. This attitude must end now that the State Senate has been lost. With redistricting around the corner, New York Republican donors must look to the Assembly to provide a vital hedge against Democratic-controlled redistricting. Such a hedge allows large donors to split their investments more equally between the State Senate and Assembly than has historically been the case.
Currently, Republicans control one-quarter of the seats in the Assembly. This is largely the result of chronic underfunding.
In 2018, the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC) raised just $1,077,737.
During the same time period, the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC) raised $7,359,804 — seven times this amount.
The lack of funds raised by the RACC is mainly because large donors have neglected the Assembly. In 2018 SRCC raised the vast majority of its funds— totaling $5,824,134—from donors who gave more than $5,000 at a time. Meanwhile, RACC raised just six percent of this amount—$344,900—from contributions larger than $5,000.
Because donors want to see positive returns on their investments (i.e. consequential Republican electoral victories), for a long time this investment pattern made strategic sense. It was reasonable for investing in the Assembly—where Republicans had little hope of gaining a majority—to take a back seat to invest in the State Senate—where Republicans held the majority.
This is no longer the case. Democrats now solidly control both the Senate and Assembly. This change, in reality, requires that donors make new calculations to determine where to best invest their campaign contributions.
Such new calculations also require that donors take into account a 2014 State Constitutional Amendment. This Amendment provides Republicans with the ability to block Democrats from unilaterally controlling redistricting if Republicans control more than one-third of the seats in either the Assembly or the Senate.
Because 2020 is the last election year before redistricting, it is of the highest importance that Republicans win at least one-third control of either the Assembly or the State Senate to ensure that redistricting is bi-partisan/neutral. If they fail to do so, New York State Republicans will be redistricted into oblivion, losing any chance at winning a legislative majority for a generation.
Democrat-controlled redistricting will wipe out representation by New York Republicans in Congress.
Betting on the State Senate alone to ensure bi-partisan/neutral redistricting is risky and inadvisable. Just two more losses will cause the State Senate to slip below the threshold needed to block Democrat-controlled redistricting, and State Senate Republicans just managed to lose four times as many seats during the 2018 midterms.
Instead of placing all of their eggs in a basket as unreliable as the State Senate has recently proven to be, donors interested in preventing Republicans from being redistricted out of existence would be wise to hedge against the possibility of further losses in the State Senate by investing more resources in an effort to win one-third of the Assembly.
Allocating additional resources to Assembly Republicans instead of continuing the past practice of focusing nearly all resources on the State Senate will necessarily reduce the resources available for efforts to recapture Republican control of the State Senate. However, this tradeoff is necessary and should be made given the critical importance of redistricting.
Efforts to retake control of the State Senate are less likely to be successful than efforts to win one-third of the seats in the Assembly, making contributions to Assembly Republicans the smarter investment option.
For example, in order to retake the State Senate, Republicans must:
- (1) win every senatorial district where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats;
- (2) win every senatorial district where registered Democrats only hold a registration advantage of 8 Democrats for every 6 Republicans or less;
- (3) hold onto three additional senatorial seats where Republicans face worse registration deficits; and,
- (4) convince a renegade Democrat, Senator Simcha Felder, to abandon his party to caucus with Republicans, again.
Meanwhile, if Assembly Republicans just manage to win districts with up to eight registered Democrats for every six registered Republicans, they will win 54 seats, three more than needed to block Democrats from unilaterally controlling redistricting.
(Note that winning in districts where Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans like this has been the rule, not the exception, in New York State politics as registered Republicans are more likely to vote than registered Democrats).
The situation for the State Senate gets worse if we don’t assume (overly optimistically, in my opinion) that Republicans will win every swing seat they currently hold or that Senator Felder will return to a Republican alliance.
In that case, State Senate Republicans would need to win every district with at least five registered Republicans for every eight registered Democrats in order to block Democrats from unilaterally controlling redistricting. This is a much taller order and would only result in Republicans having a one-seat majority.
Instead, if the Assembly Republicans manage to win similarly constituted districts — those with at least five registered Republicans for every eight registered Democrats — then Assembly Republicans would end up with 58 seats, seven more than needed to block Democrats from unilaterally controlling redistricting.
Because 2020 is the last election year before redistricting, New York Republicans must, first and foremost, seek to win one-third control of either the Assembly or State Senate. However, it would be unwise for Republican donors to place all of their eggs in one basket and continue to focus all of their efforts on the State Senate, especially after the State Senate campaign committee’s recent failures.
Large donors must be advised that the changed electoral reality after the 2018 midterms requires a massive shift in contributions.
Instead of solely focusing on the State Senate, donors who care about Republican relevance in New York State must begin allocating their contributions more evenly between State Senate and Assembly Republicans. Failure to properly adapt to the changed electoral realities will lead donors to misallocate their political contributions in a way that increases the likelihood that Democrats are able to unilaterally control redistricting and establish one-party rule in New York State for a generation.