Senator Rob Ortt, who found himself in an unlikely and unexpected ascension to the leadership of the Republican caucus last year, is now likely to be drawn out of his own district during the reapportionment process that redraws district boundaries every ten years. Ortt has been widely criticized for his lackluster leadership of (and anemic fundraising effort for) the caucus during the last election cycle, which shrunk even further. Now that the Senate Democrats — under the leadership of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — have a supermajority in the chamber, the Democrats are able to unilaterally redraw the districts (regardless of the recommendations of an ostensibly independent commission that has been tasked to do so).
Sources close to Senator Mike Gianaris, who has architected the Democratic caucus’ impressive expansion in the last three election cycles, tell The Chronicle that Stewart-Cousins is planning “the most cunning reapportionment plan in modern history, which will solidify her control over the chamber for a generation”.
The source explains that Western New York plays a key, albeit minor, role in the sweeping plan.
Political operatives expect that Ortt and freshman Senator Ed Rath will both be drawn into a ‘new 61st district’ comprised of the northern suburbs of Erie County and the southern ex-urbs of Niagara County. That district would constitute a Democrat-leaning swing district that pits strong established Democrat party organizations in the Towns of Amherst and the Tonawandas with the well-greased Niagara County Republican Party machine and it’s North Tonawanda-based stronghold.
A primary contest between Rath and Ortt would pit the warring Erie and Niagara County GOP organizations against each other in what some postulate would be ‘an epic primary battle’. It’s thought that Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy would be inclined to back Rath in such a match up.
Some political operatives are dubbing it ‘the Northtowns district‘, which is expected to stretch from Clarence to Lewiston, and from Grand Island to Lockport. It would be the ‘most swing district’ in the chamber, which they argue would yield the officeholder greater political leverage inside of either caucus (at least to the extent that the caucus’ leadership is concerned protecting or growing the caucus). Niagara Falls area businessmen hope that a Democrat representative in the Senate will allow the community to solicit public sector investment in ‘tourism infrastructure’ more effectively than it has fared with Ortt’s representation.
It’s unclear who Democrats would nominate in the district, and observers predict that such a primary contest would be robust with different Town organizations each expected to field candidates, in addition to the participation of independent Democrats who seek the nomination without a town committee endorsement.
In the Town of Amherst, the party’s town committee would likely see candidates Jacquie Berger and Joan Elizabeth Seamans vying for that organization’s endorsement. In the Town of Tonawanda, it’s expected the party organization would back the popular businessman and engineer Dr. Hormoz Mansouri for the office. Berger enjoys strong support from the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), and Seamans is a popular local businesswoman who served as Village Trustee in Williamsville.
Meanwhile, the Niagara County Democratic Party organization would be expected to back North Tonawanda Alderman At-Large Austin Tylec for the post. Tylec is a charismatic, optimistic, moderately-styled, and well-composed young activist and architect who is widely seen as the brightest of Western New York’s rising Democrat stars.
Meanwhile, Ortt’s 62nd district would be merged with much of the rural expanses of the current 61st district, which would have the impact of reorienting that district around Rochester’s southwestern suburbs.