New York Democrats could see their politically and racially motivated redistricting plan partially backfire in a moderate section of Queens – where Republican politicians see an opening in a redrawn state Senate district.
The new boundaries of Senate District 16 include middle-class conservative neighborhoods like College Point and Whitestone — and no longer include Tony Jamaica Estates.
Longtime senator Toby Ann Stavisky, 83, represents the region today, but challenger Stefano Forte, 24, is looking for a surprise.
“It’s a seat that actually has the potential for a Republican to take office,” Forte said.
The longtime Queens native plans to lead an anti-crime campaign against Stavisky, a criminal justice reformer. Other priorities include protecting single-family zoning, a tax holiday for small businesses and a subsidized $10,000 “marriage loan” for New Yorkers who marry and stay in the state.
“It’s a neighborhood of opportunity for the right candidate,” according to a former Republican congressman who asked not to be named. “The neighborhood could be competitive, especially on issues of crime and education.”
According to a City University of New York redistricting mapping tool, only 33.2% of voters in the old boundaries voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, but 41.3% of voters in the new.
Republican Curtis Sliwa narrowly won the redesigned district in the 2021 mayoral election, according to statistics provided by the CUNY Graduate Center’s Center for Urban Research, based on data from the city’s Board of Elections.
Sliwa won the district by 49.2% to 47.2%, according to the statistics.
“The result is that the 2021 mayoral results calculated under the new State Senate District 16 would give Curtis Sliwa a slight advantage and a plurality of votes, all things being equal,” said Steven Romalewski of CUNY.
Sliwa said he “absolutely” believes Forte has a chance under the new lines.
“Stefano, he has the kind of energy that new young Republicans must have. He’s not your conventional Republican,” said Sliwa, who backed Forte. “He identified himself… as a new-style populist republican in Sliwa.”
The district also heavily overlaps with City Council District 19, which recently elected Trump-friendly Republican Vickie Paladino in an upset.
“You can’t draw everything for everyone,” said Jeffrey M. Wice, senior fellow at New York Law School’s New York Census and Redistricting Institute. “Population needs, the need to attract the appropriate number of minority districts – all of this involves balancing competing criteria.”
Forte faces a gigantic cash shortfall in his run against the longtime incumbent: he brought in around $10,000 in hand in January, compared to around $229,000 for Stavisky.
Stavisky was first elected to the state Senate in 1999, following the death of her husband, State Senator Leonard Stavisky, who had held office himself since 1983.
Tess McRae, Stavisky’s representative, said in a statement, “Senator Stavisky remains the best person to represent the people of Queens. There is no doubt that she will bring the same level of passion and diligence to residents of new district lines – many of whom she has represented in the past.
“She looks forward to getting another term so she can continue to make New York a fairer place for everyone.”
New York Post