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St. Lawrence County leaders furious about redistricting

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St. Lawrence County leaders are furious about New York's newly approved Assembly and Senate legislative district lines. The county has been split into four assembly districts, and three senate seats. Some say they were the big losers in Albany's backroom politics.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

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Sallie Brothers is chair of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators. She says New York’s new legislative boundaries leave the County with little influence in Albany.

“I think it is disgraceful. I think it is insulting to the people in St. Lawrence County. And it is demeaning to our value as citizens in this state.” 

Brothers says all members of the County board of legislators agree, both Republicans and Democrats, that the new lines are bad for St. Lawrence County. 

She says state lawmakers are carving it up.

“When you take and divide a county as large as St. Lawrence, we are rural, we are fairly impoverished. But what you’ve done now is added to the burden, and real lack of representation, a voice in Albany.”

Brothers says some lawmakers who will supposedly start representing St. Lawrence County, won’t have much chance to understand its issues.

Republican Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush of Black River gives the example of the newly formed 117 district. Its Assemblyman, Republican Marc Butler who lives in the Herkimer, Little Falls area, will be picking up a piece of St. Lawrence County.

“He takes over some of the towns I represented, Madrid, Lawrence, even Stockholm, I’m not 100% sure.  Going where he lives quite a haul. Probably a 3:20 minute drive to parts of St. Lawrence County.”

Blankenbush says that’s not in the best interest of the County, which is why he voted no on the redistricting lines. He was the only one of the four North Country representatives to do so.

Republican State Senator Patty Ritchie of Oswegatchie did not respond to requests for an interview. 

Democratic Assemblywoman Addie Russell of Theresa says St. Lawrence County has good reasons to be concerned about the new districts. But she still voted for the changes.

“I’m proud of the fact that the legislature didn’t have to resort to a long drawn out court battle. So that I think is a plus that this process it going to be able to move forward.”

But others say it was just backroom politics. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo had threatened to veto the lines, proposed by the majority party in the Assembly and Senate. In late night negotiations, Republicans agreed to Cuomo’s budget plans for pension reform. And then Cuomo agreed to the new district lines. 

St. Lawrence County’s Sallie Brothers calls is politics as usual.

“It was a backdoor deal, tied to it were a number of issues. Which I do not, do not think were unimportant to us and to the rest of the state, but we were included in it, and we were the sacrificial lambs.”

Governor Cuomo says there was no backdoor deal on pension reform, as many people are suggesting. He says he simply lost the fight, and decided the sign onto the redistricting proposal in the short term, in exchange for a better redistricting process in the long term.

“Because I didn’t veto the lines, it will never happen again. The constitution will be amended. And there will be a statute that will be in place, so the madness stops…that’s what I accomplished.”

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