Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush testified Tuesday at the New York State Legislative Taskforce on Redistricting and Reapportionment (LATFOR) hearing, hoping to make the case to keep the 23rd Congressional District intact.
The 122nd District Republican assemblyman represents four of the eleven counties that make up the 23rd: Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego.
“I believe that it is important to keep the North Country together as a single Congressional District and not split the region apart into two or three other districts,” Blankenbush said. “If that were to happen, our representation would be diluted and we would be relying on members of Congress who are unlikely to live or work in the North Country of New York. These new members would ultimately face constituent priorities that were not consistent from one part of the district to another.”
As part of his testimony, the assemblyman articulated four main issues that the counties in the 23rd share: rural landscapes, agriculture based economies, the Adirondack Mountains, and a land/water international border that stretches from Oswego County to Rouses Point in Clinton County. The assemblyman argued that it would be “recreating the wheel” to have three separate representatives addressing these issues, according to a news release from his legislative office.
“With a sole North Country district, you can have one representative who is an expert on [these issues] and those become the top priority for the member and their staff,” the assemblyman testified.
Blankenbush also recognized that the 23rd cannot stay as it is, but must be enlarged. The assemblyman recommended bringing the rest of Essex and Fulton counties into the district, as well as the northern part of Herkimer County. The assemblyman also suggested that if the district still needs more people to make up the 53,000 it is now lacking, parts of Warren and Washington counties could also be added. Each of these areas, the assemblyman argued, fit perfectly in the makeup of a new North Country district that has a similar economy, uniform priorities and similar ways of life.
“Eliminating the district would have serious consequences for the constituents of the region, whose concerns are much different than those of our neighbors to the south,” Blankenbush said.