New York will lose at least one Jewish congressman this year under a redistricting plan that pits two veteran Jewish Democrats, Gary Ackerman and James Scheuer, against each other.
Another Jewish Democrat, Stephen Solarz, has chosen to run in a newly created Hispanic district, rather than face another incumbent. His current district, which includes the most heavily Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, has been divided up among districts as far afield as Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The new districts reflect the 1990 Census, which shrinks the New York state congressional delegation from its present 34 seats to 31.
With fewer seats to go around, Ackerman, a nine-year veteran of the House of Representatives who now represents parts of Queens, and Scheuer, a 28-year veteran whose district includes parts of Queens, the Bronx and suburban Nassau County, both see a new district that ranges from Queens to Suffolk County as their natural territory.
“It’s very regretful to see two outstanding people pitted against each other,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “Both have been to Israel many times; both have been very outspoken.”
The new lines were drawn up by the New York State legislature and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice early this month.
In order to assemble the predominately Hispanic district in which Solarz has chosen to run, parts of Solarz’s present district — including Borough Park, with its strong Orthodox Jewish presence, and his home in Coney Island — have been joined into a district that includes Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Solarz’s strengths in his 18-year career in the House have always included his stand as a pro-Israel legislator, a role enhanced by his ranking on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Were Solarz to face off against West Side incumbent Ted Weiss in the Democratic primary, he would find his support for the Persian Gulf War and his leading role in the House Bank scandal to be heavy liabilities.
He may stand a better chance in the new district, drawn to create a Hispanic majority and only 16 percent white.
The three competing Hispanic candidates seem likely to split the vote. And the $2 million campaign war chest Solarz has accumulated will go a long way against relative political novices.