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Koch criticizes Skelos on redistricting

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, center, joined

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, center, joined by legislators from the Assembly and Senate, speaks during a news conference on nonpartisan redistricting in Albany last month. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mike Groll

ALBANY -- Ratcheting up his campaign for an independently drawn political map, Edward I. Koch Thursday declared Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos "an enemy of reform" and called on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to pass a redistricting bill.

The escalating war of words between the former New York City mayor and Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) will come to Long Island next week in a series of robocalls, Koch said.

"At this moment, he [Skelos] is an enemy of reform who has betrayed his integrity," Koch told reporters here Thursday.

Skelos and all 31 other Senate Republicans signed a written pledge supporting Koch's drive to end the current redistricting system, in which the legislature draws legislative and congressional districts, often with input from incumbents. Critics say it stifles competitive races and makes lawmakers beholden to political leaders.

The Senate instead passed a constitutional amendment that won't take effect until 2022, arguing that Koch's plan for next year is unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, Skelos told Koch in a letter that his "well-meaning crusade" had "devolved into a series of increasingly bitter personal and partisan attacks." Thursday, Skelos spokesman Scott Reif said the constitutional amendment fulfilled the Senate's pledge to Koch and his group, New York Uprising.

"These attacks don't serve the public well, nor do they advance our shared goal of redistricting reform," Reif said.

Koch said he would meet soon with Silver (D-Manhattan), who has not moved to pass Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's bill creating an independent commission, though he is its sponsor.

Through a spokesman, Silver called on the Senate to go along, too. "We want a law, not just a bill," Silver said.

Koch also met with Cuomo and said Cuomo pledged to veto lines drawn "in a partisan manner" by the legislature and push the matter into the courts.

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