ALBANY - New York State's Democrats accuse Republicans of backing off their promise to put politics aside when new election districts are drawn now that the GOP will hold the pen.
Republicans who will take majority control of the Senate in January deny they have turned their backs on the reform pledge that helped them win in November. Instead, they said recent public comments simply reflect the priority to address more pressing issues, including creating jobs.
Democrats cited Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos' published remarks to Newsday's editorial board about redistricting, the most valuable prize in winning the majority.
"If there is a way that we can fashion a nonpartisan thing and I'm going to discuss that with the speaker and the governor, I wouldn't mind doing that," Skelos told Newsday. "Can you take politics out of it a hundred percent, I don't think that will occur. But I think there's a way you can do it better and that's what we'll look at."
Redistricting has traditionally been used by the majority parties to protect their incumbents by creating districts dominated by voters enrolled in the majority's party. The districts are set for 10 years, until the next Census.
In Albany, the majority controls legislation and spending and has traditionally returned more money for pet projects in districts represented by a majority legislator.
"Senate Republicans are already making it clear they will not keep their pledge to reform state government through nonpartisan redistricting," said Senate Democratic leader John Sampson of Brooklyn.
Skelos spokesman Mark Hansen said there is no change in the Republicans' support of independent redistricting since signing former New York City Mayor Ed Koch's "New York Uprising" reform pledge.