Anthony Weiner resigning: Redistricting key to future of Weiner's House seat
NEW YORK (AP) - With U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's humiliating exit from office, New York is likely to hold a special election sometime in the next few months to pick his successor, but voters probably shouldn't expect a bruising public contest over the right to go to Washington. The job might not even exist in 19 months.
Because of population shifts, New York state is slated to lose two House seats in 2013, and lawmakers in Albany will spend the next few years redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts in a highly politicized process that could, in theory, wipe Weiner's old territory in Queens and Brooklyn from the map.
Traditionally, lawmakers looking to butcher a district have turned to ones where there is no incumbent, or one with little seniority. That would seem to put the 9th Congressional District at risk for elimination, or at least a bigger overhaul of its borders than other districts in the state.
"The question then becomes, is it worth going for a seat that may not exist?" said Douglas Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College's School of Public Affairs.
That option still could present a good political stepping stone for a Democrat looking to move up the ranks in a highly Democratic city, said Matthew Hiltzik, a public relations specialist and political consultant.
"It's an opportunity to build name recognition, and be in a position to possibly stay in Congress if something unusual happens," he said.
But entering the race could be a tougher call for a GOP candidate, who, if victorious, would be almost certain to see his or her seat gerrymandered out of existence.
"You're not going to recruit a big star to win a seat that's not going to exist," Muzzio said.
Registered Democrats in the district outnumber Republicans in the current 9th Congressional District by three to one, and while neither Barack Obama nor John Kerry had runaway victories there in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections (they both took 56 percent of the vote), other contests with lower turnout have a history of Democratic romps.
Because special elections are held on short notice, there are no party primaries. The candidates are picked instead by party leaders. In Weiner's district, that means the choice will effectively be made by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, the party chairman in Queens County, and state Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the party chairman in Kings County.
Prospective candidates are expected to begin privately angling to get the nomination in the coming days, if they haven't started already. The timetable for an election is uncertain.
Under state law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call for a special election at any time in the coming weeks or months. The rules would then require that the contest be held in no fewer than 70 days, but no more than 80 days - a window that would coincide nicely with an already-scheduled party primary in September.
A special election would be the latest in a string for the state. Last month in the Buffalo area, a Democrat beat a Republican in a race to succeed U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned after sending shirtless pictures of himself to a woman he met through Craigslist.
Defiant and combative no longer, Weiner soberly announced his resignation from Congress on Thursday, bowing to the furor caused by his sexually charged online dalliances with a former porn actress and other women.
Democratic Party leaders, concerned that Weiner could weigh the party down in the 2012 elections, welcomed the announcement after days spent trying to coax, push and finally coerce the wayward 46-year-old into quitting. Known as brash, liberal and ambitious, Weiner had run for mayor of New York in 2005 and had been expected to do so again. He was in his seventh term in Congress.
At an appearance in Brooklyn that drew hecklers as well as supporters, Weiner apologized "for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused," particularly to his wife, Huma Abedin.
Pregnant with the couple's first child, she was absent as she had been 10 days ago when Weiner first admitted sending inappropriate messages and photos to women online - after earlier denying emphatically he had done so.
In his brief farewell appearance, Weiner said he initially hoped the controversy would fade but then realized "the distraction that I have created has made that impossible."
That conclusion echoed party officials who had become worried that the intense public focus on Weiner - and the Republican political rhetoric sure to follow - would complicate their campaign efforts in 2012.
"Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement released moments after he spoke. "Today, he made the right judgment in resigning."
Weiner made his announcement at the same senior citizen center in Brooklyn where he announced his candidacy for the New York city council in 1992.
He declined to answer questions, leaving unaddressed whether he envisioned his resignation as the end of a once-promising political career - or merely a painful pause of uncertain duration.
"Now I'll be looking for other ways to contribute my talents so that we live up to that most New York and American of ideals," he said.