23rd Congressional District Should Remain Whole To Protect North Country Constituents’ Interests

Legislative column by Assembyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River)

For more than 30 years, the 11 northern counties in New York State that comprise the North Country have, in some combination, been part of a single congressional district. This North Country district that runs from Oswego County to Clinton County and from the St. Lawrence River to Fulton County shares some very common issues and interests. This area is rural in nature and has a tremendous reliance on agriculture and tourism. This sets this area apart from other contiguous regions such us Central New York or the Mohawk Valley, which are more reliant on manufacturing.

Earlier this week, I testified at the New York State Legislative Taskforce on Redistricting and Reapportionment (LATFOR) hearing, making the case to keep the 23rd Congressional District intact. As many of you know, I represent four of the 11 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. 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, which would have negative and serious impacts on the residents of this region.

As part of my testimony, I explained 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 all the way to Rouses Point in Clinton County. In my opinion, it would be “recreating the wheel” to have three separate representatives addressing these issues. But 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.

Now, I realize that the 23rd cannot stay as is – the district must grow. Therefore, I recommended to the LATFOR panel to include the rest of Essex and Fulton counties into the district, as well as the northern part of Herkimer County. And if the district still needs more people to make up the 53,000 it is now lacking, parts of Warren and Washington counties also could be added. Each of these areas fit perfectly in the makeup of a new North Country district that has a similar economy, uniform priorities and similar ways of life.

Given the similarities between counties and their issues across the 23rd Congressional District, eliminating the district, and shifting counties into Central New York and Mohawk Valley districts, would have serious consequences for the constituents of the region whose concerns are much different than those of our neighbors to the south.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns on state matters. Stop by my office at 15 Bridge Street, West Carthage, give me a call at 315-493-3909, or email me at blankenbushk@assembly.state.ny.us