Samuels Slams Cuomo’s ‘Republican’ Redistricting Plan

Bill Samuels.

Bill Samuels. (Photo: EffectiveNY)

Bill Samuels, a Democratic activist and gadfly, is back on the war path against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, vowing this fall to defeat a redistricting amendment that the governor supports.

A long-time thorn in the side of Mr. Cuomo–the well-heeled activist recently claimed the governor has “no core”–Mr. Samuels, the founder of the good government group EffectiveNY, said today he would be filing a Freedom of Information Request for all communications from January 1 through August 15 between commissioners of the State Board of Elections and the governor’s office, regarding the use of the word “independent” to describe a proposed redistricting commission, and the exclusion of any description of what Mr. Samuels called a “highly partisan process.”

The FOIL covers all communications made using phone, email, Blackberry PIN, and personal cellphones, and it focuses on the role of governor’s senior staff, especially Lawrence Schwartz, a top aide. Mr. Cuomo is seeking re-election this fall.

“During a series of meetings this spring, I personally told Larry Schwartz and other Cuomo aides that the Governor needs to break from Republicans on redistricting and show a firm commitment to a Democratic State Senate. They haven’t listened, and now I am going public with this campaign,” Mr. Samuels told the Observer.

“If Andrew Cuomo wants to regain his standing and legitimacy as a Democrat, he must immediately drop his support for the Republican redistricting amendment and admit that he was wrong to help develop it in the first place,” Mr. Samuels continued. “If Cuomo continues to stand with the Republicans on redistricting, he cannot credibly call himself a Democrat. It’s that simple.”

Mr. Samuels, along with several good government groups, have criticized Mr. Cuomo failing to push for a redistricting process that is completely independent of the state legislature. Under an agreement reached during the 2012 redrawing of district lines, a referendum will be put to a vote this fall that will create a 10 member commission to draw new districts in 2022. The state legislature–which has drawn its own gerrymandered districts in the past to protect incumbents–will still name members of the commission and can ultimately draw their own district lines if they don’t like the commission’s proposal. (Some good government groups, however, are supporting the constitutional amendment.)

For Mr. Samuels, this is just the latest salvo in his long battle against the governor. He flirted with a bid for lieutenant governor but backed down after the labor-backed Working Families Party decided to endorse Mr. Cuomo in return for a series of compromises, including a commitment to hand control of the State Senate back to Democrats. Mr. Samuels said in July he’d be willing to give Mr. Cuomo “a chance” to “re-win” his reputation in a potential second term.

Mr. Cuomo did not immediately return a request for comment.