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Redistricting plans hit Slaughter, Buffalo; As-yet-unreleased proposals would redistribute portions of her district, sources say

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, would no longer represent Buffalo and Niagara Falls under competing redistricting plans that the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the Republican-led State Senate were set to submit to a federal judge in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

While the two reapportionment plans were not yet available on the federal court's website as of late Wednesday -- despite a late afternoon deadline for their submission -- Assembly and Senate sources told The Buffalo News that both plans move Slaughter's district more toward her Rochester-area home base.

That move could mean the district of Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, would pick up the Niagara County portions of Slaughter's old district.

Meanwhile, the district of Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, could swallow up the East Side city neighborhoods now represented by Slaughter.

The redistricting plans also preserve a district for Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning.

Instead, as they seek to reduce the number of congressional districts in the state from 29 to 27 to accommodate nationwide shifts in population, both plans would carve up the Catskills/Binghamton-area seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

Albany sources said that under both plans, the other seat to be eliminated would be in New York City, though the two parties take different approaches.

The Republican redistricting plan eliminates the seat of Democrat Rep. Gary Ackerman, which covers parts of Queens and Long Island, while the Democratic offering aims to cut the Queens-Brooklyn district of Republican Rep. Bob Turner.

Sources said the bulk of the congressional redistricting fight is centered downstate, where Republicans also want to give Rep. Charles Rangel, D-Manhattan, a district with a larger Hispanic population than Democrats are willing to give.

The court is expected to release the two plans shortly.

Other details about them -- including the exact shape of the proposed Western New York districts -- were unavailable late Wednesday.

The redistricting issue landed in court after the two sides in Albany failed to come up with a solution.

A panel of three federal judges appointed Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann to handle the issue. Mann has until March 12 to recommend a plan with 27 districts "substantially equal in population."

Under the court order, the districts also have to be "compact, contiguous, respect political subdivisions and preserve communities of interest."

Mann is expected to recommend a plan to the State Legislature for approval, but the Legislature still could agree to its own plan.

In fact, the last two times New York lost congressional seats, redistricting went to federal court -- but the Legislature then wrote its own plan when the court issued a proposal lawmakers didn't like.

The court also invited the general public to submit redistricting proposals.

One plan was submitted and posted to the court website Wednesday: a congressional map backed by Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua.

That map gives Slaughter a Rochester-based district, while Higgins would represent Buffalo and most of its immediate suburbs -- including Amherst, where Hochul lives.

Hochul would get a largely Republican district stretching as far east as Canandaigua, and Reed would get a Southern Tier/Finger Lakes district stretching from Chautauqua County to Chemung County and north to Lake Ontario.

Albany sources consider the Kolb plan irrelevant, however, because he is the leader of the Assembly minority.

Tom Precious of The News Albany Bureau contributed to this report.