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Gilman skips Irish trip, awaits district ruling

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Embattled congressman Ben Gilman is awaiting a U.S. court decision, expected this Friday, before deciding on how to react to a redistricting plan that guts his New York congressional district.

Gilman, one of four co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, will not, in the meantime, be traveling to Ireland this week as part of a congressional delegation being led by Rep. James Walsh, chairman of the Friends of Ireland Group on Capitol Hill.

“The congressman . . . will be awaiting the court announcement and after that will announce what his plans are,” spokesman Brian Walsh said Tuesday.

Considerable speculation has surrounded Gilman since legislators in Albany redrew several congressional districts just north of New York City.

The most critical aspect of the redistricting plan is the carving up of Gilman’s 20th district, a constituency that includes all of heavily Irish American Rockland County.

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If the plan survives the scrutiny of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District, Gilman will find himself in a potential primary runoff against fellow Republican Sue Kelly in a new congressional district that is mostly made up of Kelly’s current one.

An alternative move for Gilman, one of the most active members of the House on issues of Irish-American interest, is to jump ship and join the Democrats.

The Democratic Party in New York has been actively courting Gilman in recent days and spokesman Walsh has indicated that Gilman is not ruling out any option at this stage.

Gilman argued before the U.S. court last week that an earlier redistricting plan, drawn up by a court-appointed special master and one that was far more favorable to Gilman than the state legislators’ version, should not be displaced by Albany.

“I submit that the state plan does not comply with the standards and criteria for redistricting,” Gilman told a three-judge panel hearing the case.

“The New York State Constitution requires that congressional districts be compact, contiguous, and convenient, to the fullest extent possible, and New York State’s election law provides that each

election district shall be in compact form. The state’s plan violates these principles,” Gilman said.

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