- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican, announced yesterday he will not seek re-election in his newly redrawn district, allowing fellow Republican Sue W. Kelly to run unopposed for the party nomination.
His retirement clears up the final uncertainty of who will run for re-election in New York after a difficult congressional redistricting, in which the legislature had to eliminate two seats owing to population changes in the 2000 census.
The legislature paired Mr. Gilman and Mrs. Kelly in one district and two Democratic incumbents in another district to account for the lost seats.
"It became evident that the state's efforts to target our district in order to protect other incumbents undermined our efforts to successfully pursue another term in the Congress," Mr. Gilman, 79, wrote in an open letter announcing his retirement. "Accordingly, it is with great remorse that I must announce that I will not be standing for re-election to the 108th Congress."
Several weeks ago, Mr. Gilman told reporters he was considering switching parties to run as a Democrat in the new district, though many New York and national Republican leaders dismissed that possibility. If he had switched, party leaders said, he probably would have lost the general election to Mrs. Kelly, since the new district has more of her old voters than his and leans solidly Republican.
His retirement will end a 30-year career in the House, during which he served six years as chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
"Ben's outstanding record as a public servant is truly remarkable," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. "When he was chairman of the House International Relations Committee, he ensured peace and security for our nation while fighting injustice and corruption throughout the world. Ben is also recognized as a human rights champion, a title that is befitting for such a dedicated and honorable man."
In the Democrat-paired seat in New York, Rep. John J. LaFalce announced his retirement last week rather than face fellow Democrat Rep. Louise M. Slaughter in a primary.
The remaining 29 incumbents are running for re-election in New York this year. Though there are freshmen on either side who could be targets, all the incumbents are expected to win.
That follows a nationwide trend in which incumbents' districts were strengthened. The most competitive seats are those of retired members or those that were newly added to some states after the 2000 census.
In California, except for Democratic Rep. Gary A. Condit's seat he lost in the primary the rest of the state's 53 seats are considered safe for the incumbent party. The district where the state gained a new seat was drawn to fit a Democrat.
Add to that New York's 29 seats, and nearly one-fifth of the U.S. House is essentially locked into the status quo party division.
Mark Gersh, an analyst at the National Committee for an Effective Congress, which supports liberal candidates, said that between 1992 and this year, Republicans made gains in state legislatures and among governorships, giving them more of a hand in redistricting decisions.
"Consequently, there was more of a motivation to compromise," Mr. Gersh said. He said that was a big part of the push to protect each side's incumbents.


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