Ken Jenkins, Deputy County Executive of Westchester County and a member of New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), is under pressure to resign from the commission due to a perceived conflict of interest. This demand follows the entry of Jenkins’ boss, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, into the Democratic primary race for New York’s 16th congressional district.
In a letter sent on January 14th to State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Steering Committee of NYCD16-Indivisible argued that Jenkins’ dual roles create a significant conflict of interest. They assert that because Jenkins holds the positions of both Latimer’s second-in-command and chair of the redistricting commission, he may wield inappropriate influence over the redrawing of district boundaries, particularly those affecting Latimer’s congressional ambitions.
The letter references interviews in which Latimer openly acknowledged that the redistricting process could impact his electoral prospects. It contends that Jenkins’ involvement in shaping the district maps “compromises the integrity of the redistricting process” and erodes public confidence in a fair and ethical outcome.
Characterizing the situation as an “alarmingly clear conflict of interest,” the group called for Jenkins’ immediate resignation from the redistricting committee. They also urged Stewart-Cousins to make a similar request, especially given that the new district maps are nearing completion.
While Ken Jenkins did not respond to the letter (at least not to BW), the Black Dems of Westchester County issued a counter-statement. They vehemently rejected calls for Jenkins to step down from the Independent Redistricting Commission, portraying these demands as a groundless smear campaign against prominent African American leaders.
In a statement provided to the media (but not to Black Westchester), they condemned NYCD16-Indivisible’s letter, particularly its timing over MLK weekend. The Black Dems accused the group of targeting the “first black female Senate Majority Leader,” Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and questioned the wisdom of their focus on Jenkins.
The Black Dems extolled Ken Jenkins as a person of impeccable integrity and vehemently dismissed the accusations of impropriety as utterly absurd. They described the calls for his resignation as irrational and as an affront to Westchester’s African American community.
In a scathing conclusion, the Black Dems demanded that NYCD16-Indivisible issue immediate apologies to both Stewart-Cousins and Jenkins. They insisted that the group should reconsider their seemingly irrational political strategy of targeting these individuals.
Black Westchester spoke with a member of NYCD16-Indivisible regarding the letter and the response. This member clarified that their concerns were not based on race but on the need for transparency in the political process. As voters in NYCD16, they have the right to question the actions of the election officials they vote for.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Latimer openly acknowledged on the record that the redistricting process could influence his chances of winning. The fact that his Deputy County Executive, Ken Jenkins, plays a pivotal role in shaping the district boundaries has raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
It’s important to mention that not only have several other news outlets, including Black Westchester, raised similar concerns, but the New York State Working Family Party has also questioned the perceived conflict of interest surrounding George Latimer and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins’ participation in the redistricting committee.
As events continue to develop, close attention will be paid to the unfolding situation, especially concerning its potential impact on the Black vote in New York’s 16th congressional district. A prior example of this direction was observed in NYCD16 during Bowman’s last reelection, where portions of the Bronx were removed and more predominantly white communities from Westchester were included.
If the outcome of the redistricting process leads to a further reduction in the Black vote, it could potentially raise questions about a possible violation of the United States Voters Rights Act. In such a scenario, Black elected officials and leaders would find themselves facing challenging inquiries regarding their actions and compliance with the law.