Path for Democrats to Regain the House Runs Through New York

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #88 | By: Ian Milden | August 3, 2023
Photo taken from: time.com

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Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2022 mid-term elections. However, the small size of the Republican majority leaves Democrats with a path to re-take the House majority. This Brief will take an early look at some of the races in New York state, which has enough competitive races to affect the control of the House majority.

Analysis

Republicans shocked many pundits by only winning a four seat majority in the House of Representatives during the midterm elections. While Democrats performed well nationally in 2022, New York Democrats did not have a great performance statewide in 2022. 

Incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) won her race by less than six percentage points. The closer than expected margin may have hurt Democrats chances to hold win in a few close races. Republicans won in New York’s 22nd District and 17th district by less than 3,000 votes. These districts will likely be targets for Democrats again this year. Mike Lawler flipped the 17th District by defeating former DCCC chairman Sean Patrick Maloney and Brandon Williams won the open seat vacated by John Katko (R-NY). The 22nd district is in upstate New York while the 17th district is in southern New York.

Next to the 22nd district in New York is the 19th district. The 19th district is a swing district in the Hudson Valley. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) won the open seat in 2022, which was open due to redistricting. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) won a version of this seat in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020, but he vacated the seat to become the lieutenant governor of New York. Pat Ryan (D-NY) won a special election in 2022 under the old district lines, but the redistricting process moved him to the 18th district where he now represents in Congress. Congressman Ryan remains in a competitive district and House Republicans have indicated that they will try to win his seat this fall.

There are also some competitive seats based in Long Island that Democrats will target. The third district has already gotten a ton of attention from both parties due to the scandals and subsequent indictment of newly-elected incumbent George Santos. The seat was recently held by Tom Suozzi (D-NY) who vacated the seat in 2022 to run for Governor, so it is a seat where Democrats have a recent history of winning. Santos may not be a participant in the General Election since New York Republicans are looking for ways to push him out of Congress, and Santos’ various legal problems could also complicate his ability to remain in Congress. Santos’ first quarter FEC report shows his campaign lost money due to refund requests, which suggests his reelection campaign is politically unviable. Federal prosecutors have moved rather quickly with his criminal case, so he is likely to face trial or strike a plea deal before the midterm elections.

In addition to George Santos’ seat, Democrats should also target the neighboring fourth district, where Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) won a seat that was vacated by Kathleen Rice (D-NY). This area of Long Island has a history of voting for Democrats in recent decades at the Congressional and Presidential level. Democrats could also target the first and second districts, which are also based on Long Island, but these districts lean more towards Republicans and Democrats have not had success there recently.

One additional variable that could help Democrats gain seats is a mid-decade redistricting. This is a possibility due to a technicality in the law, and the process for drawing maps for the 2022 elections. The Independent Redistricting Commission did not take a second attempt to draw new maps, which resulted in a court-appointed special master drawing the maps after a court ruling. Democrats are arguing that the maps should be redrawn because the process determined by the law was not followed.

While New York State provides the exact number of competitive districts held by Republicans that Democrats need to win in order to gain control of the House majority, it would be a surprise if Democrats successfully flipped all five of these districts. In addition, Democrats will likely need to win additional seats outside of New York in order to get the majority since there are likely to be losses elsewhere. These Congressional Districts will be ones to keep an eye on as Democrats recruit candidates and start raising money for the 2024 general election.

Engagement Resources

DCCC Website, Official Campaign Arm of House Democrats, https://dccc.org/

 

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