Bellwether Special Election in NY Goes to Pro-Abortion Democrat

News & Politics

A special House election in New York’s 19th congressional district was expected to be a Republican walkover. Republican Marc Molinaro, the county executive of Dutchess County, was ahead in most polls going into election day.

But after the votes were counted, Democrat Pat Ryan was the narrow winner by four percentage points in a district Joe Biden carried by just two points in 2020.

Molinaro stressed the Democrat’s mismanagement of the economy while Ryan constantly repeated that “choice was on the ballot.” Democrats say that the abortion issue sunk Molinaro but there’s no evidence for that.

Of course, that won’t stop the political media from simplifying the race to a battle between pro and anti-abortion candidates. Even if abortion played a role — and it probably did — there’s no evidence that it didn’t help Molinaro as much as it hurt him. That’s the nature of abortion as a political issue in America, and to make a sweeping generalization about abortion’s political impact on any race — especially one in a swing district that leans Democratic — isn’t analysis. It’s partisan hackery.

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Even though the winner will only represent the district for a few months, the short-term result could have broader implications: Both parties competed heavily in the race. Ryan and outside groups backing his campaign centered the race as a referendum on abortion rights, while Molinaro — a highly sought-after GOP recruit — focused on inflation and the broader economy.

No single race months before November will accurately predict who will ultimately hold the House in 2023. But the win is a major boon for Democrats, and will likely further reaffirm Democratic candidates’ focus on abortion rights leading up to the fall. It’s also the latest in a string of House special elections in which Democrats have equaled or outperformed Biden’s 2020 numbers in the district, in a boost to the party’s political fortunes after months of sagging numbers.

The idea that Democrats have found a formula to defeat Republicans in November is absurd. I’d like to see Ryan try that “choice is on the ballot” trick in a red state. Even in swing districts, voters are going to be far more interested in what the Democrats are going to do about high inflation rather than expending energy in a futile effort to restore the right to kill babies.

Elsewhere in New York, two left-wing titans faced off in a race to represent Manhattan’s 12th congressional district. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, handily defeated his longtime congressional neighbor, Carolyn B. Maloney, in one of the most expensive House races in history. The two candidates tried to out-radical each other in what may be the most left-wing district in the country.

Of greater significance was the victory of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democrat’s House campaign committee, destroying the AOC-backed Alessandra Biaggi, a state senator and a rising star of New York’s left wing. Maloney won 67-33. It raised the obvious question: Is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s influence waning? AOC may have hit her high water mark a while ago, and she and her Squad buddies may be on the way out.

Related: Interview With Robert Cahaly of the Trafalgar Group on the 2022 Midterms

Elsewhere, Florida Democrats have chosen their sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered on election day. Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now running as a Democrat, will face off against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis. Crist beat 4 challengers, including left-wing darling Nikki Fried, to earn the dubious honor of being DeSantis’s punching bag.


Crist spent most of his more than year-long campaign directing his ire at DeSantis, the ascendant Republican governor, and continually criticizing the incumbent for focusing on what he called culture wars instead of pocketbook issues, such as the state’s affordable housing crisis or rising insurance rates. But he did go negative against Fried in the closing weeks as well.

Crist, however, heads straight into an uphill battle against incumbent DeSantis, who is sitting on more than $130 million in his campaign account. DeSantis and Republicans have already ramped up their ad buys in anticipation of a sustained on-air presence between now and November, and his every move is watched closely as a potential candidate for president in 2024.

Aside from the results in New York 19, there were few surprises on this primary night. And given that the district won by Mr. Ryan won’t even exist in November, any celebrations by Democrats will be premature.

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