Good Morning from Albany…
Election Day delivered a verdict that can be summed up in two words: status quo. The story of the night was the red wave that wasn’t, however there were a few bright spots for the GOP, particularly in New York.
Governor Kathy Hochul survived a spirited challenge from Lee Zeldin. Zeldin’s energy and several polls showing him within the margin of error may have, paradoxically, helped energize Democrats, especially in New York City. Ultimately, Hochul won by just under 6 points, 52.9%- 47.1%, or roughly 325,000 votes.
Zeldin ran a strong campaign and garnered the most votes for a statewide Republican candidate since 1994. The issues he pushed, mainly crime and affordability, resonated with voters and drove turnout helping GOP candidates down ballot win several competitive congressional seats.
If there ever was an election where the New York GOP was expected to make gains, it was this one. The redistricting debacle put Democrats on their back foot before campaigns even started, former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s judges seemed openly hostile to Democrats redistricting efforts, and the national political winds favored Republicans in the months leading up to the election.
In the end, it does not matter– politics is a zero-sum game and Governor Hochul won. Now, after being elected to her first full term as Governor, it is her state and her party for the next four years. She will continue to have Democratic majorities in the Legislature.
State Senate— Democrats in the state Senate did better than expected and much better than their congressional colleagues. There are still three races yet to be called while votes continue to be tallied, with Democrats leading in two of those races:
If the uncalled races hold, Democrats will have 41 seats while Republicans will hold 22— just one vote shy of a Democratic supermajority. Here are the incumbent Senators who lost reelection:
State Assembly— In the Assembly, Democrats did lose seats, but still seemed poised to maintain their two-thirds supermajority by the narrowest of margins. There are five uncalled races on the Assembly side, with Republicans leading in all of those races, but one. If that holds, Democrats will have 100 seats while Republicans will have 50. The GOP was able to knock off the following incumbents:
The bigger storyline in the state Assembly was the fall of committee chairs. The Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, the Housing Committee, and Government Employees Committee all lost reelection. Combine that with the decision by Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried and Assembly Energy Chair Michael Cusick to forgo reelection, and there will be a lot of new faces in influential positions in the Assembly leadership come January.
With elections over and most of the dust settled, Governor Hochul and New York Democrats will now have to govern. The state’s Mid-Year Financial Plan was due by the end of October but the final report was not published until November 11th. The report showed General Fund receipts $3.1 billion higher than the first quarter, but $1.7 billion below the cash flow estimate. Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, Jr offered, “This update to the State’s financial plan reinforces what was known from the prior one – global and national economic headwinds will have an impact in every state of the country, but New York is prepared with fiscally responsible budgeting that puts record-level deposits and balances into our reserves.” Some have criticized the report as incomplete and at odds with a report released by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli earlier this week. Certainly more on this to come.
If the state races were a triumph for the Democrats, New York’s Congressional races were a boon for the Republicans. New York’s current Congressional delegation makeup is 19 D – 8 R. In the new Congress, it will be 15 D – 11 R (New York lost one congressional seat due to the 2020 census and redistricting). The gains came on Long Island where Republicans had a clean 4/4 sweep and in the Hudson Valley. DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney lost his seat to Republican state Assembly Member Michael Lawler in one of the more notable Republican gains nationwide. Maloney was the first campaign chair, Democrat or Republican, to lose reelection since 1992. If Republicans do end up with a single digit majority in the House, which is looking increasingly likely, it very well could be because of these races in New York:
Central New York:
Nationally, the GOP effort to win Congress was not as strong, although it looks to have succeeded. It became clear relatively early on Election Night that the “red wave” was not coming. Bellwether Congressional districts such as Virginia’s 7th and Michigan’s 7th both went in favor of the Democrats, a harbinger of what was to come. Key races have yet to be called in California, Arizona, and Colorado but as it stands, Republicans currently have 211 seats to Democrats 204. The threshold to reach a majority is 218 and while Republicans are projected to win the House, it could be with a majority as small as one vote. Obviously, Democrats would have preferred to win the House (and yes, there is still a small chance they could), but the lack of a GOP landslide is cause for Democratic joy, especially for President Biden. It had become a political dogma that the party in power suffers humiliating defeat in the midterms, as was the case with Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton. Biden however, was able to defy political precedent and perhaps keep some of his political agenda alive.
In the upper chamber, things were even worse for Republicans. Given the one vote Democratic majority, the GOP saw a number of avenues to retaking the majority including flipping seats in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Hampshire. None of those seats ended up flipping to Republicans and, in fact, the only seat that was flipped was by the Democrats in Pennsylvania where Lt. Governor John Fetterman beat Dr. Mehmet Oz for the open Senate seat previously held by Republican Pat Toomey. Late on Saturday night, news organizations called the race in Nevada for Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez-Masto, giving Democrats 50 seats and the Senate Majority (with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie breaking vote). It originally appeared as though the runoff in Georgia between Herschel Walker and incumbent Raphael Warnock would determine who controls the Senate. However, Cortez-Masto’s victory renders that race less compelling, at least as it relates to control of the Senate. Still, Democrats will be eager to win in Georgia and gain 51 seats to loosen the grip that moderate Senators Kristin Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) currently hold over the party and increase their numbers on Senate committees.
Now, after midterm postmortems, both parties will have to deal with the outer wings of their party and keeping competing factions in line.
Back in New York…
Prominent progressive Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken aim at New York State Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs. In an interview with the New York Times, AOC said “It’s no secret that an enormous amount of party leadership in New York State is based on big money and old-school, calcified machine-style politics that creates a very anemic voting base that is disengaged and disenfranchised” before she reiterated her call for Jacobs’ resignation. Governor Hochul, and more forcefully NYC Mayor Eric Adams, have both stood by Jacobs. Adams even credited Hochul’s win to Jacobs saying, “Jay Jacobs has been a steady hand…I think Jay Jacobs brought home the governor’s race here, a very difficult race.” Others have offered that far left, out of touch policies like the ones espoused by AOC are to blame for state Democrat’s underwhelming midterm performance.
In Washington, D.C….
The GOP infighting is worse after they lost a seat in the Senate and severely underperformed in the House races. The infighting has devolved into the “establishment”, represented by the likes of House Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, arguing with the MAGA wing of the GOP over who is to blame for Tuesday’s results. Many Republicans—especially conservatives– have called for a delay in GOP leadership votes while they continue iron out a path forward for the party. Members of the Freedom Caucus have threatened to torpedo McCarthy’s bid for Speaker if they do not extract sufficient concessions. Among the demands are a mechanism to vote out a sitting Speaker and more say over committee assignments and chairmanships. McCarthy always knew he would have to deal with the Freedom Caucus, but the razor thin majority he is likely to preside over makes the problem much more acute.
Lawmakers will be returning to Washington today for the remaining days of the Congressional Calendar, also known as the “Lame Duck Session.” Democrats will still be in the majority in both chambers in these final weeks and there are items on the agenda that must be addressed. The Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires on December 16th so lawmakers have until then to come up with a permanent spending plan. They must also pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the year’s end. Other items on the Democratic agenda are the Electoral Count Act, codifying the right to same-sex marriage, an energy permitting bill, and expanding the child tax credit.
A few items will have less urgency now that Democrats will be in control of the chamber for another two years. Had Republicans gained control of the Senate, President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have raced to confirm as many judges as possible before it got more difficult–or altogether impossible–with Republicans in control. Now, there is less urgency. Other issues that will likely be addressed and will be more hotly contested are raising or eliminating the debt ceiling and additional support for Ukraine.
Of course, for folks who lost, it could be worse: After being a cabinet minister in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government for just 14 days, Gavin Williamson resigned amid a number of bullying and mistreatment allegations. Williamson was so disliked, even by his own peers, that, according to BBC Political Editor Nick Watt, one group of whips “had a conversation about whether they could come in early one morning, release his pet tarantula and stamp it to death.”
Crime was a major issue in this year’s election, but a Staten Island man says the legal system went too far after he was jailed at Rikers Island for fighting… with his 500K condo board.
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