Good Morning from Election Central…
Game time. Months, years, and even lifetimes; it all comes down to Election Day tomorrow for elected officials across the country at every level of government.
The biggest race we are watching is the contest for Governor of New York where incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul is looking to hold off a spirited challenge from Member of Congress Lee Zeldin. On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton held a rally with Governor Hochul and Attorney General Tish James at Barnard College to gin up support among the Democratic base, particularly women. Hochul, James, Harris, and Clinton are the first women to hold or have held their respective offices and their message was clear: we will not be the last.
Last night, President Joe Biden headlined state Democrats’ largest rally yet (Biden’s third trip to New York in the past two weeks, raising questions about the state of play that would require so much of POTUS time in such a deep blue state countered perhaps with the question about where else Biden could possibly be a political asset). Joining the Governor at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, Biden said, “New York, you have two days to make sure the rest of New York knows the good that they have in Kathy Hochul.”
National Republicans are rallying around their candidate as well, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Andrew Giuliani headlining an event for Zeldin last week on Long Island. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican Governor from Virginia who won an upset victory of his own, also came to New York to stump for Zeldin.
At his campaign headquarters last week, Zeldin previewed his potential state budget; indicating he would do away with the personal income tax and the estate tax (critics were quick to point out those proposals would benefit the state’s wealthiest individuals and could require spending cuts to Medicaid and public schools). Zeldin also voiced support for opening-up the Southern Tier to fracking, a practice currently banned by New York. To address rising crime, Zeldin has pledged to declare a state of emergency on day one as Governor and fire District Attorneys he believes are not tough enough.
Governor Hochul also has big plans if reelected. She plans to address the affordability crisis across the state by investing in housing and jobs. Her first budget allocated $25 billion to develop 100,000 new housing units and if elected to a full term, she plans to get that number closer to 500,000. She also pledged to make New York more business-friendly by investing the necessary funds to attract mega-projects like Micron. On the public safety, Hochul’s plan is centered on addressing gun violence.
It also matters what candidates eat. There has been no shortage of cringy moments involving candidates and food throughout American politics. From Gerald Ford eating the outer husk of a tamale in Texas, to Bill DeBlasio eating pizza with a fork in New York City, voters do not easily forget food gaffes on the campaign trail.
Seriously, this race will be determined by swing voters in the suburbs and urban turnout. White suburban women, a demographic largely responsible for electing President Biden in 2020 and President Trump in 2016. have been moving towards Republicans in recent weeks and a new poll suggests concerns about inflation and the economy are behind that swing. The poll found that suburban white women now prefer a Republican candidate for Congress by 15 points. Democrats hoped that the Dobbs decision would motivate this demographic, which makes up 20% of the electorate, but the economy is taking center stage in this election with 74% of respondents saying the economy is headed in the wrong direction compared to 59% just one month ago. When asked about the number one issue motivating them to vote, 34% selected rising prices, 28% citing threats to democracy, and 16% choosing the Supreme Court overturning Roe. White suburban women are also one of the most-motivated demographics, with 85% of voters reporting they were “very motivated” to vote. In the 2018 midterms, this group was the driving force behind Democrats picking up 40 seats and a majority in the House. Now, they trust Republicans over Democrats to get the economy back on track. Half of respondents said Republicans have a better economic plan compared to 35% for the Democrats, and 55% believe Republicans have a better plan to combat inflation versus 24% for the Democrats. Republicans were also favored on topics such as crime and foreign policy while Democrats were preferred on lowering prescription drug costs and reproductive health. Abortion rights is still a deciding factor for some suburban women but, in general, it is taking a backseat to financial concerns and crime. The poll is not good news for President Biden either: 38% approve and 60% disapprove of his job performance compared to August when 51% approved and 48% disapproved.
The other factor is turnout. Early vote numbers are down in New York City compared to 2020. It is not really a fair comparison (midterm vs. presidential; Trump election vs. Trump not on the ballot) but worth noting they are down more in the Bronx, Queens, and parts of Brooklyn with higher percentages of Black and Brown voters than in Manhattan. In what numbers these “base vote” constituencies vote will have a huge impact on the outcome in New York State.
For Zeldin to overcome Hochul’s likely margins in NYC, he will need to win swing voters, particularly on Long Island and in parts of New York City’s northern suburbs, and win the turnout battle. Zeldin and his campaign are hoping that unhappiness with the current status quo in New York will outweigh swing voter’s concerns about Republican extremism and his ties to Donald Trump.
Down ballot, turnout from the governor’s race and these larger national dynamics could have some very real consequences in races for United States Congress, State Senate, and Assembly across New York State. While the State Senate and Assembly majorities are safe, key members of Majority and Minority Conferences have difficult races that will be worth watching. Perhaps most importantly, New York State has emerged as a key battleground in the fight for the majority of the United States House of Representatives. These races were further complicated by a fraught redistricting process, which has in some cases pitted incumbents against incumbents. Here are some of the races for House, State Senate, and Assembly in New York that we are watching tomorrow:
NY-1: Bridget Fleming (D) vs. Nick LaKota (R)
In the district vacated by Lee Zeldin to run for Governor, former Manhattan prosecutor and Democrat Bridget Fleming is in a close race with Republican Nick Lakota, a navy veteran and former Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner. The district leans Republican though it did vote to elect Joe Biden by a .2% margin in 2020.
NY-3: Robert Zimmerman (D) vs. George Santos (R)
The race between Republican investment banker George Santos and Democrat public relations executive Robert Zimmerman in NY-3 has heated up in the final months. Cook Political Report has it rated as one of five toss-ups in New York. Zimmerman has positioned himself as a moderate, supporting Governor Hochul’s action to roll back some bail reform and even suggested the party should go further to address the issue of rising crime.
NY-4: Laura Gillen (D) vs. Anthony D’Esposito (R)
Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice is retiring from her Nassau County seat, leaving open a district President Joe Biden won by 15 points in 2020. Former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen is favored against Republican Anthony D’Esposito. However, Cook Political and Politico both rate this race as a toss-up.
NY-17: Sean Patrick Maloney (D, Incumbent) vs. Michael Lawler (R)
Sean Patrick Maloney is in a true “toss-up” with Republican challenger and current state Assemblyman Michael Lawler. Maloney, the head of the House Democrats’ fundraising arm, has had to acquaint himself with many new constituents after the redistricting saga and the political winds have seemed to shift towards the Republicans. Unseating the DCCC chair would be a major symbolic victory for Republicans.
NY-18: Pat Ryan (D, Incumbent) vs. Colin Schmitt (R)
Pat Ryan won an upset victory here (formally NY-19) in an August special election to fill out the remainder of Antonio Delgado’s term following his ascension to Lt. Governor. Now, Ryan will have to hold off Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt to earn himself a full term in office.
NY-19: Josh Riley (D) vs. Marc Molinaro (R)
Republican Marc Molinaro lost to Pat Ryan in the Special Election but has another kick at the can against Democrat Josh Riley in another true “toss-up” in the Hudson Valley. As is the case is the neighboring districts, swing voters and independents could decide who wins these three elections. A recent Siena Poll had Riley leading Molinaro by 5 points.
NY-22: Francis Conole (D) vs. Brandon Williams (R)
NY-25: Joe Morelle (D, Incumbent) vs. La’Ron Singletary
Incumbent Rep. Joe Morelle and La’Ron Singletary’s race was only recently rated competitive by Cook Political Report, who took the race from Solid D to Likely D last week. Morelle faces Democrat-turned-GOP former Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary. Singletary resigned as police chief in late 2020 amid protests into the death of Daniel Prude in police custody, but maintains he did nothing wrong in his official capacity. Instead, Morelle has hit him as an opponent of abortion rights. Redistricting made this seat three points redder by adding parts of deep-red Orleans County. There are also distinct local factors that point to a close election.
District 1- Anthony Palumbo (R, incumbent) vs. Skyler Johnson (D)
Redistricting turned what is traditionally a GOP stronghold on Long Island into a competitive district which spurred nonprofit employee and former Southampton mayoral aide Skyler Johnson to challenge incumbent Senator Anthony Palumbo. Johnson has racked up some major endorsements including U.S Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but most rating sites have this as “Lean Republican.”
District 4- Monica Martinez (D) vs. Wendy Rodgers (R)
The partisan swing following redistricting was dramatic in District 4—under the old lines, the district was +3 Trump but is now +23 Biden. That seismic shift resulted in incumbent Republican state Senator Phil Boyle deciding to forgo reelection. Former State senator Monica Martinez is attempting to make her political comeback against businesswoman Wendy Rodgers. Hispanic voters make up roughly 40% of the district which will likely give Martinez the edge.
District 5- John Brooks (D, Incumbent) vs. Steven Rhoads (R)
After originally announcing his retirement from the 8th District, Senator John Brooks reversed course and announced he would be running in the newly drawn 5th District. It will be an easier run than if he would have stayed in the 8th, but still, he has his work cut out for him against Nassau County Legislator Steven Rhoads. Out of nearly 170,000 party affiliated voters in the district, Republicans outnumber Democrats by less than 3,000 voters, making this race lean Republican.
District 7- Anna Kaplan (D, Incumbent) vs. Jack Martins (R)
Current state Senator Anna Kaplan is hoping to hold off former state Senator Jack Martins who represented the district from 2011-2016. Kaplan has the advantage of incumbency and has more cash on hand, but Martins’ name recognition and endorsements from several Nassau County Police Unions have made this race close.
District 9- Kenneth Moore (D) vs. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R)
Todd Kaminsky’s resignation left a seat up for grabs in a district where registration favors Democrats. Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick has tried to nationalize the race and make it a referendum on Democratic policies, specifically crime. Moore, the mayor Bellerose Village, has spent much of his time on the campaign trail talking about climate, public safety, and taxes. Likely Republican.
District 38- Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D, incumbent) vs. William Weber (R)
This race in the lower Hudson Valley is a rematch of the 2020 race that Reichlin-Melnick won narrowly. Since then, redistricting has made the district even more competitive, forcing the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to spend $100,000 to help defend the seat. Likely Democratic hold.
District 41- Sue Serino (R, incumbent) vs. Michelle Hinchey (D, incumbent)
Also in the Hudson Valley, two incumbent state Senators find themselves running against each other. Serino and Hinchey, who formerly represented district 46, have been known to work together in the Senate including on legislation that created public awareness campaign about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. One issue where they will not find common ground is abortion which has become a central issue in this race. Hinchey has the edge.
District 42- James Skoufis (D, incumbent) vs. Dorey Houle (R)
The district moved from +1 Biden to +3.2 Trump following redistricting, but Democrats still hold an advantage in voter registration. Monroe Town Council Member Dorey Houle acknowledged the race is an “uphill battle”, especially given Skoufis has $1 million of campaign funds in the bank. Edge Skoufis.
District 50- John Mannion (D, Incumbent) vs. Rebecca Shiroff (R)
In the Oswego area, Republican are hoping to take advantage of the national climate and flip an unexpected seat. Shiroff has decried one-party rule in Albany which she says is responsible for bad policy like bail-reform. Mannion has focused on building up the central New York green economy, pointing to the recent investments made in the area and the federal CHIPs bill that brought Micron to Central New York. Mannion is a good senator and running hard, but it is a toss-up.
District 52- Lea Webb (D) vs. Rich David (R)
In Binghamton, the city’s former mayor Rich David is running against former city councilwoman Lea Webb. David is one of the rare Republicans that supports reproductive choice, chalking it up to being the son of an OB/GYN. Webb has been running on her success redeveloping vacant or distressed properties in the city. Edge Webb.
District 55- Samra Brouk (D, Incumbent) vs. Len Morrell (R)
Local businessman and radio personality Len Morrell is hoping to unseat freshman state Senator Samra Brouk in Rochester. The district contains the southeastern portion of the downtown area which is decidedly Democratic, but in the outskirts of the district, it gets more competitive. Nonetheless, Brouk remains a strong favorite.
District 56- Jeremy Cooney (D, Incumbent) vs. James VanBrederode (R)
Cooney has a large advantage when it comes to money and registered voters. However, VanBrederode has significant name recognition, having previously served as a police chief and part of the Monroe County Chiefs’ Association for nearly a decade. The district contains the westside of Rochester and extends into the surrounding suburbs. Cooney is running a strong campaign and is the strong favorite.
District 61- Sean Ryan (D, Incumbent) vs. Ed Rath (R, Incumbent)
Redistricting saw Ryan and Rath get drawn into the same district in Buffalo. The 61st district contains parts of the city of Buffalo and up into Tonawanda, traditionally favorable to Ryan, while also extending out to the suburbs in Amherst and Williamsville which is in Rath’s former district. Rath is running a spirited campaign, but Ryan remains favored.
110th District- Phil Steck (D, Incumbent) vs. Alexandra Velella (R)
In the Capital District, Attorney Alexandra Velella has tried to portray Steck as too far left for the district, citing his support for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Steck has pushed back on those allegations, noting that he voted against the 2019 bail reform law. Toss-up.
113th District- Carrier Woerner (D, Incumbent) vs. David Catalfamo (R)
In Saratoga and Washington counties, voters will have a rematch of the 2020 Assembly race. Catalfamo is a longtime New York political consultant and has raised some eyebrows after an independent expenditure committee tied to an organization run by his wife spent nearly $160,000 on TV ads attacking Woerner. Edge Woerner.
135th District- Jen Lunsford (D, Incumbent) vs. Joseph Chenelly (R)
In 2020, Lunsford flipped a seat that had been in GOP control for years and after redistricting, the district is even more favorable. Republicans are hoping Joseph Chenelly, the national director of the veterans service organization AMVETS, can win it back. Advantage Lunsford.
Nationally, some Democrats are fed up with the Federal Reserve and Chairman Jerome Powell’s decision to further raise interest rates. In the sixth interest rate hike of the year, the Fed raised interest rates by .075%, increasing the cost of borrowing money in the hopes of staving off a recession. A group of 11 lawmakers, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, wrote a letter to Powell in which they criticized his decision, saying it will only hurt working class families and will not curb inflation. The letter stated, “These statements reflect an apparent disregard for the livelihoods of millions of working Americans, and we are deeply concerned that your interest rate hikes risk slowing the economy to a crawl while failing to slow rising prices that continue to harm families.”
The day after midterm elections is the unofficial start date of the 2024 Presidential contest and Biden reaffirmed his commitment to seek reelection. When asked, Biden said, “I have not made that formal decision, but it’s my intention. My intention to run again. And we have time to make that decision.” Biden, like Donald Trump, may be waiting to officially declare his candidacy as long as he can to skirt some of the burdensome fundraising regulations that accompany a formal declaration. A lot also depends on what happens Tuesday night- a crushing loss for Democrats might make Biden reconsider.
Biden has been huddling since September to lay out a reelection plan with First Lady Jill Biden and a small number of close advisors, three of which are reported to be Anita Dunn, Mike Donilon and Jen O’Malley Dillon. While the timing of any such announcement is important, some believe that is does not make much of a difference when he declares given that he will still be out doing public events and garnering media attention as President anyway. However given the fundraising arms race and competition for top campaign talent, Biden will have to make a decision sooner rather than later.
Here are some other national races to watch tomorrow:
Pennsylvania- John Fetterman (D) vs. Dr. Mehmet Oz (R)
The race is virtually tied after Dr. Oz was able to close the gap in the final weeks of the campaign. On September 15th, Fetterman had a 10-point lead, but after a shaky debate performance and more Republicans coming home for Dr. Oz in the closing weeks, that lead has vanished.
Georgia- Raphael Warnock (D, Incumbent) vs. Herschel Walker
This race is also tied, but it has been close the whole way. The troubling stories that have come out about Herschel Walker’s personal life do not seem to have moved the voters in any discernible way. More than 2 million people have already voted in Georgia, beating their record for early voting.
Arizona- Mark Kelly (D, Incumbent) vs. Blake Masters (R)
Kelly, a former Navy Pilot and NASA Astronaut, has been ahead in the polls the whole race, but his lead has ranged from 10 points in August to roughly 2 points now. The Libertarian third-party candidate recently dropped out of the race, putting anywhere from 2-6% back in play which seems to benefit Masters.
Nevada- Catherine Cortez-Masto (D, Incumbent) vs. Adam Laxalt (R)
The largest polling margin we have seen between these candidates is just 4 points, and that was in early June following the Dobbs decision. Since then, only 1 or 2 points have separated them in most polls. Last week, Masto was joined by former President Barack Obama and singer John Legend to rally her supporters before Election Day.
With Republican control of the House looking increasingly likely, one of their first housekeeping tasks will be selecting which members will serve on the Steering & Policy Committee. The committee is tasked with doling out standing committee assignments as well as highly-sought after chairmanships. On November 16th, the Republicans will conference to solidify the rules and structure of the steering committee before internal, regional elections on November 16th. Those who are selected will make decisions that will preview the direction and attitude of a GOP-controlled House. The House Freedom Caucus has been warning members to be prepared for the vote, which could get contentious.
Aside from the interparty reshuffling, there will also be legislating to do after the elections. “We still have much to do and many important bills to consider,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor at the end of September. “Members should be prepared for an extremely, underline extremely, busy agenda in the last two months of this Congress.” Lawmakers have a December 16th deadline to pass a bill to fund the government and must iron out the National Defense Authorization Act by year’s end. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to confirm a number of federal judges in the lame duck, especially if they lose the majority.
Election officials across the country have been warning for months that we may not know all the results on Tuesday night. States such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin do not permit absentee ballots to be processed until election day and in Nevada, counties have four days to process late-arriving mail-in ballots and give voters two more days to fix mail-in ballots. Georgia requires candidates for Senate to receive at least 50% of the vote and if neither candidate reaches that threshold, they go to a run-off. So while everyone will be eagerly awaiting results on Tuesday night, some states might not have final results for days.
Back in New York…
A state appeals court overturned an earlier ruling that restricted access to absentee voting. The Republican-led lawsuit did not want the fear of catching COVID or other infectious disease to be a permissible reason to vote via absentee ballot. State Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone originally agreed with Republicans and struck down the measure. However, a five-judge panel in the Appellate Division ruled unanimously to overturn her ruling.
Finally… if all of that makes you want to bury your head in the sand, maybe take after this French gentleman and try this instead.