Good Morning from the Empire State…
Elections are coming! The Elections are coming.
New York continues to be ground zero for mid-term madness. As if the redistricting chaos, multiple competitive Congressional races, and incumbent v. incumbent contests were not enough, the race for Governor is shaping up to be closer than most people anticipated. On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac poll showed Governor Kathy Hochul up just 50-46% over Congressman Lee Zeldin. A poll from Siena College offered better news for the Hochul campaign, with the Governor up 52-41%. The discrepancy in the numbers is attributed to different findings in NYC– Siena had Zeldin at 23% whereas Quinnipiac had him at 37%. Quinnipiac also allows respondents to self-identify which subsequently included more Republicans and the Siena poll is based on a respondent’s voter registration, leading to a more balanced sample size. A GOP polling firm released a poll of their own this week, claiming Zeldin was leading Governor Hochul by a slight margin. Either way, it is clear the race is tightening from the days where Hochul was flirting with a 20-point lead.
The Hochul campaign is responding: One new ad highlights the economy, highlighting the major investment by Micron in New York and the subsequent jobs and economic growth for the surrounding area. The other ad, titled “Safe” touts Hochul’s work combating illegal guns, strengthening bail laws, and increasing mental health services as a way to push back on the “soft on crime” attacks from Zeldin. Hochul also stood with New York City Eric Adams to announce a new focus on subway crime.
Last week, Newsday announced its endorsement, going with Governor Hochul over Long Island’s own Zeldin. The New York Times released their endorsement over the weekend, also backing Hochul and citing Zeldin’s “loyalty to Trumpism over his oath to defend American democracy and the Constitution.” The Times acknowledged there is still significant work to be done by Hochul, particularly on the public safety and affordable housing fronts. However, they concluded Hochul’s work during her first year in office had earned her a full term. President Trump announced that Lee Zeldin has his “Complete & Total Endorsement” but perhaps the more consequential endorsement for Zeldin came this week from the New York State Fraternal Order of Police.
The two candidates will meet on stage for the first and only debate hosted by Spectrum NY 1 on Tuesday at 7pm. The debate will be live on Spectrum News as well as on their website.
The tightening race at the top of the ticket has Republicans bullish on picking up seats in New York and they continue to invest.
In the Hudson Valley, a House GOP super PAC recently designated another $4 million to target Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the DCCC, in NY-17. Part of that expenditure was a TV ad that aired in the district, alleging that Maloney wants to “make it easier for violent criminals to get back on the street.” Maloney’s campaign pushed back, pointing to the $7 million he obtained for local law enforcement and his contemporaneous comments disapproving of the “defund the police” idea. Republicans are also hoping to make Rep. Pat Ryan’s tenure in Congress a short one after he won a special election in August. While the energy behind the Dobbs decision was enough to propel Ryan to victory in the special election, not everyone is convinced the same strategy will pan out in a general election, especially when the economy is at the top of mind for many swing voters.
Long Island is home to some competitive races as well, and according to Larry Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, “Nassau and Suffolk counties have the chance to be the majority maker.” In NY-1, 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 they did vote to elect Joe Biden by a .2% margin in 2020. Equally competitive is the race between Republican investment banker George Santos and Democrat public relations executive Robert Zimmerman in NY-3. 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.
According to the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan electoral prediction report, NY-1 leans Republican while NY-3 favors the Democrats. Their model also gives a slight edge to Sean Patrick Maloney and Pat Ryan in the Hudson Valley, classifying NY-17 and NY-18 as “lean Democrat.” The open seat in Nassau County, NY-4, resulting from the retirement of Rep. Kathleen Rice also leans in favor of Democrat and former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen against Republican Anthony D’Esposito. In NY-19, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro v. Democrat and attorney Josh Riley is rated as a toss-up, as is NY-22 where the Republican nominee, Brandon Williams and Democrat Francis Conole are vying for the seat John Katko is vacating in Syracuse.
In the most recent instance of New York State election chaos, Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone issued a ruling that deemed some of the state’s voting reforms unconstitutional. Justice Freestone took particular issue with the section of the law that allowed absentee ballots to be prepared and validated before Election Day. She stopped short of invalidating the thousands of absentee ballots that have already been collected this way, as the Republicans had asked. However, the decision is being appealed and, if you remember how redistricting went in the Courts, stay tuned, especially as many of the closest races might well come down to the counting of paper ballots.
Nationally, some of the races are coming into focus as well. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senator Mitch McConnell, recently canceled a $5.6 million ad buy in New Hampshire. The state was once seen as one of the likeliest states to flip for the GOP however Don Bolduc, a retired army general, and Trump-endorsed candidate has failed to gain traction against incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan. Bolduc, like Trump, had been vocal about his disapproval of Senator McConnell which may not have helped him in convincing the Minority Leader to keep the ad buys in place.
In Pennsylvania, where McConnell’s PAC is still very much involved, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has closed the gap against Lt. Governor John Fetterman. A recent AARP poll has Fetterman up 48-46% while that same poll has Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) up 53-42% over State Senator Doug Mastriano in the race for Governor.
In Georgia, the recent revelations of Herschel Walker encouraging his then-girlfriend to get an abortion have not had a significant impact on the race, with Walker still in a dead heat against incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. A recent poll has both men knotted at 46%, well short of the majority needed to avoid another runoff in the state.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada is hoping to fend off Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. Biden carried the state in 2020 by 2.7%, but current polling has Laxalt ahead by 2 points. Republicans are increasingly confident here, especially as they continue to make inroads with Latino voters.
Arizona, the epicenter of 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories, has 2 highly competitive statewide races. Kari Lake, an election denier herself, is running slightly behind Democrat Katie Hobbs in the gubernatorial race, but has been gaining momentum, especially after Hobbs decided to forgo debates. In the Senate race, Incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly leads Blake Masters by just over 3%, though that number is well within the margin of error.
Colorado has emerged as an unlikely battleground and has been dubbed by Politico as “The sleeper state Republicans are targeting to win the Senate.” Even though Colorado is traditionally favorable to Democrats and Republican Joe O’Dea has never led in a poll, national Republicans are hoping his moderate positions and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet’s sagging favorability will be enough to get them across the finish line. Republican support from Latinos is also one of the biggest factors here. If Democrats were to lose a seat in a state like Colorado, it would make their path to 50 seats much more difficult.
The pacific northwest has long been seen as a Democratic stronghold, but Republicans are also optimistic about their chances in that region. In the state of Washington, incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray has continued to cede ground to Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. Murray has also been significantly out-fundraised as of late, giving a further opening to Smiley in what would be a massive political upset. In Oregon, three decades of Democratic control of the governorship is in jeopardy. President Biden traveled to Portland to support Democratic candidate Tina Kotek. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, has bankrolled the third-party campaign of Betsy Johnson to help defeat Kotek.
In Iowa, it is Republicans who are surprised by the close margins in what they had thought to be a safe state. Democratic challenger Mike Franken is within 3% points of incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley who now finds himself in his toughest reelection bid in his 40-year career. If re-elected, Grassley would be 95 years old at the end of his term.
As bad as you might think politics are here in the United States, it is worse across the pond. Liz Truss resigned as prime minister of the United Kingdom after just 44 days in office, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in history. The UK will have its third prime minister in as many months, all of this coming as King Charles has yet to be coronated following the death of Queen Elizabeth. In her first days in office, Truss announced a sweeping plan to cut taxes which immediately sent UK financial markets into free fall. The pound hit its lowest point against the dollar and the effects on the bond markets resulted in record high borrowing costs. Truss appeared outside of 10 Downing on Thursday, saying “I recognize, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative party.” The task of electing the next prime minister will fall to Conservative party leaders in a swift but secretive process and they expect to have nominations on Monday with a final result by the end of the week. Former prime minister Boris Johnson, whose resignation gave rise to the brief Truss era, has been rumored to be in the running despite still being under investigation for “partygate.”
In Washington, D.C….
Committee Chairs and Congressional leadership are bracing for a busy lame-duck session where the most pressing issue will be funding the government. The continuing resolution, that passed before recess, expires on December 16th, so lawmakers have no choice but to address that issue after the midterms, but before the new Congress. An issue that has come to the forefront of any spending bill is additional support for Ukraine given House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent statements that a GOP controlled House would be less inclined to provide aid to Ukraine.
In the State Capital…
Last Tuesday, the Governor signed a 5-bill legislative package strengthening protections and support for survivors of domestic violence as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The package included bills to allow survivors of sexual assault to apply to the state board of elections to seal voter registration information from the public and to ensure the seizure of firearms owned by people subject to a protective order if a judge determines possession remains a danger. “I am proud to sign these new laws that will enhance confidentiality, keep New Yorkers out of harm’s way, and give them the flexibility they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” said the Governor.
Happy Diwali to all of our friends who celebrate! This past week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar announced that starting in 2023, Diwali will be a school holiday. President Biden and the First Lady are hosting a Diwali celebration at the White House on Monday night.
Finally, St. Crispin’s Day is tomorrow, Shakespeare’s Henry V gave his legendary speech on the eve. Let us join them in remembering that day to the end of the world: watch it here.
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