The Democrats’ finger-pointing has begun in New York after Republicans managed to pull off some notable victories in the blue stronghold.
Though the GOP failed to oust Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Republicans successfully toppled Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), leader of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, and turned over several other Democratic toss-up races the 3rd, 4th, and 19th congressional districts.
The Democrats’ losses have prompted accusations from some of the party’s most high-profile figures, who have pointed out everything from the redistribution of constituencies to Hochul’s perceived weakness to the mismanagement of the state party apparatus.
“A good night could have been a great night if the NY Dems hadn’t screwed up the redistribution of constituencies and ignored voters’ concerns about crime and disorder. Those mistakes cost House Dems winnable seats and forced the Dems to squander millions of dollars that could have gone elsewhere. Time to correct the course”, tweetd Howard Wolfson, a consultant to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D).
Meanwhile, in an interview with The New York Times published Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) blamed “big money and old-school, calcified-machine-style politics” within the New York State Democratic Party leadership and argued that “Over-reliance and insistence on relying on Republican narratives on crime and safety harmed Democrats in New York State.”
That led to a little back-and-forth between her and Maloney, who in a separate interview with the Times said that the congresswoman “had almost nothing to do” with the Democrats’ impressive showing in the House of Representatives and that she only offered some financial support for battlefield candidates.
Maloney himself seemed unsure why the Democrats are doing so poorly in those few House districts, although he did suggest in the Times interview that the Republicans’ messages on crime may have resonated with voters and that Zeldin’s candidacy for governor appealed to them gave a reason to make a decision.
For Republicans, New York was one of a few bright spots on an otherwise disappointing night. Republican George Santos defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the state’s 3rd District, while GOP contender Anthony D’Esposito prevailed over Democrat Laura Gillen in the 4th District. Under the new congressional lines, President Biden won those districts in 2020 by 8 points and nearly 15 points, respectively.
Maloney also suffered a blow, losing his seat to Republican Mike Lawler in the 17th district, ending about a decade in Congress after making a controversial decision to run in that district instead of the one he currently represents . That move required another House Democrat to run elsewhere. Meanwhile, Republican Marc Molinaro repelled a challenge from Democrat Josh Riley in the 19th district.
Some Democrats argued that Republicans’ strategy of addressing crime concerns ended up costing the party some seats.
“New Yorkers … particularly in the New York City and Albany media markets were inundated with ads focused solely on crime and safety for several months leading up to Election Day. Wasn’t a conversation based on data, it was an emotional conversation aimed at inciting fear, and that message was extremely factual and extremely consistent,” said Jon Reinish, a former counsel to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y .).
“I think it really rallied Republicans, suburban voters in Putnam County and Nassau and Suffolk County. Many of them are swing voters,” he added. “Yes, they usually tend to support Democrats. But I think the consistency of that message convinced them and it was hard to bounce back from that.”
But Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, said the “redistribution chaos” in the state, added to Hochul’s perceived lack of coattails for consistent candidates, has complicated Democrats’ efforts.
A Democratic gerrymander of congressional lines approved by the state legislature was thrown out earlier this year, and a court-appointed special master redrew the lines, pitting incumbents against each other and urging lawmakers to reintroduce themselves in new districts.
“It seemed like the governor didn’t have coattails for a while, and that’s a problem when the top of your ticket doesn’t have coattails,” Smikle said. “And I’m not saying she didn’t, but what I’m saying is that the behavior suggests she didn’t.”
But Smikle noted that there also appeared to be a missed opportunity to highlight other notable Democratic names on the ballot, like Attorney General Letitia James and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who could have helped bring the Democratic nominees down.
“These are big names that even if you didn’t think the governor had coattails, all of these other coattails have… What’s wrong with having the rest of the ticket able to get down to any or any of these candidates.” cling?” said smile. “I think that’s the piece that people really cling to that there just didn’t seem to be a coordinated effort.”
In fact, while Hochul still prevailed in her race against Republican Lee Zeldin, she won by less than 6 points. In the suburban counties, Zeldin led them with 17 points in Suffolk, 11 points in Nassau and 12 points in Rockland.
Thomas Doherty, who served as an advisor to former Gov. George Pataki (R), noted that Hochul was able to win her election more than a year after taking office following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and as a relatively new face of the New yorkers
“It’s not nothing,” said Doherty, who added that she had done an effective job using abortion as a campaign issue.
Still, he said crime is a prominent problem in the state and the quality of GOP candidates helped Republicans score key victories. He added that Republicans would need to win more candidates that reflect New York to maintain those wins going forward.
“I think the Republican Party needs to continue to field good candidates — candidates who are representative and look like New York. We have to put forward Asian candidates. You must list African American candidates. You need to attract Hispanic candidates. This must be the party,” he said
“And I think people will then be more comfortable and not see the Republican Party as the national Republican Party, which in many cases tends to be very white.”