The Midterms: New York

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

A Senate, gubernatorial and 27 House races are in store for New York voters come Election Day.  All the action will be at the Congressional level since the Democrats are counting on gains here, in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida to retake the House.  Hence, the political realm’s equivalent of a claymation figure left to dry in the kiln too long- Andrew Cuomo- will win reelection as Governor and the ICE-hating presidential wannabe Kirsten Gillibrand will win reelection to the Senate and we will be treated to her nonsense for at least the next six years.

That leaves the Congressional races in New York.  The Democrats currently hold the partisan advantage, 18-9.  There are two open seats- the 14th and the 25th- both of which are safe Democratic retentions.  Further, 12 seats are in the New York metropolitan area which is safe Democratic territory with the exception of two seats on Long Island and one on Staten Island.

The first GOP targeted district is the 19th in the Hudson valley south of Albany which is rated +1 Democratic by Cook, but is represented by Republican John Faso.  This year he faces Antonio Delgado for the Democrats.  The Democrats are crying foul and trotting out the race card over GOP attacks describing Delgado as a liberal who would bankrupt Medicare, and as a “big city rapper”given his previous career.  In fact, the GOP has run ads with Delgado’s lyrics with both the “F” and “N” words bleeped out, him praising Iraq, and the joys of having “sex to a porno flick.”  Hey… they’re his words and not racism to highlight them in a campaign commercial.

An expensive race since it takes in some of the NYC media market, Faso is well-funded, but Delgado has proven no slouch in this area.  The problem may be name recognition since he had to run a 2-minute commercial introducing himself to voters.  In Faso’s favor is the presence of independent Diane Neal who overcame a Democratic challenge claiming she lacked enough valid signatures to qualify.  Neal formerly appeared on Law and Order: SVU and appeared as a judge on Trump’s The Apprentice.  She describes herself as “a little libertarian, a lot liberal, and mostly progressive.”  Available polling shows a close race with Faso down by about a point, although the most recent poll has him up by a point.  A tough one to call at this point, but the fact Faso is running in a tough political climate, the fact it is so close may be a sign he will squeak this one out.

In the Adirondack based 21st District, GOP incumbent Elise Stefanik is opposed by Tedra Cobb.  This district flipped heavily from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.  Further, Stefanik has won two rather easy landslides.  However, Cobb has proven a prolific fundraiser which is important since neither national party has really expressed much interest in this race.  Cobb’s chances probably took a hit when video surfaced of Cobb telling a group of teenagers that she supported an assault weapon ban, but could not say so publicly lest she lose the election.  Not a smart move in this region of New York.

The 22nd District is…um… one of the most interesting in New York this year.  Centered around Utica, it is represented by Republican Claudia Tenney.  She faces Democrat Anthony Brandisi which is where the story gets interesting.  The Tenney campaign released a memo earlier this year warning workers to be careful and mindful of their surroundings.  The reason is Brandisi’s father, Louis, as a lawyer represented several Utica-area mobsters.  This district is about 15% Italian and the veiled accusations have had some Italian law makers crying foul against Tenney.  Republican state senator Joseph Griffo said:  “Disparaging stereotypes are disappointing and unnecessary. The Tenney campaign should refrain from ethnic smear tactics.”  Recently, former “Republican” Congressman Richard Hanna endorsed Brandisi, but this is no surprise given his campaign donations to Democrats in the past (including $1,000 to Brandisi last year) and his open support for Clinton in 2016.  

Tenney is tenacious in her attacks calling Brandisi a stooge of Andrew Cuomo and they’ve been using that infamous Cuomo quote about American greatness to effect.  She is also accusing Brandisi of supporting Nancy Pelosi and former state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver who was recently sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption charges.  For his part, he is trying to tie Tenney to Spectrum Cable and their 38% in rate hikes.  Polling is sparse with the most recent showing Tenney up by 8 points, but overall an average of two points.

The 23rd District runs along the southern part of the state along the border with Pennsylvania stretching north towards Binghamton.  It is represented by Republican Tom Reed who won a surprisingly close race in 2012, but did better against highly touted opponents in 2014 and 2016.  This area includes very liberal Ithaca and some very conservative surrounding areas.

The Syracuse-area 24th District race features GOP incumbent John Katko against Democrat Dana Balter.  Trump actually lost this district by 4 points in 2016 and one poll shows Trump’s approval rating at 42% against 55% disapproval.  Running largely as an outsider, the DCCC waded into the race just recently and the pro-death group, EMILY’s List, is also lending some support to Balter.  Taxes are the issue here with Balter running the now-familiar complaint that the Trump tax cuts most help the top 3%.  Katko responds that Balter is a tax-and-spend liberal.  In fact, she has been caught on tape saying that tax increases are probably going to happen and Katko released an ad regarding this.

Then Balter did the ultimate campaign no-no: in a response ad, she replayed the snippet of her audio used in the Katko ad drawing unnecessary attention and giving them a greater audience.

The final race of interest is the soap opera drama in the Buffalo-area based 27th District.  It starts shortly after Chris Collins, the Republican incumbent who first won the seat in 2012 after unseating Democrat Kathy Hochul who surprisingly won a special election in 2011, and Nate McMurray (his Democratic opponent) had won their primaries.  Collins was indicted for insider trading accused of using information regarding the failure of a trial drug before it became public to tell his brother and fiance of the impending announcement which resulted in their selling the stock and avoiding over $780,000 in losses.  Collins himself allegedly lost $17 million when the company, Innate, tanked.

The problem was that Collins was the candidate and under New York’s restrictive election laws, the only way the GOP could have gotten him off the ballot was for him to plead guilty to the charges which he vowed not to do.  There was another option: have him opt for another elected position in his home county or city.  However, no elected positions were up for election this year and despite attempts and several potentials stepping forward and Collins himself suspending his reelection campaign, they could come up with no solution.  Hence, Collins remains on the ballot and has resumed his campaign.  Whatever may have been the resolution, the Democrats were likely to challenge it in court preferring to keep Collins on the ballot and/or extend the soap opera.

There is a history here when former Rep. Mike Grimm faced a similar situation and won reelection while under indictment.  Collins immediately went on the offensive and has accused McMurray’s business of facilitating offshoring jobs to Korea.

This is a strong GOP district that veered sharply from barely Romney territory in 2012 to very solid Trump country in 2016 (he took 60% of the vote).  And Collins was one of the first Republicans in the country to endorse Trump in 2016 along with Jeff Sessions.  Polling shows Collins up by about three points and he seems to be counting the conservative tilt of this district to carry him to victory.  There is a certain strategy in play here for the GOP in upstate New York.  Should Collins win reelection, he could resign his position as part of a plea deal and there would be a special election to replace him where the local GOP could endorse a candidate with less legal baggage.  Collins was already stripped of his committee memberships by Paul Ryan pending an outcome of these charges.

If one had to at this time make a prediction, it is likely that the GOP will lose at least one seat out of New York, although it is hard to determine which one.  There is one race that is sort of a bell weather here- the Long Island based First held by Republican Lee Zeldin.  Although not really on anyone’s radar, his fortunes in this swing district- nominally GOP with a recent trend towards the Democrats but still represented but the GOP- should Zeldin lose, look for another seat to fall in New York and more elsewhere.

The numbers after this entry:

US Senate 45-33 Republican, US House 138-132 Democratic, and Governors 25-14 Republican.

Next up: New Mexico