21 Days to Election Day: New York

The simple fact is that New York, now ranked 4th in terms of House
seats, is a Democratic stronghold. Like California, the only thing the state is good for as far as presidential campaigns go is fundraising for the GOP. Hence, you can safely give Obama New York’s 29 electoral votes.

In the senatorial race, Kirsten Gillibrand, now considered perhaps one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, will seek reelection. She ran unopposed for her party’s nomination and will also appear on the Working Families and Independence Party lines. Gillibrand will face Wendy Long- a long shot at best to win this race. She had to defeat Nassau county Comptroller George Maragos and Bob Turner who won the special election to finish the term of Anthony Weiner in a VERY Democratic district. Long managed to win over 50% of the vote against her opponents. Interestingly, Long is perhaps the most conservative of the three and is not a total unknown in conservative circles. As a law student, she clerked for Justice Thomas. As a practicing attorney, she was legal advisor to the 2008 Romney campaign. She has written articles for Townhall, American Spectator and National Review Online.

Running a statewide race in New York is an expensive proposition. If competitive, costs could reach $20 million. To put this in perspective, Long has yet to reach the $500,000 mark while Gillibrand has raised OVER $13 million. Also, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state so any Republican starts with a decided disadvantage. Hence, Gillibrand should skate to victory with Long winning only the usual conservative upstate areas.

Redistricting in New York was a process that can only be best described as ugly. Finally, the courts stepped in and drew the new congressional districts. Having lost two House seats in the 2010 census, the belief was that a New York City Democratic district and an upstate Republican district would be eliminated. Eventually, that is what the courts essentially did. And whenever a state loses seats, it requires some major rearrangements of the political landscape. With Yvette Clarke moving from the 8th to the 9th district, that left open the 8th where Democrat Hakeem Jeffries won his primary over firebrand Charles Barone. Jeffries received the backing of Schumer and Cuomo and is a three term state assemblyman. In the new 6th, Democratic incumbent Dennis Ackerman steps down leaving a clear path for fellow Democrat Grace Meng to win election in this district with a growing Asian population. The rest of the New York City metropolitan area Democratic incumbents should all win reelection and that includes the ethically-challenged Charlie Rangel. One race to watch in the area is in the First District where Democrat Tim Bishop will again face Republican challenger Randy Altschuler. This district is based in Suffolk county on Long Island. What gives the GOP hope is the fact that Altschuler lost in 2010 by only 593 votes of 196,000 votes cast. This should yet again be a close race if fundraising is any indication as they are only apart by $400,000 with each raising near $2 million.

There is one Republican district in the New York City area- the 11th- which is essentially Staten Island. This race bears watching as Republican incumbent Michael Grimm faces Mark Murphy, although Grimm will likely win reelection. Moving north up the Hudson, the Middletown based 18th district is represented by Republican Nan Hayworth and she will face Sean Maloney in November. Hayworth first won election is 2010 and although Maloney was thought to be a viable candidate to unseat her, thus far his fundraising has nowhere matched that of Hayworth. The GOP is pumping money into this race to keep it in Republican hands. At this point, I will give this race to Hayworth in a real squeaker. What makes this a tough go for Hayworth is the fact that the more Democratic-leaning Poughkeepsie is in this district.

In the expansive 19th, Chris Gibson, the GOP incumbent, is being seriously challenged by Julian Schreibman. It would be a debacle if the GOP lost both these districts and a small victory if they lost only one. However, polling has indicated that Schreibman has failed to catch on and Gibson should actually win this race. Not that the Democrats have nothing to worry about. In the 21st, Democratic incumbent Bill Owens has twice won with less than 50% of the vote. He will face Matt Doheny again. In 2010 who lost to Owens by 1,995 votes. However, the Conservative Party candidate took 10,000 votes in that election. This time out, Doheny will also be the Conservative Party candidate. Thus far, Doheny has kept pace in the money race with most of Owens’ funds coming from the Democratic Party. For these reasons, I am predicting a Doheny victory here.

In the 24th, Ann Marie Buerkle, the Republican incumbent, faces Dan Maffei whom she defeated in 2010 with Tea Party backing. This most likely will flip back to Democratic control in 2012. This race is neck and neck in terms of fundraising although polling indicates a Maffei victory. Finally, Democratic incumbent Kathleen Hochul, now in the new 27th district, faces a likely loss in November. She won a special election in 2011 to replace Republican Christopher Lee, but won with less than 50% of the vote. As a result of redistricting, this area now runs from the conservative suburbs of Buffalo to the conservative suburbs of Rochester and huge swath of rural territory in between. Just to indicate the problems she faces, there are 142,000 registered Democrats in the district, 177,000 registered Republicans, 12,000 conservatives, and 22,000 independents. Even if she won all the independents, she would still lose the election.

That being said, Hochul and the Democratic Party is investing heavily in this race. Her GOP opponent, Chris Collins- a former Erie County Executive- in contrast is largely self-funded. Secondly, the only thing keeping Collins from being elected is the mouth of Chris Collins as he has a history of verbal gaffes, or really bad humor. For example, he once referred to a state legislator, Sheldon Silver who happens to be an Orthodox Jew, as being the Third Antichrist after Napoleon and Hitler. He once suggested that a woman could get a seat at the State of the State address in Albany for a lap dance. And recently, he has questioned the rates of deaths from breast and prostate cancer. True, he was making a point about better diagnosis and treatment, but Hochul jumped on those statements to make him appear insensitive to cancer patients. Perhaps, he subscribes to the Todd Akin school of campaigning.

The current New York delegation is 21-8 Democratic. When the dust settles after Election Day and despite the disarray within the Republican Party in New York and the controversy and ugliness of redistricting whose process cries for reform in the state, the final breakdown should be 19-8 which is not exactly what was expected to happen. It was complicated getting there and despite their own efforts at shooting themselves in their collective feet, but the GOP should actually come out of New York with two Democrats losing their seats on balance.

In conclusion: Both parties lose a seat in the House while Kirsten Gillibrand will be reelected to the Senate. Obama will take New York’s 29 electoral votes

Running totals thus far: Obama overtakes Romney in the electoral vote count 167-159. The count in the Senate is 34-26 in favor of the GOP. In the House, Republicans still control 140-123.

Next: Vermont