New York will host its Congressional primary on June 26th, and it promises a number of competitive contests. Two longtime New York City Democrats face serious primary opponents, challengers in key races will be chosen, and urban political machines will be tested. In perhaps the most watched race of the night, an open Democratic district will find out whether it's next Congressman will be one of the party's rising stars or a longtime supporter of the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
The June primary, the first held since a Federal court redrew the state's Congressional lines, will be a very low turnout affair. Primaries rarely attract big crowds but this one has the added disadvantage of being in June instead of the traditional date in September. (To make matters even more confusing, New York will still hold its legislative primaries in September). There is little early voting in New York, with voters only allowed to vote before Election Day if they won't be able to vote on Tuesday. Last minute events will thus have a larger impact here than in states where a significant portion of voters may have already cast their ballots. While some races will be essentially decided on Tuesday, November will feature a number of competitive races, as both parties look to defend seats that may decide who controls Congress next year.
What follows is a guide to New York's Congressional races. Because some of the most interesting races will be between members of the same party I've rated how competitive the race is on a five ★ scale instead of which party is favored (though I say that too).
A ★ race is not competitive at all, absent a huge gaffe or scandal.
A ★★ race has the potential to be competitive, but has one candidate who is heavily favored.
A ★★★ race is competitive, with at least two candidates having a reasonable chance to win, but one candidate is still the clear favorite.
A ★★★★ features a very competitive race. One candidate has the edge but faces at least one opponent who has a good chance to pull off an upset.
A ★★★★★ race is reserved for the most competitive races in the state. These are the elections where millions will be spent from both inside and outside the district, blood and tears will be spilled, and careers will be made or destroyed.
I don't have any mathematical or scientific formula for rating these races: they're based on my opinion of how competitive the race is. However, I look at all pre-primary fundraising reports as well as independent expenditures.
The candidate performances for the 2008 Presidential election and 2010 Attorney General and Comptroller races are provided for each district. The reason Attorney General and Comptroller numbers are used instead of Gubernatorial and Senate numbers is that I find them more informative. The Senate races were between strong Democrats and weak Republicans, while the Gubernatorial race was between a strong Democrat and a Republican who was weak in most of the state but extremely strong throughout Western New York. However, the Attorney General and Comptroller races were all between reasonably strong Democrats and Republicans: the Comptroller race should probably be seen as a worst case scenario for Democrats (Democrat Thomas DiNapoli defeated Republican Harry Wilson 51%-46%), while the Attorney General race is roughly how both parties should do under more neutral, though still somewhat GOP leaning, conditions. (Democrat Eric Schneiderman defeated Republican Dan Donovan 56%-43%).
As always, a huge thank you to David Nir and the rest of the Daily Kos Elections team for putting together this cheat sheet of the state. All information about partisan performances in each district, neighborhood/ city information, and what % of the district each incumbent currently represents is from it. For DKE's google map of New York's new districts, see here.
Now to the races!
New York's 1st Congressional District: Tim Bishop (Democrat, represents 97% of district), The Hamptons, Brookhaven, Smithtown.
President: Obama 51%, McCain 48%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 45%, Donovan 54%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 44%, Wilson 54%
Tim Bishop was one of the survivors of the 2010 Republican wave, defeating businessman Randy Altschuler by a narrow 593-vote margin. Altschuler is back for a rematch and this promises to be one of the most competitive races in the state from now until November. Once again, Altschuler will be well funded: while Bishop leads $1,374,000 to $759,000 in cash-on-hand Altschuler's personal wealth gives him the ability to outspend the incumbent. National Republicans are heavily supporting their candidate, with the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) adding him to their Young Gun program for top candidates and Karl Rove's American Crossroads organization launching ads against Bishop.
Both candidates have some advantages they did not have in 2010. Altschuler's biggest gain this year is the support of the Independence Party: last time, Bishop won over 7,000 votes on the Independence line, much more than his narrow margin of victory. Redistricting made the district slightly more Republican leaning, which could make the difference in another close race. Altschuler does not face any real primary opposition this time: his opponent George Demos recently dropped out of the race. Additionally, Altschuler seems to have learned some lessons from 2010: his lack of an absentee-ballot program likely cost him the seat last time, and he is determined not to make the same mistake again.
Bishop will likely benefit from running in a Presidential year: Democratic-leaning voters who did not show up in 2010 are more likely to this time, giving the incumbent a boost. Suffolk County's unemployment has also been steadily dropping which should help him. Bishop also has the endorsement of former Suffolk County GOP chair John Behan.
While the race will be hard fought, Bishop seems to have the edge going forward. He released a poll from late-March showing him defeating Altschuler 53%-36%. The GOP has yet to release a poll (to be fair, New York has some unique laws that prevent candidates from releasing their polling just for publicity). Democrats will once again spend the race attacking Altschuler over outsourcing; the Republicans will paint Bishop as too close to the Democratic leadership while portraying Altschuler as a moderate. Bishop may have the advantage, but millions of dollars will be spent before this race is decided.
New York's 2nd Congressional District: Peter King (Republican, represents 47% of district), Islip, Babylon, Massapequa.
President: Obama 51%, McCain 48%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 44%, Donovan 56%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 44%, Wilson 54%
Despite Peter King's District getting bluer, he only faces a little known, underfunded Democrat this year and should have no problem winning.
New York's 3rd Congressional District: Steve Israel (Democrat, represents 39% of district), Huntington, Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Great Neck.
President: Obama 54%, McCain 46%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 47%, Donovan 52%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 45%, Wilson 53%
As the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Steve Israel has a lot of races to worry about. Luckily, his is not one of them. He only faces token opposition for reelection.
New York's 4th Congressional District: Carolyn McCarthy (Democrat, represents 81% of district), Hempstead, Baldwin, Freeport, Five Towns.
President: Obama 55%, McCain 44%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 49%, Donovan 51%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 48%, Wilson 50%
Carolyn McCarthy has a relatively close reelection in 2010, defeating Nassau County legislator Fran Becker 54%-46%. Becker is running again in a slightly redder district but his chances don't look great. Becker's fundraising has been weak (only $17,000 on hand), and Presidential turnout should carry McCarthy to victory anyway. Becker faces a primary against lawyer Frank Scaturro, who he defeated 49%-37% in 2010. Scaturro actually has much more money than Becker, with $62,000 on hand; however, it looks very unlikely that he'll have the resources to challenge McCarthy. Because of McCarthy's fairly close call against Becker in 2010 she probably can't take this race for granted but it doesn't look like she'll have much to worry about.
New York's 5th Congressional District: Gregory Meeks (Democrat, represents 80% of district), Jamaica, Laurelton, The Rockaways, Valley Stream.
President: Obama 86%, McCain 14%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 82%, Donovan 16%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 82%, Wilson 17%
Meek's faces very weak primary opposition here, which is all he would need to worry about in this heavily Democratic district.
New York's 6th Congressional District: OPEN, Flushing, Bayside, Forest Hills, Middle Village.
President: Obama 63%, McCain 36%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 61%, Donovan 38%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 58%, Wilson 40%
This open seat in Queens offers a competitive primary between three Democratic office holders, with the winner all but assured a victory in November. Assemblymember Grace Meng, who would be New York's first Asian American member of Congress, looks like the clear favorite to win but not a shoo in. She boasts $345,000 on hand, the largest war chest of the campaign even after outspending all her opponents. The independent group Women Vote! has also spent $103,000 on her behalf. Meng is backed by numerous local Democrats including the Queens Democratic Party, Queens Democratic Party Chair and Congressman Joseph Crowley, retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman (though he only represents 38% of the new district), and a number of prominent Latino leaders including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Meng also enjoys the backing and financial support of EMILY's List, the United Federation of Teachers, The New York Times, the Queens Gazette, the Queens Tribune, El Diario, and the New York Post. (Though the Republican friendly Post probably won't be a huge help).
Fellow Assemblymember Rory Lancman is also in the hunt for this seat. Lancman, helped by a $100,000 personal loan, has $174,000 on hand and some prominent supporters. Lancman is backed by several unions, the Working Families Party, former Mayor Ed Koch, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Assemblymember Dov Hikind (a very conservative Democrat who is popular among many Orthodox Jews), The New York Daily News, the Queens Chronicle, the Labor Press, and the Jewish Press. Lancman is counting on a good showing from the district's Jewish population who are estimated to make up 20% of the primary vote. However, he could be hurt by the presence of another candidate with a Jewish-sounding name, underfunded doctor Robert Mittman. Lancman has accused Queens Democrats and Meng of deliberately running Jewish candidates to cut into his support (Mittman took the place of other Jewish candidates on the ballot).
The final prominent candidate in the race is City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, the cousin of Congressman Joe Crowley. Crowley only has $66,000 on hand but has some advantages that could give her a chance. Crowley, a union member who has held blue collar jobs in the past, has several labor endorsements and her background and family's popularity will help her appeal to the district's white working class population. Crowley also has the backing of the Queens Ledger. When she first announced the general consensus was that Crowley had little chance and may even have been a plant by Queens Democrats to split the white vote and help Meng; however, in recent weeks many have admitted Crowley is more formidable than they thought. Crowley recently got some unfavorable press coverage when it appeared she was checking her cell phone during a debate and possibly getting answers fed to her; phone records have since shown that Crowley was not doing this.
Meng is generally seen as the frontrunner: multiple polls reportedly show Meng with the lead and Crowley in second, with Lancman a distant third. The race has gotten heated, with Meng and Lancman attacking each other over absences in the legislature and over who deserves credit for the passage of the Millionaire's Tax. Lancman also recently attacked Meng and Crowley as weak on terrorism and on Israel. All the candidates are counting on their ethnic blocs coming out for them, though they have been working to appeal to others; Meng for instance is heavily emphasizing her support for Israel and has the backing of many local Jewish electeds. (Interestingly Crowley has avoided the issue, calling it a distraction). The candidates are also trying to appeal to the district's large Asian American population; while Meng should do very well among fellow Chinese Americans the Korean American vote is seen as much more up for grabs. Due to Meng's establishment support and superior fundraising she looks like the likely winner, but this race is unpredictable enough that an upset by Lancman or Crowley cannot be ruled out. The race will be determined by who can turn out their base in a low turnout primary and who can make inroads in their opponents strong areas. (For a great map of the district by race see here).
Interestingly, the GOP has an elected official to run in this heavily Democratic district. City Councilmember Dan Halloran, probably hoping that he can pull off an upset similar to the one Bob Turner pulled in last year's special election in the old 9th Congressional District, will be the GOP candidate. However, his chances aren't particularly good: the district is much more Democratic than the old NY-09, and Halloran has yet to report raising any money. Unless something very strange happens, the race will effectively be decided in the June 26th primary.
New York's 7th Congressional District: Nydia Velazquez (Democrat, represents 71% of district), Lower East Side, Sunset Park, Williamsburg, Bushwick.
President: Obama 84%, McCain 15%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 83%, Donovan 16%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 79%, Wilson 18%
After a career of easy reelections, Nydia Velazquez faces a credible primary challenge in this very Democratic district. Velazquez's rivalry with Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez has led City Councilmember Erik Dilan to enter the race with the backing of Lopez and a number of elected officials close to him. Unsurprisingly the race has gotten very negative; both candidates are criticizing the other as ineffective, and Dilan is seeking to portray Velazquez as insufficiently supportive of Israel in order to appeal to the district's Jewish population. Velazquez in turn is attacking Dilan as a puppet of Lopez.
In a low turnout primary Dilan's allies in the Brooklyn Democratic party could very well pull off an upset, but Velazquez appears to have the clear edge. She has far more money than Dilan ($614,000 on hand to Dilan's $101,000) and some very good endorsements. Velazquez is backed by President Obama, Senator Chuck Schumer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congressman Jerry Nadler (these three influential Jewish figures should help her push back on Israel related criticism), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the borough presidents of the Bronx and Brooklyn, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, El Diario, several other local papers, and a large number of unions. Dilan has some union support from the NYC District Council of Carpenters and construction trades, as well as the Jewish Press. Dilan recently got some negative headlines when Bushwick hospital's disgraced ex-CEO was revealed to be fundraising for him.
Two other candidates are running, but neither has any real chance of winning. (Although George Martinez has gotten some attention for being the first Occupy candidate to be on a Congressional ballot). If they have any effect it will probably be to split the anti-Velazquez vote. Ultimately, Velazquez looks like the strong favorite going into the primary; however, Dilan's Brooklyn Democratic Party supporters may be able to pull off a surprise.
Note: This post initially misidentified Lopez as being the leader of the Bronx Democratic Party. Thanks to brooklynbadboy for catching the mistake.
New York's 8th Congressional District: OPEN, East New York, Fort Greene, Coney Island, Canarsie, Bed-Stuy.
President: Obama 86%, McCain 14%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 82%, Donovan 14%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 82%, Wilson 16%
This heavily African American open Democratic seat pits a rising star against one of the most controversial figures in New York politics. Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, who was the subject of a glowing Washington Post article titled, "Brooklyn’s Barack Obama?" has the support of most of the state's Democratic Congressional members and the Working Families Party and was thought to be a shoo-in after incumbent Ed Towns dropped his reelection campaign. However, City Councilmember Charles Barron has emerged as a formidable challenger and looks like he may be able to rally his supporters to victory in a low turnout race. This prospect has alarmed local and national Democrats and it's not hard to see why. Barron is known for supporting some very unpopular causes, speaking very favorably of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, calling Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe his hero, and associating himself with prominent anti-Semitic figures. Barron has spoken out against white people, Jews, and gays among others, with such comments as "I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing’ and then slap him, just for my mental health," and "We are sick and tired of this country supporting dictators, supporting terrorists and then saying they have a homeland security office to stop terrorism. Well you want to stop terrorism? The biggest terrorist in the world is the government of Israel." In a normal election Barron would have no chance, but a number of factors are helping the councilmember make this a real race.
While Barron is reviled for his rhetoric among many, he is also beloved for his populism and advocacy for working families. The fear among his detractors is that in a low turnout primary Barron's supporters will be motivated to show up while the district stays home. Also working in Barron's favor is his support from a number of influential unions. Angered by Jeffries' support for charter schools, the powerful DC 37, DC 1707, and the labor giant AFSCME are backing Barron. The retiring Towns is also supporting Barron; the two are not close (Barron almost unseated Towns in 2006), but Towns likely sees his endorsement as revenge on Jeffries for challenging him and on national Democrats for costing him the top spot on the Congressional Oversight Panel.
A number of prominent Jewish politicians recently held a press conference to sound the alarm about Barron's anti-Semitic views and encourage the district's sizable Jewish population to vote. Local Jewish leaders are also focusing on turning out Russian speaking-Jewish voters who may not normally show up for a primary, and former Mayor Ed Koch has recorded ads for Jeffries aimed at Jewish voters. Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke probably made their job much easier when he gave Barron an unsolicited endorsement, stating, “In a race for Congress between an anti-Zionist black activist and a black activist who is a bought and paid for Zionist Uncle Tom, I’ll take the anti-Zionist any day.” Many local newspapers, including the New York Times, have endorsed Jeffries, both praising his record and warning their readers of Barron. National Democrats are afraid that a Congressman Barron would be a massive embarrassment for the party as long as he is in office. While President Obama has continued his tradition of not endorsing in open Democratic primaries, he went out of his way to give Jeffries a picture with himself and Bill Clinton. Jeffries is highlighting his accomplishments as well as his support for Israel, but is increasingly bringing up Barron's views. Barron has avoided his usual fiery rhetoric so far, focusing on the economy.
Jeffries is probably still the favorite. He leads Barron in cash $375,000 to $12,000, and there has been no outside spending. This race has also generated a good deal of media coverage, which may be enough to convince voters to turn out. David Duke's endorsement will also likely cost Barron votes. Still, the panic from prominent Democrats shows that a Barron upset cannot be ruled out. If Barron wins in June Jeffries may still have a shot to get to Washington; as the Working Families nominee he will still be on the ballot and Barron foes may try to get him elected. However, the best chance for Democrats to save themselves the embarrassment a Barron victory would bring is to stop him on June 26.
New York's 9th Congressional District: Yvette Clarke (Democrat, represents 76% of district), Park Slope, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Flatbush, Midwood.
President: Obama 84%, McCain 15%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 82%, Donovan 17%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 79%, Wilson 19%
Yvette Clarke faces little opposition here; her opponent, lawyer Sylvia Kinard has a small claim to fame as the ex-wife of 2009 Mayoral nominee Bill Thompson but has raised almost no money and doesn't have the endorsements to unseat Clarke.
New York's 10th Congressional District: Jerrold Nadler (Democrat, represents 69% of district), Upper West Side, Chelsea, Financial District, Borough Park.
President: Obama 76%, McCain 23%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 73%, Donovan 26%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 64%, Wilson 33%
Nadler has nothing to worry about as he runs for another term.
New York's 11th Congressional District: Mike Grimm (Republican, represents 88% of district), Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Gravesend.
President: Obama 48%, McCain 51%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 37%, Donovan 62%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 44%, Wilson 54%
Freshman Republican Mike Grimm's reelection in this Republican leaning district was complicated in January, when it was reported he had used extortion and other illegal tactics to raise money. The issue seemed to fade in recent months, but reports that the FBI is looking into Grimm are a reminder that the incumbent is not out of the woods at all.
Grimm's Democratic challenger is former Public Advocate aide Mark Murphy, the son of former Congressman John Murphy. Murphy has attacked Grimm on his votes for Paul Ryan's budget, charging him with trying to cut Medicaid and Medicare; Murphy is also on the offensive over Grimm's support for tax cuts for overseas companies and oil companies. Murphy has not had an easy campaign: he has often seemed to lack knowledge of the issues, with him recently being in the dark about the details of a local natural gas pipeline. Murphy's fundraising has also been underwhelming: he has only $177,000 on hand, probably not enough to run a competitive race on expensive New York TV. The fact that Murphy's father was defeated due to his involvement in the late 70s ABSCAM scandal could hurt his case against Grimm's ethics.
This race will probably be come down to whether or not there are significant developments in Grimm's case before the election. If there are not, the issue will probably fade from the headlines again and Grimm will be the heavy favorite. Grimm has a large war chest ($1,202,000 on hand), is seen as very telegenic, and has the advantage of running in a Republican leaning district where the local GOP is well organized. Grimm was embarrassed when he lost the Independence Party line due to a lack of signatures, but he still looks strong enough to defeat Murphy under neutral conditions. However, if more revelations about Grimm's scandals come out or Grimm is indicted, he is in real trouble.
New York's 12th Congressional District: Carolyn Maloney (Democrat, represents 77% of district), Upper East Side, East Village, Midtown, Astoria, Greenpoint.
President: Obama 80%, McCain 19%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 73%, Donovan 26%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 62%, Wilson 35%
Maloney will easily hold this district.
New York's 13th Congressional District: Charlie Rangel (Democrat, represents 73% of district), Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Norwood.
President: Obama 93%, McCain 6%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 90%, Donovan 7%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 87%, Wilson 10%
Charlie Rangel has not had the easiest few years. He lost his top position on the powerful Ways and Means Committee due to an investigation into his taxes, fundraising, and personal income. The House censured him at the end of 2010 due to these ethics problems, and he has suffered from poor health. Now he faces a competitive primary in a district that has been redrawn to include more Hispanic areas that may not support the African American incumbent against a Latino challenger. Still, Rangel looks like the favorite to win. He decisively won another term in 2010 when his scandal was still fresh in voters’ minds, and he has a number of powerful backers. In Rangel's corner are most major unions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, 2010 foe Adam Clayton Powell IV (whose father Rangel unseated to get to Congress), House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and a number of local electeds. Rangel is working to win over Hispanic voters in this now majority Latino district; he has several prominent Hispanic leaders like Congressman Jose Serrano on his side and has been playing up the little known fact that his father was Puerto Rican. Rangel also has $179,000 on hand, not a huge amount for an incumbent but more than his challengers; he is also being supported by the New York League of Conservation Voters, which has spent $21,000 on him.
Rangel faces two credible opponents. Dominican born state Senator Adriano Espaillat is the only Hispanic candidate running in a district with a 53% Hispanic voting age population and would be America's first Dominican-American Congressman. Espaillat is expected to run very well among fellow Dominican-Americans, but may have a harder time with other Hispanic groups due to Rangel's support in the community. Espaillat's state Senate district overlaps well with the district and Espaillat has some good endorsements; he has in his corner former Bronx Borough President and 2005 Mayoral nominee Freddy Ferrer, several local electeds, and some unions. Espaillat who has $73,000 on hand, is working to fight perceptions that he is only trying to appeal to Latinos.
The last prominent candidate in the race is Clyde Williams, a former DNC political director, Bill Clinton aide, and like Rangel an African American. Williams has $116,000 on hand and the backing of the New York Times and New York Daily News as well as the business SuperPAC Campaign For Our Future, which has spent $58,000 for him. Like Rangel, Williams is seeking to expand his appeal to Latino voters.
Two underfunded African American Democrats are running, but the real action is between Rangel, Espaillat, and Williams. For the most part Rangel's opponents aren't bringing up his ethics; instead they are attacking him over his declining effectiveness in Washington. Rangel and his allies have talked up the incumbent's continuing clout and ability to deliver for the district. Rangel looks like the clear favorite to win another term: his establishment support as well as ties to Latino voters should give him the edge, while his opponents split the anti-Rangel vote. Espaillat may have a shot if he can consolidate Latinos but Rangel looks strong enough with that group that this won't happen. Williams' path to victory looks the toughest: he would need to peal off enough African Americans and Latinos to get through, which looks possible but challenging. An upset is possible, but Rangel looks positioned to win another term, which may very well be his last.
New York's 14th Congressional District: Joe Crowley (Democrat, represents 63% of district), Jackson Heights, Woodside, Bronxdale, Morris Park.
President: Obama 76%, McCain 23%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 72%, Donovan 26%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 71%, Wilson 27%
Joe Crowley faces a test on primary day as he works to get his favored candidate Grace Meng nominated in the 6th District. But he has nothing to worry about in his own district.
New York's 15th Congressional District: Jose Serrano (Democrat, represents 84% of district), South Bronx, Morris Heights.
President: Obama 95%, McCain 5%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 93%, Donovan 5%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 92%, Wilson 6%
This is America's most Democratic district, and Jose Serrano will probably keep representing it as long as he likes.
New York's 16th Congressional District: Eliot Engel (Democrat, represents 50% of district), Yonkers, New Rochelle, Riverdale, Wakefield.
President: Obama 73%, McCain 26%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 66%, Donovan 33%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 61%, Wilson 37%
Eliot Engel has the distinction of being one of the members of the small and unofficial Congressional Facial Hair Caucus. He's also safe.
New York's 17th Congressional District: Nita Lowey (Democrat, represents 49% of district), White Plains, Ossining, Peekskill, Rockland County.
President: Obama 58%, McCain 41%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 54%, Donovan 45%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 49%, Wilson 49%
Nita Lowey has long been accustomed to easy races, but between redistricting adding more conservative areas and a well-financed Republican opponent she faces a much tougher race than usual. Rye Town Supervisor and hedge fund manager Joe Carvin exited the US Senate race for this one and dropped $1 million of his own money to compete here. However, Lowey narrowly leads in cash on hand $1,025,000 to $1,013,000. Carvin is competing in the primary with Jim Russell, the GOP's 2008 and 2010 nominee: Russell was disowned by the party after his writings calling for racial separation surfaced in 2010. Strange things can happen in low turnout primaries, but it looks unlikely that Russell will win the nomination again. Carvin is already focusing on Lowey, hammering her on spending and debt. Carvin and his millions give him a shot at an upset but Lowey is still heavily favored in this Democratic leaning district and it would be a big surprise if this district is on anyone's target list in the fall.
New York's 18th Congressional District: Nan Hayworth (Republican, represents 73% of district), Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Middletown.
President: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 47%, Donovan 52%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 43%, Wilson 54%
Freshman Nan Hayworth faces a very competitive race to keep her swing district, but Democrats must choose their nominee first. Of the five candidates running, attorney Sean Patrick Maloney and doctor Rich Becker look to be the only ones with a shot to win the primary. Maloney, a former aide to Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson and the highest level openly gay person to serve in the Clinton White House, is the pick of the Democratic establishment. Maloney is backed by a number of local Democratic committees, unions, the DCCC, New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, and former President Clinton. Maloney also has the largest war chest, with $375,000 on hand. Opponents have attempted to define Maloney as a carpetbagger but he looks like the clear favorite in the primary. The NRCC seems to have decided Maloney will be its foe here, blasting him as an insider and member of the establishment.
Becker is the clear underdog but has a few things going for him. He has $127,000 on hand, far less than Maloney but enough to compete. Becker also received the endorsement of the New York Times. Becker may also benefit from a recent incident where one of Hayworth's spokesmen, 2010 GOP Senate nominee Jay Townsend, unwisely called for throwing acid in the face of female Democrats. Becker was very vocal in criticizing Townsend, leading Hayworth's campaign to single him out for attack. Becker later took credit for Townsend's resignation; Becker may benefit from his high profile role here. Still, it would be a big upset if Becker were to win.
Three other candidates are in the race, but Wappingers Falls Mayor Matt Alexander and Tuxedo Park Mayor Tom Wilson have little money, few endorsements, and not many constituents. (Wappingers Falls has a population of 6,000 people, and Tuxedo Park has only 700.) The fifth candidate, Duane Jackson, has an interesting story: he was the vendor who helped thwart the attempted 2010 Times Square bombing. Still, he is unlikely to go far in the primary.
Hayworth unsurprisingly has a large $1,261,000 war chest waiting for the winner of the primary and she has the Independence Party's nod. She is also talking up her political independence and her support for Obama on some issues. However, Hayworth has made some strange decisions during her brief career that cast some doubt on her political instincts. After Hurricane Irene damaged her district last year she controversy joined in calls for budget cuts to offset cleanup costs, a move she later backed away from. She also stood by Townsend for days and initially defended his rhetoric rather than cut him loose to avoid further damage. These incidents will likely be long forgotten by November, but they highlight the fact that Hayworth, a first time candidate in 2010, may get herself into trouble again during the campaign.
New York's 19th Congressional District: Chris Gibson (Republican, represents 44% of district), Kingston, Hudson, Oneonta.
President: Obama 53%, McCain 45%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 47%, Donovan 51%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 41%, Wilson 55%
Freshman Chris Gibson saw his district cut up and made bluer by redistricting, and faces a credible Democrat. Former federal prosecutor Julian Schreibman has $257,000 on hand, the backing of the Democratic establishment, and has been added to the DCCC's Red to Blue list. He faces Dutchess County legislator Joel Tyner in the primary; Tyner has little money, few endorsements, and was just accused by his former campaign treasurer of misusing funds. Tyner denies the charges and stated that his treasurer sent him an “almost-naked photo of herself.” Needless to say, Tyner probably isn't going to win the primary.
Gibson starts out with $1,019,000 on hand and the Independence Party's line. Gibson has already begun portraying himself as a moderate and a pragmatist unafraid to break with the GOP leadership. Schreibman is painting Gibson as a Tea Party extremist and has attacked him for opposing programs to help veterans, farmers, seniors, and college students and for voting against Planned Parenthood. Schreibman is also portraying himself as a victim's rights advocate. Due to the swingy nature of the district the race starts as a tossup, but Gibbson has a reputation as a vigorous campaigner, which should be helpful as he works to introduce himself to his new district. So far, Schreibman has not appeared particularly energetic on the campaign trail, something he may need to work on.
New York's 20th Congressional District: Paul Tonko (Democrat, represents 83% of district), Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs.
President: Obama 58%, McCain 40%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 52%, Donovan 46%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 45%, Wilson 52%
Tonko faces an underfunded Republican in a Democratic-leaning district and should easily win in November.
New York's 21st Congressional District: Bill Owens (Democrat, represents 62% of district), Plattsburgh, Watertown, Glens Falls.
President: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 45%, Donovan 54%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 38%, Wilson 58%
Bill Owens narrowly survived the 2010 GOP wave, defeating businessman Matt Doheny 48%-46% in this ancestrally Republican district. Doheny is back for another round and this time he has the backing of the Conservative Party (the party's nominee Doug Hoffman remained on the ballot in 2010 after dropping out and won 6% of the vote, likely saving Owens) as well as the Independence Party. Doheny faces only minimal opposition in the primary and has begun targeting Owens on healthcare reform. The NRCC has also targeted Owens, stating he opposed plans to stop cuts at the local military base Fort Drum. Owens has talked up his independence and is trying to emphasize his distance from national Democrats by refusing to attend the Democratic National Convention. Both candidates are well funded: Owens leads $753,000 to $483,000 in cash on hand, but Doheny will likely spend millions of his own money.
Both candidates have attracted negative headlines. Doheny was recorded kissing a woman who was not his fiancé in March; he claims it was an old friend he was joking around with, and his fiancé put out a statement condemning the media. The issue seems to have dissipated, though the DCCC tried attacking Doheny over it later. Owens' was criticized in May for taking a trip to Taiwan involving lobbyists; he reimbursed the $22,000 cost of the trip after the news broke. So far neither Owens nor Doheny looks like they have the advantage, and the race will likely be close all the way until November.
New York's 22nd Congressional District: Richard Hanna (Republican, represents 57% of district), Utica, Binghamton.
President: Obama 49%, McCain 49%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 45%, Donovan 53%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 36%, Wilson 59%
Freshman Richard Hanna looks like the heavy favorite to defeat his primary and general election challengers. Hanna has a reputation as a moderate: he was rated by the American Conservative Union as the least conservative Republican in the House, and he was denied the Conservative Party's support over his ideology. Hanna, who famously encouraged women to donate to Democrats, would probably be in real danger if he faced a credible primary challenger. Luckily for him, his opponent is Tea Partier Michael Kicinski. Kicinski was denied the Conservative Party's line after the party expressed concerns about his lack of organization, fundraising and experience. The Conservatives seem to be right about him: Kicinski has not reported raising any funds and no outside money is being spent on his behalf. Kicinski does have the endorsement of New York State Right to Life, 2010 GOP Gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino, and Doug Hoffman, who was briefly a national conservative star during his campaign as the Conservative Party candidate for the old NY-23 in 2009. While he may well do better than expected in the primary, Kicinski doesn't look like he is organized enough to have any real chance of knocking off Hanna.
Waiting in the general election is Dan Lamb, who served as a staffer to retiring Congressman Maurice Hinchey (Hinchey currently represents 23% of this district). Lamb is on the DCCC's emerging races list but doesn't look like he'll have a good shot at winning here. Lamb's fundraising has been weak, with him only having $60,000 on hand to Hanna's $357,000 (and Hanna having the ability to self fund). Lamb also lost the Working Families Party nomination due to a paperwork error. Lamb's chances would increase if his fundraising picks up (or if Kicinski pulls off a massive upset), but for now it looks like Hanna will easily return to Congress for another term.
New York's 23rd Congressional District: Tom Reed (Republican, represents 54% of district), Jamestown, Ithaca, Elmira, Geneva.
President: Obama 50%, McCain 49%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 44%, Donovan 55%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 36%, Wilson 59%
Freshman Tom Reed's district was made more Democratic, but he still looks like the heavy favorite to win another term. Three Democrats are competing here: Tompkins County legislature Nate Shinagawa (who, like Grace Meng in NY-06, would be the state's first Asian American member of Congress), lawyer Leslie Danks Burke, and attorney Melissa Dobson. Shinagawa and Burke are the only candidates Democratic candidates to report raising money; Shinagawa has $57,000 on hand to Burke's $88,000. Shinagawa has the backing of a number of county Democratic parties, the Working Families Party line, and the New York State Union of Teachers; Burke has some local electeds on her side. Shinagawa looks like the favorite to win the primary but Burke may have a shot in this pretty low-energy affair.
Reed's campaign suffered a blow when he lost the Independence Party's line due to a lack of signatures. If the race gets close this could matter but right now Reed looks to be in the drivers seat: he is running in an ancestrally Republican area, has $691,000 on hand, and none of his opponents look strong enough to beat him. This race may be worth keeping an eye on but it looks hard to see Reed losing.
New York's 24th Congressional District: Ann Marie Buerkle (Republican, represents 80% of district), Syracuse, Oswego, Auburn.
President: Obama 56%, McCain 40%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 50%, Donovan 49%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 40%, Wilson 55%
Ann Marie Buerkle was one of the surprise winners of 2010, unseating Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei by 648 votes. The two will face off again, as Maffei tries to get the seat back. Each candidate has a large war chest, with Buerkle narrowly leading in cash on hand $695,000 to $670,000. Both parties are expected to focus heavily here: DCCC chair Steve Israel identified it as a bellwether district Democrats need to win, while Buerkle has received fundraising help from Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The US Chamber of Commerce is also getting involved, airing adds for Buerkle; the pro-choice group NARAL plans to help Maffei. Unlike several Republican freshman in the state Buerkle is not backing away from her conservative views, instead talking up her opposition to Planned Parenthood and healthcare reform. Maffei is emphasizing her vote for the Paul Ryan budget, calling it an attack on Medicare.
If Obama carries the district by a similar margin as he did in 2008 than Maffei is very likely to return to Congress. However, the district is closely divided enough that neither candidate looks like the favorite this far from election day. An April GOP poll showed Buerkle ahead 42%-38% and no other polls have been publicly released yet. With both parties seeing this as a critical seat, this race should be hard fought until November.
New York's 25th Congressional District: Louise Slaughter (Democrat, represents 38% of district), Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton.
President: Obama 59%, McCain 40%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 53%, Donovan 46%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 42%, Wilson 54%
Longtime Democratic incumbent Louise Slaughter has long been reelected easily, but the combination of redistricting and a credible Republican foe puts her in danger. Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks has attracted the GOP's attention, with her being named a Young Gun by the NRCC; she also has the backing of the Independence Party. Brooks has easily won reelection in Democratic-leaning Monroe County, the only county in the district. She has also been competitive in fundraising, though Slaughter maintains a $689,000 to $368,000 cash lead. So far Brooks has avoided criticizing Slaughter, instead focusing on Monroe County's financial success. Slaughter was sidelined for months by a broken leg, leading to questions about her health and ability to continue representing the district.
For now, Slaughter looks like the favorite due to her strengths and the weaknesses about Brooks that have emerged. While Slaughter does not represent most of the district she is still well known from local TV. Slaughter also won a high profile victory earlier this year when Congress passed her STOCK Act, which bans Congressional insider trading: President Obama singled Slaughter out for praise. Brooks has also had a shaky start to her campaign: she was criticized for ducking questions about federal issues. Brooks has since reversed course and come out against the GOP leadership's stance on the Violence Against Women Act. The state Comptroller's office may have dealt Brooks' campaign a critical blow when it revealed that Monroe County had used a shadow entity for the last thirty years to cover up daily operating expenses, saddling the taxpayer with $33 million. If Brooks improves as a candidate and the Comptroller's audit doesn't lead to more negative headlines this race will probably get closer, but Slaughter looks like she has the advantage.
New York's 26th Congressional District: Brian Higgins (Democrat, represents 42% of the district), Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda.
President: Obama 63%, McCain 35%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 55%, Donovan 44%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 46%, Wilson 49%
Brian Higgins looks set for another term in this Democratic leaning district.
New York's 27th Congressional District: Kathy Hochul (Democrat, represents 53% of district), Clarence, Lockport, Batavia, Canandaigua.
President: Obama 44%, McCain 54%
Attorney General: Schneiderman 38%, Donovan 61%
Comptroller: DiNapoli 29%, Wilson 66%
Kathy Hochul pulled off an upset to win this conservative district in a 2011 special election. She must do so again after redistricting made her district even redder. Two Republicans are running here: former Erie County Executive Chris Collins and Iraq War veteran David Bellavia. Collins has the Conservative Party line and easily leads Bellavia in cash on hand $176,000 to $44,000. However, Bellavia has the backing of a number of rural GOP county parties; the other county GOPs, including Collins' own, have remaining neutral. Many of these local Republican leaders are angry at Collins for his role in Jane Corwin's 2011 campaign (Corwin lost to Hochul) and are taking the embarrassing loss out on him. Bellavia also has the backing of local state Senator George Maziarz and New York State Right to Life.
Bellavia has attacked Collins for briefly being a member of Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Collins claims he left when he found out what the group was), and has accused Collins of accepting $75 million in stimulus funds. Collins also received some bad press when a former aide to a local GOP state Senator claimed that she was fired for supporting Bellavia and coerced into collecting petitions for Collins. For his part, Collins has ignored Bellavia, focusing instead of Hochul. This is despite there being some pretty damaging stuff on Bellavia out there: Bellavia briefly ran as an independent against Corwin in the special election, fell behind on property taxes for years, and founded a charity to help wounded veterans that ultimately did very little. Bellavia looks like he may have a chance for an upset but his weak fundraising (he only raised $15,000 in the months leading up to the primary) seem to indicate that there isn't a grass roots uprising against Collins. While strange things can happen in a low turnout race, Collins should win his primary.
Hochul, long recognizing her vulnerability, has frequently bucked her party in Congress and has stated she won't attend the Democratic National Convention. This has not stopped Collins from tying her to President Obama. Hochul has $883,000 saved up for a tough fight, but Collins is worth over $100 million dollars and will likely spend heavily. Hochul starts out at a disadvantage in a very red district, but is well liked personally throughout the area and has demonstrated she is capable of winning a tough race, and she should not be counted out yet.
Polls close in New York State at 9:00 PM Eastern on Tuesday, June 26.
Disagree with my ratings? Did I make a mistake? Did I leave something important out? Let me know in the comments!