While we wait for the final results from election night to trickle in and to know if the House of Representatives will have a Republican majority, we do know there was no national red wave notwithstanding President Joe Biden’s historically low approval ratings and a lot of hand-wringing about “saving democracy.” Here in New York State, however, the political landscape is changing despite Kathy Hochul heading back to Albany. Many New Yorkers, especially those voting Republican for the first time in response to inflation, crime and education concerns are disappointed, but there is reason to hope.
Lee Zeldin won a supermajority of counties and Hochul eked out a victory despite every county in New York State seeing a decrease in the Democratic margin of victory. The change favored Republicans by an average of 14 points. Hochul definitely did not excite New York’s Democratic base–turnout was extremely low. Only 5.7 million voters showed up, down from 8.5 million two years ago.
New York will be sending more Republicans to Albany and D.C. as a result of the voters who did show up on election day. Mike Lawler defeated the DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney by talking about what matters to voters in his district. And Republican Marc Molinaro will take the new Democratic Lt. Governor’s old seat in NY-19. Long Island will send four Republicans to D.C.. If the House turns red, it will be in large part due to the number of Republicans in the New York State Delegation.
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, serving since 2015 said “Make no mistake: New Yorkers flipped the House. Last night New York Republicans saved America by ending failed one-party Democrat rule in Washington. For months, I promised that New York would be where Republicans would earn back the House majority and that’s exactly what happened last night.” And Howard Wolfson, a leading national Democratic strategist, told the New York Times, “It was a terrible night in New York. It’s infuriating that a night as good as it was for Democrats overall is undone by arrogance and incompetence here.”
Here in NYC there were pick-ups and signs of Republican strength as well. Staten Island’s District 63 is sending long-time education advocate Sam Pirozzolo to Albany replacing a Democratic lawmaker. On election night, Brooklyn’s Republican Senate candidate Vito LaBella, another prominent education advocate, was just 215 votes shy of a heavily endorsed and promoted Democratic candidate Iwen Chu in Senate District 17. Republican Michael Novakhov beat longtime Democrat Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in AD45.
New York City’s Asian voters told Democrats in unmistakable numbers that their failures on crime and education mean that the growing Asian communities are fast becoming reliably red. They also scored some upsets. Lester Chang, a Republican defeated Brooklyn incumbent Democrat Peter Abbate, a 36-year veteran of the Assembly in AD49, by focusing on public safety and education.
Zeldin beat Hochul in the majority Chinese 47th and 49th Assembly Districts in Brooklyn, the 40th Assembly District which is a mixed Chinese and Korean district, and the newly created 17th State Senate District designed to be majority Asian. None of these results are surprising given Republican Curtis Sliwa’s strong showing last year in the Mayoral race among Asian voters in these communities.
For those New Yorkers impatient for change, election 2022 was a mixed bag. Albany remains firmly in the hands of Democrats–for now. Which means we will have to fight many of our own lawmakers to try to make our streets and subways safer. We will have an education system run by unions that will continue to dismiss or ignore the concerns of parents–unless they align with the unions. And the economy will have to withstand the pressure of a fleeing tax base and out-of-control spending while everything gets more expensive. But the shifting dynamics in New York favor Republicans who, with the right candidates, can challenge Democrats in districts where just a few years ago Republicans did not put anyone on the ballot.
There are many elections on the horizon. Next year we have City Council elections again and the following year is a Presidential election which will drive turnout for down ballot races. The Republican victories and near-victories this year means that there will be more and more competitive general elections and that is good for New Yorkers–and good for Democracy. The politicians we elect should have to answer to the widest cross section of constituents possible and competitive general elections, where Democrats and Republicans compete, is the best way to guarantee that they are listening to all New Yorkers.
Maud Maron is an attorney and former Democratic Congressional Candidate in NYC.
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