Democrats retain key House seat in New York special election as Pat Ryan wins

Democrat Pat Ryan won the special election for the U.S. House seat in New York’s 19th District on Tuesday after he was freed by Democrat Antonio Delgado, according to the AP.

Why is this important: The result is an upheaval for Republicans, who were seen as slight favorites to overturn the seat. It’s also validation of the Democrats’ strategy of hammering home the abortion issue in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

  • The race was seen as a key test for both parties’ messaging strategies, with Ryan focusing on abortion and Republican Marc Molinaro hammering inflation and crime, as Previously reported Axios.

The context: The Hudson Valley-based 19th District has been a staple of recent Democratic majorities. Delgado, who stepped down in May to serve as lieutenant governor of New York, won it by 11 points in 2020, while Biden won it by 2 points.

  • The two national parties invested in racinghoping a win there would spark an explosion of excitement in November.
  • Ryan framed the race as an abortion referendum after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, while Molinaro stuck to GOP talking points on inflation and crime.
  • Ryan and Molinaro, both electorally proven county executives with cross-party appeal, were roughly even in fundraising.

The context: Ryan, an Iraqi veteran and former business owner, previously ran for the seat in 2018, narrowly losing to Delgado in the primary.

  • The following year he won the county leadership election for Ulster – the district’s population center – in a landslide.

What we are looking at: Ryan walked away from the progressive label in an interview with Axios last month, noting that he “increased funding for … law enforcement” as county executive.

  • “I characterize myself as someone who is trying to level out some of the fundamental inequalities that we have allowed to build in our country,” he said. “Whatever label we want to apply to this, I think it’s more about actually getting those results.”
  • Yet he has also positioned himself as a strong advocate for major judicial and political reforms, indicating an openness to expanding the Supreme Court and removing the filibuster.
  • In addition to abortion, he has made gun control and voting rights key campaign issues.

What they say : Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) said Ryan’s victory “sends a clear message that voters are standing up against Republicans’ extreme attacks on abortion rights. and their fundamental freedoms”.

The other side: Michael McAdams, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Axios: “Majorities are won in November, not August. We look forward to pursuing the case against the Democrats’ failed one-party rule that has made things worse for American families.

  • Molinaro did not concede the election in a speech Tuesday night, telling his supporters, ‘spend the night with us waiting for every vote to come in […] we’re going to make sure every voice is heard and every vote is counted.”
  • “We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “Whether it’s tonight or November 8, we’re going to win the 19th congressional district.”

And after: Molinaro’s run in November will not be against Ryan, who is the candidate in a neighboring district being released by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.).

  • Ryan is expected to face Republican Congressman Colin Schmitt, while Molinaro will face Democratic attorney Josh Riley.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comments from the NRCC.

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