In late April, New York was all set to hold its primary election as scheduled on June 28 when word came down from the New York Court of Appeals: The state’s Democratic-drawn congressional map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and would have to be redrawn.
The move threw both the calendar and campaigns into chaos. The need for more time to draw a new map led to the postponement of New York’s primaries for Congress1 to Aug. 23 — this Tuesday. And the new map has radically changed the configuration of several districts, separating many incumbents from their geographic base and setting off a game of electoral musical chairs. As a result, at least one incumbent, and possibly as many as five, will lose their primaries.
In addition, there’s the usual menagerie of competitive primaries for rare open seats, plus two special elections that will continue to shed light on whether the national political environment has shifted toward Democrats in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. So without further ado, here are all the races you should be watching in New York this week.
Races to watch: 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd congressional districts
Polls close: 9 p.m. Eastern
The reason we know at least one incumbent will lose their primary? Two of them are running against each other in the Democratic primary for New York’s 12th District. Rep. Jerrold Nadler has represented the Upper West Side of Manhattan for 30 years, while Rep. Carolyn Maloney has represented the Upper East Side for virtually the same amount of time.2 But this year, the two neighborhoods were (quite controversially) drawn into the same seat.
On paper, Maloney should be the favorite: She has outraised Nadler $4.0 million to $1.9 million, and 61 percent of the new district’s residents were also in her old district (the remaining 39 percent were in Nadler’s). However, not everyone in Maloney’s old district loves her; in 2020, she barely survived a primary challenge from attorney Suraj Patel. Though redistricting removed the most pro-Patel parts of Maloney’s old district (Queens and Brooklyn), Maloney defeated Patel only 50 percent to 37 percent in the Manhattan portion of the district in 2020. And much to Maloney’s chagrin, Patel is running here again in 2022, and he’s raised a serious amount of money too ($1.3 million).
Ideology hasn’t been a major dividing line in the race, though. All three candidates support liberal policies, and both Nadler and Maloney have snagged major progressive endorsements: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Working Families Party for Nadler, Gloria Steinem for Maloney. Instead, they’ve been campaigning more on identity. In a district with a significant Jewish population, Nadler has emphasized that he is the last Jewish person representing New York City in the House. Maloney, who shattered multiple glass ceilings early in her career, has argued that the Dobbs decision has made it especially important to send a woman to Congress. And the 38-year-old Patel is running against the two septuagenarians on an implicit message of generational change.
But in the campaign’s closing days, Nadler has started to break out of the pack. In early August, Maloney had to apologize after her opponents pounced on her for a debate answer in which she said she didn’t think President Biden would run for reelection. Nadler also picked up two potentially meaningful endorsements: one from The New York Times, the other from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The most recent polling (fielded Aug. 12-17 by Emerson College) now gives Nadler 43 percent support, Maloney 24 percent and Patel 14 percent.
Redistricting could also cost Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones his seat — but, in a twist, because he tried to avoid a member-versus-member primary. When New York’s new congressional map was finalized, Jones’s neighbor, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (no relation to Carolyn), got drawn out of his 18th District into Jones’s 17th District. Despite the fact that 74 percent of Maloney’s constituents remained in the 18th, Maloney quickly announced he would run for reelection in the (bluer) 17th — without, Jones said, giving him a heads-up.
That left Jones, a progressive rising star and one of the two first openly gay Black members of Congress, with only bad choices about where to run for reelection. Ultimately, he made the surprising decision to move an hour’s drive south and run in the deep-blue 10th District in the heart of New York City — a seat with zero overlap with his political base.
Problem is, lots of ambitious local politicians have also had their eye on this (previously) open seat. For instance, state Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has eaten into Jones’s progressive support, sporting endorsements from the Working Families Party and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. New York City Council member Carlina Rivera is also running with the support of influential local leaders, one of the state’s most powerful unions and several Hispanic groups, one of which is spending $500,000 on her behalf. Meanwhile, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who at the time of her election in 1972 was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress,now held by fellow New Yorker Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.">3 is seeking a comeback after 42 years away from Washington. State Assembly member Jo Anne Simon could also be boosted by the fact that she’s the only candidate who currently holds office on the Brooklyn side of the district. And even former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio briefly ran for the seat, although he dropped out in July due to lack of support.
However, the home stretch of the campaign has been defined by yet another candidate: former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who served as the lead Democratic counsel for then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. Goldman has already used his personal wealth (he is an heir to the Levi Strauss jeans fortune) to raise $3.4 million for his campaign in the span of just two months (Jones, at $3.6 million, was the only other candidate to raise more than $640,000). And after spending at least $2.8 million on TV ads, Goldman appears to have jumped out to a small lead: An Emerson College poll conducted Aug. 10-13 put Goldman at 22 percent support, Niou at 17 percent, Jones at 13 percent, Rivera at 13 percent, Simon at 6 percent and Holtzman at 4 percent. On Aug. 13, Goldman also snagged the coveted endorsement of The New York Times, likely tipping even more voters in his direction.
Back in the 17th District, though, Sean Patrick Maloney may not get off scot-free. Many progressives resented Maloney’s strong-arming of Jones, and one of them, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, decided to run against him. Biaggi has experience unseating powerful incumbents — in 2018, she defeated a former leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democratic state senators who formed a governing coalition with Republicans — and progressives like the Working Families Party and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are solidly in her corner.
By contrast, Maloney started his House career as a moderate, but he has sounded more liberal lately. He is, however, an establishment Democrat through and through: He chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and former President Bill Clinton (who lives in the newly drawn district) has endorsed him. Those connections have helped Maloney handily outraise Biaggi, $4.0 million to $807,000. Additionally, any disadvantage Maloney has from representing only 25 percent of the new district’s residents is nullified by the fact that Biaggi’s Senate district does not overlap at all with the new 17th.
Unsurprisingly, then, both campaigns released internal polls in July giving Maloney the lead — though of course, they disagreed on its size. Averaging the two gives Maloney 43 percent and Biaggi 20 percent; however, 38 percent of voters were still undecided.
Given his access to money and his more moderate reputation, Maloney would likely be Democrats’ stronger candidate here in the fall. And with a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean4 of D+7, this district could be vulnerable in a pro-Republican midterm environment. For their part, the GOP has a five-way primary for the seat, with state Assembly member Michael Lawler the apparent front-runner. He has raised $519,000, more than twice the (mostly self-funded) total of his closest opponent, Somers Council member William Faulkner.
The final incumbent in potential danger on Tuesday is Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th District. A member of “the Squad,” a group of progressive lawmakers of color, Bowman successfully primaried then-Rep. Eliot Engel from the left two years ago. But as such, Bowman still has enemies within the party, and he faces two nontrivial challengers: Westchester County legislators Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker. Gashi boasts Engel’s endorsement and has outraised Parker $838,000 to $374,000, so he looks like the more serious threat to Bowman. However, the split in the anti-progressive vote will likely redound to the incumbent’s already-considerable advantage. His endorsements run the gamut from Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, and he has raised more money ($1.6 million) than Gashi and Parker combined.
Next up are the several districts whose incumbents simply aren’t running for reelection, opening the door to primary scrums. Take the 1st District, a Long Island seat from which Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is retiring to run for governor. The Suffolk County Republican Party’s executive committee unanimously endorsed Nick LaLota, the chief of staff of the county legislature, in the Republican primary back in February, but then cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond jumped into the race in May. Since then, Bond has raised $1.1 million (including more than $800,000 of her own money), more than twice LaLota’s total (almost $485,000). Super PACs — including a pro-cryptocurrency group funded by Bond’s boyfriend! — have also spent more than $1 million to help Bond win.
The campaign has devolved into a series of attacks over both candidates’ past work for Democrats and weak ties to the district (LaLota lives outside its boundaries; Bond just moved there this year). But while both candidates have tied themselves to Trump, the extreme pro-Trump group Long Island Loud Majority is in Bond’s corner. That may prove damaging, however, if she advances to the general election against presumptive Democratic nominee Bridget Fleming, given that this R+5 seat is expected to be competitive this year.
A similar battle between Trumpy and Trumpier is unfolding in another open Republican primary on the opposite end of the state: in the 23rd District, outside Buffalo. New York GOP Chair Nick Langworthy and real-estate developer Carl Paladino used to be political allies, but now they are competing against each other for the right to succeed Rep. Chris Jacobs in this safe-red (R+23) seat. And the primary has gotten nasty, with the candidates throwing around epithets like “Cowardly Carl” and “Lying Langworthy.”
A Trump supporter since early 2016, Langworthy has hugged Trump closely in his campaign — perhaps a little too closely, as Paladino has accused Langworthy of misleading voters into thinking Trump has endorsed him. (The former president has not weighed in.) But in many ways, Paladino is the OG Trump: He ran a grievance-fueled campaign for governor in 2010 in which he made sexist and homophobic comments and threatened reporters; in 2017, he was removed from the Buffalo school board after making racist comments about Michelle Obama. And in this campaign, he has the support of pro-Trump House members like Reps. Elise Stefanik and Matt Gaetz.
Paladino has also outraised Langworthy $1.5 million to $370,000, but almost all of Paladino’s haul came from his own bank account, while almost all of Langworthy’s is from individual donors, generally a better sign of public support. A pro-Langworthy super PAC has also helped close the spending gap with more than $1 million in spending. As a result, a poll from early August put Langworthy at 39 percent and Paladino at 37 percent. A note of caution, though: While the poll itself was not sponsored by any interest group, the person who spearheaded the poll, Barry Zeplowitz, has given money to Langworthy’s campaign and worked for Langworthy previously.
By contrast, the seat that Republican Rep. John Katko is retiring from — the new 22nd District — leans Democratic by 2 percentage points, so the GOP primary to replace him has seen a lot less red meat. Former New York GOP Treasurer Steve Wells is the front-runner there, and he has avoided talking about Trump on the stump — sometimes to the frustration of voters. That may leave an opening for Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has embraced the former president (but not his lies that the 2020 election was stolen). Wells has outraised Williams $691,000 to $214,000, but the race appears close enough that the cavalry has intervened: The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House GOP leadership, swooped in last week with an almost $300,000 TV-ad buy to help Wells lock down the nomination.
Either Wells or Williams will be in for a tough race this fall against whoever emerges from the Democratic primary here. Four Democrats are in the running, but the clear front-runner is Navy reservist Francis Conole, who has outraised his nearest opponent $1.1 million to $133,000.
Democrats have a couple open seats of their own. Rep. Tom Suozzi left the 3rd District behind to run (unsuccessfully) for governor, and the Democratic primary to replace him sports four serious candidates. The centrist Suozzi has endorsed Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who is also Democrats’ top fundraiser in this race, with $1.6 million. Lafazan has said he, like Suozzi, would join the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress, but his opponents have attacked him for being too bipartisan, having once accepted the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York and supported making police officers a protected class.
Hoping to capitalize is Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman, who is close behind with $1.4 million raised. Zimmerman, with endorsements from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several current and past members of the New York congressional delegation, is the clear establishment pick and has more liberal views. However, the race’s true progressive is community organizer Melanie D’Arrigo, who attempted to primary Suozzi in 2020 and, this time, boasts endorsements from Our Revolution and Indivisible. However, she has raised less than $392,000. Former Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, another centrist, is the last serious contender: He’s raised almost $644,000 and has the support of the well-organized Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ.
There’s no independent polling of the primary, but a July internal poll from Zimmerman’s campaign gave him 17 percent, Kaiman 13 percent, D’Arrigo 12 percent and Lafazan 10 percent. Once you factor in the fact that internal polls tend to overstate their sponsors, that’s consistent with a four-way toss-up. But the candidates should get used to that: Whoever wins the Democratic nod will be thrown into a highly competitive general election. While the FiveThirtyEight forecast currently says Lafazan would be ever-so-slightly favored to beat presumptive GOP nominee George Santos, a more liberal candidate may be an underdog.
Next door in the 4th District, Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice is also retiring, and the Democratic primary will probably decide who succeeds her in the House (though, with a D+10 partisan lean, the seat isn’t totally safe). On paper, the front-runner is former Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, a self-described “moderate to conservative Democrat” who has raised $630,500. However, some observers think New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs is putting a thumb on the scale for Malverne Village Mayor Keith Corbett, who has raised a respectable $414,000. Despite Gillen’s moderation, Jacobs has claimed that Corbett is more electable than she is. (After Gillen allegedly told him serving in Congress has been a dream of hers since she was a little girl, Jacobs replied, “I’m not here to help people with their dreams. I’m here to elect Democrats.”) Gillen’s internal polls say she has nothing to worry about, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this race just the same.
Finally, New York will hold special general elections to fill two vacant seats in the House. By far the one that has gotten the most attention is in the 19th District, which became vacant after Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado resigned to become lieutenant governor. Now, Republicans believe they have an excellent chance to flip this R+4 seat. The National Republican Campaign Committee has spent $1.2 million attacking the Democratic candidate, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, with ads like this one focused on public safety. Meanwhile, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is a GOP rising star who still garners name recognition for his unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial campaign, when he carried this district by 11 percentage points.
All we have to go off here are internal polls, but we can triangulate that Molinaro is probably a slight favorite. In late July, a poll commissioned by a pro-Molinaro group found the Republican ahead 50 percent to 40 percent. But then, in early August, a DCCC poll put Molinaro at 46 percent and Ryan at 43 percent. Since each of those polls is probably a bit biased toward their side, we can guesstimate that Molinaro’s real lead is in the mid-single digits.
However, there is actually a chance that both Molinaro and Ryan are in Congress next year. That’s because this special election is for the old, pre-redistricting 19th District — but the new congressional map that takes effect for November’s election carves that district up. Ryan is seeking a full term in the new 18th District, the district Sean Patrick Maloney left behind. (That means Ryan is running in a Democratic primary in a different district at the same time he is competing in this special election. However, he shouldn’t have much trouble defeating his two underfunded opponents, CNN contributor Aisha Mills and financial adviser Moses Mugulusi.)
Meanwhile, Molinaro is seeking a full term in the new 19th District, where he is unopposed in the Republican primary, but in this district, there is a primary to watch on the Democratic side. Attorney Josh Riley has raised the most cash overall ($1.4 million), but business owner Jamie Cheney has raised more than $631,000 in just three months of campaigning — a faster rate of fundraising.
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Tuesday’s other special election is in the old 23rd District, from which Republican Rep. Tom Reed resigned in May in order to take a job at a lobbying firm. (That said, Reed was already not running for reelection in light of allegations that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward a lobbyist.) Given the seat’s R+15 partisan lean, Steuben County Republican Party Chair Joe Sempolinski is the odds-on favorite to defeat Tioga County Democratic Committee Chair Max Della Pia (however, because Sempolinski is not running in the regularly scheduled primary, he would serve in Congress for only a few months).
We’re still watching the margin, though, because of what it could say about the national political environment. When one party consistently does better in special elections than the partisan lean of districts would suggest, it has historically been a good sign for that party in the upcoming midterms. And while special elections overall since Biden’s inauguration haven’t advantaged one party over the other, things may have shifted since the Dobbs decision in late June. Democrats outperformed their partisan baseline in the two special elections following the decision. The margin in Nebraska’s 1st District was 12 points better for Democrats than partisan lean would have predicted, and the margin in Minnesota’s 1st was 11 points better.
|Date||Seat||Partisan Lean||Vote Margin||Margin Swing|
|March 20, 2021||Louisiana 2nd*||D+51||D+66||D+15|
|March 20, 2021||Louisiana 5th*||R+31||R+45||R+13|
|May 1, 2021||Texas 6th*||R+11||R+25||R+14|
|June 1, 2021||New Mexico 1st||D+18||D+25||D+7|
|Nov. 2, 2021||Ohio 11th||D+57||D+58||EVEN|
|Nov. 2, 2021||Ohio 15th||R+19||R+17||D+2|
|Jan. 11, 2022||Florida 20th||D+53||D+60||D+7|
|June 7, 2022||California 22nd||R+11||R+24||R+14|
|June 14, 2022||Texas 34th*||D+5||R+5||R+10|
|June 28, 2022||Nebraska 1st||R+17||R+5||D+12|
|Aug. 9, 2022||Minnesota 1st||R+15||R+4||D+11|
That said, last Tuesday, Alaska held a special House election where Republicans are currently doing 8 points better than partisan lean would suggest — but it’s hard to know how much stock to put in that. That election used ranked-choice voting, and the ranked-choice tabulations haven’t taken place yet (that 8-point overperformance is based solely on voters’ first-place votes). In addition, many absentee ballots still haven’t been counted yet, so the margin of first-place votes will probably change as well.
This is where the special elections in New York will come in handy. They’ll give us two more data points, allowing us to say with more certainty whether the political winds have shifted. If Democrats win in the 19th District and come within, say, single digits in the 23rd, it will be a strong sign that the Dobbs decision really has given Democrats a shot in the arm. If not, though, we may not be in a Democratic-leaning political environment after all.
That’s already a ton of races to watch — but New York isn’t the only state holding its primary on Tuesday. Tomorrow, my colleague Geoffrey Skelley will preview all the important races in Florida and Oklahoma. And remember to join us on Tuesday night for our live blog of the results.
CORRECTION (Aug. 22, 2022, 3:00 p.m.): A previous version of this article said the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed Rep. Carolyn Maloney, but it only endorsed Maloney pre-redistricting and not under the current district lines, as both Maloney and Rep. Jerrold Nadler are members of the CPC.