New York State will have at least eight contested House races this year (four currently held by Republicans and four by Democrats). For Republican control of the House to be in jeopardy, New York must become the contest’s epicenter.
These contested races are the product of three factors. First, New York’s last three congressional cycles were chock full of upsets, complicated by four special-election surprises, leaving incumbents not yet entrenched.
Second, the new congressional seats were not the product of gerrymandering but were drawn by the courts.
Finally, turnout will be driven by the presidential contest. From 2006–08 state turnout jumped from 4.7–6.9 million votes. In newly drawn districts, uncertainty surrounds how 2 million additional voters will affect these House races.
In Western New York, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul faces a strong challenge from Republican former Erie County Executive Chris Collins. This is a rock-ribbed Republican district, but Collins is gaffe-prone. If this race turns on partisanship Collins will win, but if it becomes a contest of personalities, Hochul will prevail.
In Monroe County, Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks is challenging an institution: Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. If you say the names Louise and Maggie, everyone in the district knows exactly whom you are talking about. This outcome will likely turn on whether the district trusts Louise in Congress more than they like Maggie, or vice versa.
Central New York presents a rerun between Republican Ann Marie Buerkle and former Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei. In 2010 Buerkle won by a whisker, because her margin from the district’s western tail in Rochester’s suburbs overcame Maffei’s narrow lead from Onondaga County. The new district clipped that tail. The question becomes whether Buerkle’s Tea Party support can keep her afloat amid a presidential turnout.
The North Country hosts a rematch between Rep. Bill Owens and Republican Matt Doheny. Owens won three-way races in both the 2009 special election and 2010. The new district consolidates the North Country’s eastern and western spheres. Owens has been steady but faces a steep GOP registration slope. Doheny has suffered several Animal House type incidents. New York’s sad experience with congressional party boys leaves Doheny with no margin for error. This race will be trench warfare.
The Democrats think Julian Schreibman can knock off first-term Republican incumbent Chris Gibson. The new district lost solid Republican turf from the North Country, becoming a mixed bag of Capital District suburbs and mid-Hudson exurbs. Gibson has not slipped up politically, so in order for Democrats to snatch this seat, independent voters must move sharply.
Republican Nan Hayworth faces a spirited challenge from Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney. Once a Westchester-centered district, it has become mid-Hudson based. Independents hold the balance of power. Hayworth runs the risk of being seen as too conservative, while Maloney lacks deep roots in the district. This race will be well fought, given that both candidates are skilled communicators.
In Queens, Grace Meng’s impressive majority in a four-way primary gives her a strong edge, though the recent news of her father’s arrest came at a very bad time. Republican Councilman Dan Halloran also has weaknesses (e.g., his incredulous charges relating to the infamous snowstorm), which could make him vulnerable to tabloid fever. On top of that, Halloran must overcome a significant Democratic registration bulge.
Lastly, Suffolk County reruns the photo finish victory of Rep. Tom Bishop over Republican Randy Altschuler. Altschuler’s camp correctly crows about taking the Independence line from Bishop, who had it in 2010. Nevertheless, the outcome will likely be determined by how many of the 42,000 Democrats who voted in 2008 but stayed home last cycle turn out this November.
The Democrats need a net gain of at least three seats from New York to have any chance of regaining the House. It is refreshing to see our state as a fulcrum point for control of the Congress.
Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant at Corning Place Communications in Albany and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.
Tags: Ann Marie Buerkle, Bill Owens, Bruce Gyory, Chris Collins, Chris Gibson, Dan Halloran, Dan Maffei, Grace Meng, Julian Schreibman, Kathy Hochul, Louise Slaughter, Maggie Brooks, Matt Doheny, Nan Hayworth, Randy Altschuler, Sean Patrick Maloney, Tim Bishop
Trackback from your site.