New York's most competitive congressional races

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New York's most competitive congressional races

Will the GOP maintain their upstate stronghold or will this be a "blue wave" election?
October 2, 2018

Democrats have been targeting key House seats across the country in an attempt to regain control of the chamber. A number of those competitive races are in New York state. In many cases, the races are seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump: Is he popular enough with his base that they will turn out again in the midterms, or will there be enough dissatisfaction with him to spur a changing of the guard?

Pundits have been pondering the potential of “blue wave” election for months. In New York, Democrats turned out in record numbers to vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, in some places double or triple the turnout in 2014. Republicans often do well in lower turnout off-year elections, so a surge of blue votes could flip seats long held by Republicans.

Here’s a rundown of competitive House races in New York state, including key votes and fundraising totals as well as how competitive the races look according to three leading election analysts – Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call and The Cook Political Report.

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Map of NY congressional districts and their political leanings
City & State

District 19

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John Faso and Antonio Delgado
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John Faso and Antonio Delgado
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John Faso and Antonio Delgado
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John Faso and Antonio Delgado
Image Credit: 
Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Antonio Delgado for Congress

John Faso (incumbent) vs. Antonio Delgado

TOSS-UP

Sabato: Toss-up
Roll Call: Toss-up
Cook: Toss-up

The race for New York’s 19th Congressional District is shaping up to be a contentious one. A September poll from Monmouth University had Republican Rep. John Faso in a dead heat with Democratic nominee Antonio Delgado, with Delgado ahead 45 percent to 43 percent. In late August, a Siena College poll had Faso slightly ahead, 45 percent to 40 percent. Faso has taken aim at Delgado over his past as a rapper, calling his lyrics “offensive.” The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has released multiple ads that include snippets of Delgado’s raps and question his American values. At least one Faso supporter said that the parts of rural America Delgado wants to represent don’t identify with that “part of American culture,” although Faso’s focus on the issue has resulted in accusations of race-baiting.

The contest has been identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as one of its top-tier races, and Delgado has been added to the DCCC’s Red to Blue list, which offers national support and money to Democrats across the country to flip key seats. Faso has more than $1.2 million in his campaign coffers, according to the most recent campaign finance filings, while Delgado has about $662,000.
 

District 22

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Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi
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Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi
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Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi
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Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi
Image Credit: 
Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Anthony Brindisi for Congress

Claudia Tenney (incumbent) vs. Anthony Brindisi

TOSS-UP

Sabato: Toss-up
Roll Call: Toss-up
Cook: Toss-up

In another hotly contested race, Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney is fending off a strong challenge from Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. The pair are neck and neck, with Brindisi leading 46 percent to 44 percent in a late August poll from Siena College. Tenney benefits from a large voter registration advantage by Republicans in the district, and President Donald Trump won the district in 2016 with 55 percent. Tenney has aligned herself strongly with the president, voting in accordance with his position nearly 97 percent of the time, including on last year’s sweeping federal tax cuts. Trump visited the district to headline one of her campaign fundraisers in August, but his presence appears not to have swayed many voters, judging by the latest poll.

Unlike the broader progressive movement among Democrats, Brindisi is a more moderate Democrat, fitting for the Republican district. He has a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association and has said that he would not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for House speaker. Despite this, the DCCC is supporting Brindisi as one of its Red to Blue candidates.

As of the latest filing period in June, Tenney had just over $1 million cash on hand, while Brindisi had almost $1.5 million, though they both had raised nearly $2 million.
 

District 27

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Chris Collins and Nate McMurray
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Chris Collins and Nate McMurray
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Chris Collins and Nate McMurray
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Chris Collins and Nate McMurray
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Nate McMurray for Congress

Chris Collins (incumbent) vs. Nate McMurray

LEANS REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Leans R
Roll Call: Leans R
Cook: Leans R

What may turn out to be one of this year’s most interesting races had originally drawn the most attention for the possibility of a comeback bid by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. But Hochul never jumped in. Rep. Chris Collins, who represents the most Republican district in the state, was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump and has since aligned himself with the president 99 percent of the time.

He was expected to easily win re-election, but that all changed when Collins was indicted on federal insider trading charges. Collins initially suspended his campaign and Republican leaders in his district began discussing how to get him off the ballot. Democratic challenger Nate McMurray’s chances, while still slim, appeared to get slightly better.

Then Collins made the surprising decision to not only remain on the ballot, but to actively campaign with plans to continue serving if re-elected, despite the indictment. If he gets convicted while in office, he would be forced to resign. This revelation further shook up the race and put the odds even more in McMurray’s favor. However, former Rep. Michael Grimm won re-election under similar circumstances in 2014.

Collins had about $1.3 million in his campaign chest at the end of June, while McMurray had a little under $82,000 – although he has likely gained ground since then due to Collins’ legal troubles.
 

District 11

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Dan Donovan and Max Rose
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Dan Donovan and Max Rose
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Dan Donovan and Max Rose
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Dan Donovan and Max Rose
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Max Rose for Congress

Dan Donovan (incumbent) vs. Max Rose

LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Leans R
Roll Call: Likely R
Cook: Likely R

After a hard-fought Republican primary against his predecessor Michael Grimm, Rep. Dan Donovan has earned his spot on the November ballot. Although he is still the favorite, his re-election is not guaranteed. Challenging him is Democrat Max Rose, an Army veteran who has been generating a lot of press and aims to flip New York City’s lone Republican House district. Compared to the Faso-Delgado and Tenney-Brindisi races, this one has so far been less contentious. In Rose’s first television ad, he attacked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio more than his own rival, asserting the mayor has ignored the needs of Staten Island, the entirety of which is in the district.

Rose has a slew of support from national figures, most recently former Vice President Joe Biden, and he’s also part of the DCCC’s Red to Blue list.

Donovan has a little under $400,000 in his war chest going into the general election, compared to Rose’s nearly $1.3 million, while both had raised close to $2 million by the end of June.

District 24

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John Katko and Dana Balter
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John Katko and Dana Balter
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John Katko and Dana Balter
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John Katko and Dana Balter
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Dana Balter for Congress

John Katko (incumbent) vs. Dana Balter

LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Likely R
Roll Call: Likely R
Cook: Likely R

Republican Rep. John Katko leads Democrat Dana Balter by a comfortable 15-point margin, according to a late August poll from Spectrum News/Siena College. However if a “blue wave” election occurs, the race could end up being much closer. The district has a slight Democratic voter registration advantage, and it went for Hillary Clinton by a thin margin in 2016, which may be a boon for Balter as the underdog. Although the DCCC originally supported Balter’s primary opponent, Juanita Perez Williams, it threw its backing behind Balter when she won, adding her to its Red to Blue list.

Katko had about $1.6 million cash on hand at the end of June, while Balter was lagging with just $113,000, with the incumbent raising four times as much as his challenger so far.
 

District 1

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Lee Zeldin and Perry Gershon
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Lee Zeldin and Perry Gershon
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Lee Zeldin and Perry Gershon
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Lee Zeldin and Perry Gershon
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Perry Gershon for Congress

Lee Zeldin (incumbent) vs. Perry Gershon

LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Leans R
Roll Call: Solid R
Cook: Likely R

Long Island’s Suffolk County is still solidly Trump country, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of the president’s earliest and most ardent establishment backers, is touting that support as one of the key pillars of his campaign. Zeldin has voted in line with Trump nearly 87 percent of the time, with the notable exception of the federal tax cuts, which will negatively affect many of his constituents thanks to the new cap on state and local tax deductions. Despite Trump’s popularity, the race against Democrat Perry Gershon may be highly competitive. Although there has not yet been any nonpartisan public polling, one poll paid for by the Democratic super PAC Taking Action for Suffolk County found that Zeldin leads Gershon by a mere 3 percentage points, well within the margin of error. The DCCC also recently upgraded the race from its second tier of targeted races to its top tier, making Gershon the fifth New Yorker added to its Red to Blue list.

However, Zeldin is in a far better financial position than Gershon, who, though having raised more than $2 million total, spent heavily his primary contest. Zeldin has over $1.7 million in the bank ahead of the November election, compared to Gershon’s $74,000.
 

District 23

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Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano
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Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano
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Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano
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Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Tracy Mitrano for Congress

Tom Reed (incumbent) vs. Tracy Mitrano

LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Likely R
Roll Call: Solid R
Cook: Solid R

Rep. Tom Reed is in a good position going into the November election – his district went strongly for Trump in 2016 and he has reached across the aisle to work with Democrats as the chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Reed has plenty of money in the bank, with nearly $1.5 million already spent and more than $1 million still on hand. He far outpaces Democrat Tracy Mitrano, who has just shy of $8,000 on hand after her hard-fought primary.
 

District 2

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Pete King and Liuba Grechen Shirley
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Pete King and Liuba Grechen Shirley
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Pete King and Liuba Grechen Shirley
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Pete King and Liuba Grechen Shirley
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Liuba Grechen Shirley for Congress

Pete King (incumbent) vs. Liuba Grechen Shirley

LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Sabato: Safe R
Roll Call: Solid R
Cook: Likely R

Until recently, Rep. Pete King’s district had been considered safely Republican by national forecasters. The 13-term incumbent has easily dispatched any challengers he has faced during that time and has successfully cultivated an independent image by publicly criticizing members of his own party and occasionally diverging from the party line. He criticized fellow House Republicans when they failed to act on a support bill for New York in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and voted against last year’s federal tax cuts, which are expected to negatively affect the state. But the Democrats’ strength appears to be growing in the age of Trump, and King is facing one of his first strong challenges in years from Liuba Grechen Shirley. Grechen Shirley made national headlines before she won her primary when she successfully advocated to use campaign funds for child care to help stay-at-home parents run for office. She has been attacking King for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and running an outsider campaign, one that has been compared to the successful campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

King still dominates Grechen Shirley in terms of finances, sitting on more than $3 million going into November, compared to the $186,000 she has on hand.
 

District 18

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Sean Patrick Maloney and James O'Donnell
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Sean Patrick Maloney and James O'Donnell
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Sean Patrick Maloney and James O'Donnell
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Sean Patrick Maloney and James O'Donnell
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Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; James O'Donnell for Congress

Sean Patrick Maloney (incumbent) vs. James O’Donnell

LIKELY DEMOCRAT

Sabato: Likely D
Roll Call: Solid D
Cook: Solid D

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney represents a swing district that voted for Trump in 2016, so his seat was considered in play by some. However, Maloney has easily won re-election several times and prides himself on an ability to reach across the aisle, which has won him favor even among his more conservative constituents. His decision to run for state attorney general after Eric Schneiderman resigned raised questions about his congressional bid, which he never suspended. Despite legal challenges, Maloney was allowed to run for both offices at once. Maloney ultimately lost the attorney general primary and has returned to actively campaigning against Republican James O’Donnell. Maloney is expected to win re-election.

Maloney had more than $3 million in the bank at the end of June, although he transferred $1.4 million out of his congressional account into his attorney general campaign account in August. O’Donnell has about $222,000.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is an editorial assistant at City & State.
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