2024 New York congressional battleground

Alison Esposito calls Pat Ryan a “force for evil” in congressional campaign kickoff

She claimed he wasn’t a moderate representative for this swing district.

Republican Alison Esposito is going to be taking on Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan in this key Hudson Valley congressional seat next year.

Republican Alison Esposito is going to be taking on Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan in this key Hudson Valley congressional seat next year. Austin C. Jefferson

Charming, affable and the former running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, Alison Esposito has returned to the Hudson Valley to challenge Rep. Pat Ryan in the 2024 congressional election. Zeldin and Esposito narrowly won Ryan’s 18th Congressional District last year 51%-49% in their failed bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul, while Ryan, a Democrat, won his general election race 50.6% to 49.3% over Republican Assembly Member Colin Schmitt. Esposito, who was the first out gay Republican woman to run for office statewide in New York, said she plans to build on that showing and turn the district – and the entire Hudson Valley as a result – red.

Esposito kicked off her campaign at a GOP event in Newburgh on Thursday night. At the Silk Factory, an off-kilter eatery and music venue, the former New York City Police Department deputy inspector stressed that she wasn’t a politician by trade, borrowing a line from her previous campaign.

“I took a look at the seat I was sitting in, the hat that I was wearing, and realized I had to do more,” Esposito said.

She told reporters the current state of New York was troubling due to the cost of living outpacing wages, small businesses and farmers shouldering economic hardship and public safety not being taken seriously enough by Democrats.

According to her, part of the problem is the district’s current representative in Congress. “Our current representative is a force for evil,” she said. “Pat Ryan likes to talk a moderate game, but he votes along party lines and is just as extremist in some of his stances as the far left.”

Ryan was dogged last year with attack ads and mailers calling him “dangerously liberal,” and it would appear GOP messaging against him has not changed. However, Ryan was successful at making abortion rights a key part of his messaging in both his special election win and his general election win last year. Democrats elsewhere in the state did not fare as Ryan did with similar campaign tactics.

She said the reason she would succeed where Schmitt failed was because “I am actually the voice of New York 18.”

Ryan said in a statement: “We’ve got enough MAGA extremists in Congress; what we need are more Patriots who will rise above the partisanship to deliver for Hudson Valley families. Esposito has called gun violence ‘a distraction,’ she wants a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, she’s sold out to big corporations who are ripping off hard-working families, and she stands with insurrectionist traitors who want to overthrow our democracy.”

Esposito said she moved back to the district in 2005, deciding to build a home in Goshen, but according to voting records she lived in Manhattan until recently. In spite of this, she said she has been able to call on national and local support.

“We are confident that Alison will be a great asset and advocate for the residents of the district because she is one,” Orange County GOP Chair Courtney Canfield Greene wrote in an email. “Having grown up in Orange County, being a graduate of our public schools, and a homeowner here for two decades, she has her family and friends right here.”

Esposito said progressive voters in the district need to realize that the policies and lawmakers they vote for are failing them.

“Government’s No. 1 job is to keep us safe,” she said. According to her, the situation has grown dire because Democratic policies don’t stop there. “It’s right versus wrong, it’s good versus evil,” she told a room of Republicans.

Scott Minkoff, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz, said it would be impossible to count her out during this campaign due the composition of the district, distrust from the left of Ryan and the wads of cash Republicans are expected to throw at the election.

“Ryan has the edge here. But I mean I would be stunned if it’s not competitive, very competitive,” Minkoff said. 

Esposito said after her visit to Washington, D.C., the national party was excited for her campaign.

“The way it’s been said to me is I come off or I am passionate and real about public service and protecting the people of New York and the people of America,” she said.

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from Rep. Pat Ryan.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included the incorrect year in which Esposito moved back to the district.

NEXT STORY: Velázquez on the viral ‘bye bye!’