Democrat Pat Ryan won the special election on Tuesday for the U.S. House seat in New York’s 19th district after it was evicted by Democrat Antonio Delgado, according to the AP.
Why it matters: The result is a shock to Republicans, who were seen as petty favorites to turn the seat. It also confirms the Democrats’ strategy to address the issue of abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overthrown.
- The race was seen as a major test of the two parties’ messaging strategies, with Ryan focusing on abortion and Republican Marc Molinaro hammering away at inflation and crime, as Axios previously reported.
The context: The 19th district in Hudson Valley has been a crucial building block in the recent Democrat majorities. Delgado, who stepped down in May to serve as New York’s lieutenant governor, won it in 2020 by 11 points, while Biden won it by 2 points.
- Both national sides invested in the race, hoping that a win there would spark a burst of enthusiasm towards November.
- Ryan pitched the race as an abortion referendum after the Supreme Court decision to rule Roe vs. Wade, while Molinaro stuck to the GOP’s discussion points about inflation and crime.
- Ryan and Molinaro, both electorally proven county executives with a party appeal, were roughly equal in fundraising.
The context: Ryan, an Iraq veteran and former business owner, previously ran for the seat in 2018, narrowly losing to Delgado in the primary.
- The following year, he won election as director of Ulster County – the district’s population center – in a landslide.
What are we looking at: Ryan eschewed the progressive label in an interview with Axios last month, noting that he “raised funding for … law enforcement” as a county executive.
- “I characterize myself as trying to eliminate some of the fundamental inequalities that we have created in our country,” he said. “Whatever label we want to put on that, I think it’s more about actually delivering those results.”
- Yet he also positioned himself as a staunch advocate for major judicial and political reform, pointing to openness to expanding the Supreme Court and destroying the filibuster.
- In addition to abortion, he made gun control and voting rights the main themes of his campaign.
What they say: Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DN.Y.), said Ryan’s victory “sends a clear signal that voters are fighting back against Republicans’ extreme attacks on abortion rights and their fundamental freedoms.”
The other side: Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Axios, “Majorities are won in November, not August. We look forward to the prosecution of the Democrats’ failed one-party rule that leaves American families worse off.”
- Molinaro did not concede the election in a speech Tuesday night, telling supporters: “Spend the night with us as we wait 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.”
What’s next: Molinaro’s run in November will not be against Ryan, who is the nominee in a neighboring district vacated by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.).
- Ryan will go up against Republican State Councilman Colin Schmitt, while Molinaro will go up against Democratic attorney Josh Riley.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with commentary from the NRCC.