On Tuesday, four months after the once-unthinkable happened and the New York courts rejected state Democrats’ aggressive gerrymandering of their next congressional districts, the resulting matchups forced by the new maps (overseen by a third party) pitted decades-long incumbents against one another.
It’s basically the opposite of what Democrats had hoped for after the 2020 census, when they saw the redistricting process as a way not just to squeeze out Republican seats in New York — but to make up for what they said were deficits elsewhere, in even more heavily Republican gerrymandered states like Florida.
The resulting drama came to a close Tuesday with some of the most hotly watched Dem primaries of the entire cycle, most principally Rep. Jerrod Nadler v. Rep. Carolyn Maloney in New York’s 12th, a battle of two of the city’s most powerful and longest-serving legislators. After an intense campaign, Nadler easily triumphed.
Meanwhile progressive state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi failed to oust incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the 17th where Maloney relocated as part of the redistricting musical chairs. And the reverberations of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade continued to be felt, this time in a special election for the 19th, a battleground district where partisan fault lines divided Democrat Pat Ryan against Republican opponent Marc Molinaro and saw Ryan narrowly edge out Molinaro.
And a crowded field of Democrats — 13, to be exact, though former Mayor Bill de Blasio withdrew before Tuesday — ran in a free-for-all in the 10th to snatch the seat left open by Nadler moving to the 12th to beat Maloney. The result of the 10th remained too close to call as of early Wednesday.
The drama of Tuesday’s primaries comes from the rarity of seeing major lawmakers knocked into the unemployment line by their own colleagues, but the outcome of these races won’t change the overall politics of Congress much come November — save, perhaps, for what the 19th might show about which way to look in the swing districts.
Here’s what to know about each of the notable results.
Maloney v. Nadler
In New York’s 12th District, the voters delivered a clear message: With 99% of the expected vote reported, Nadler bested his long-time co-worker Maloney by some 30 points, a walloping margin.
The pair share some poetically parallel political roots: They were first elected to Congress together in 1992 — Nadler from the Upper West Side, Maloney of the Upper East. Similar in function, but not necessarily in form, they also both chaired extremely visible House committees, with wholly similar voting records.
But Maloney’s recent suggestions that Biden had no plans to run for reelection in 2024 (a claim the White House ardently denies) threw Maloney from the frying pan into the fire. Nadler was further boosted by key endorsements, including from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as Maloney decried the “old boys’ network that sticks together.”
Sean Maloney v. progressives
The Democrats’ House campaign leader, Maloney bested progressive challenger Biaggi 66-33% as of early Wednesday, with 89% of the expected vote reported. His race was yet another show of oddities in redistricting: He drew flack from members of his own caucus when he decided to seek reelection in a safer, bluer district where he lives, helping squeeze out a freshman incumbent in the process.
Separately, Maloney faced intraparty criticism for the party’s House campaign arm choosing to spotlight far-right candidates and influence GOP primaries. Still, he was able to survive a primary challenge from Biaggi, who was endorsed by Maloney’s colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in another of several losses progressives have faced this midterm cycle.
Dems’ free-for-all in the 10th
Twelve Democrats (excluding one former less-than-universally loved New York City mayor) vied to fill a seat left empty (also thanks to redistricting) by Nadler.
Currently, two candidates lead in this still-too-close-to-call race: former Trump impeachment lawyer Dan Goldman and state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou. Goldman has a narrow lead, a likely testament to how far anti-Trump street cred still takes you on the streets of New York, even with the former president no longer in the Oval Office.
This was also the district in which de Blasio briefly attempted to make some sort of comeback after a failed bid for president and the end of his two terms as mayor.
Abortion rights help seal Dem win in swing seat
After a recent resounding victory for abortion rights advocates in Kansas, pro-choice candidate Pat Ryan was able to eke out a win in a special election for his New York swing district by hammering home the stakes of a post-Roe world. With consistent campaign messaging of “choice is on the ballot,” Ryan was able to swerve attacks from his Republican opponent Marc Molinaro — who, like Ryan is a county executive — as Molinaro stuck to hammering home the impact of inflation and crime.
While Ryan’s win of about 2% was nowhere near breakaway — and while the seat he just won in the special election will cease to exist in a few months — the region has a notable recent history of swinging between parties. That gives Democrats more evidence, though not conclusive, that Roe backlash will somewhat curb a possible GOP wave in November.
Dems pick a DeSantis challenger: Is he as vulnerable as 2018?
This is not the Florida of yesteryear — nor is Gov. Ron DeSantis the same candidate as four years ago, when he lost by less than 1% to Andrew Gillum, who was then a rising Democratic star. Now, it’s DeSantis who has skyrocketed to stardom: a bonafide Grand Ole Party stalwart — and headline-grabbing culture warrior — cheered on by many Republican voters as the heir apparent to Trump, perhaps even if Trump does decide to throw his hat into the 2024 ring.
In Tuesday’s primary, Democrats chose Rep. Charlie Crist over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Crist, a former Florida governor, has been a little bit of everything to everyone — serving in his gubernatorial capacity as a Republican and then running (and losing) a bid for Senate as an independent.
Crist faces a major challenge in defeating DeSantis. But his across-the-aisle credentials clearly appealed to Democrats in a state that appears to be trending more conservative by the year, even as the party seeks to turn it more purple than red.
Source: ABC News