ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Republican Mike Lawler defeated Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in New York City’s northern suburbs, and the GOP swept all four House seats on Long Island as the party closed in on its largest share of the state’s congressional delegation in two decades.
With two races still too early to call Wednesday, Republicans' strong showing in the suburbs helped them capture at least 10 of the 26 seats New York will have in Congress next year, two more than their current representation in what is now a 27-seat delegation.
Maloney is a five-term Democrat who led his party’s attempt to retain control of Congress as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Lawler, a state Assemblyman, ran a spirited campaign focused on inflation and public safety issues.
Lawler said Wednesday that his election turned on voters' frustrations with Democratic policies at the state and federal level.
“Folks understood that we need to restore balance and common sense at every level of government,” he said.
Maloney’s loss in a congressional district in the Hudson River Valley is both a symbolic victory for Republicans and a territorial setback for Democrats in the national fight for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I don’t like to lose, but my opponent won this race, and he won it fair and square,” Maloney said at a news conference in Washington. “And that means something. So I’m going to step aside. And I had a good run.”
The Republican winners on Long Island included Anthony D’Esposito, who won in a congressional district that hasn’t sent a GOP candidate to Washington in 26 years. D’Esposito, a retired New York Police Department detective and member of the Hempstead town council, succeeds U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who did not run for reelection.
Nearby, Republican George Santos won a seat in an area represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who gave up a chance at reelection in an unsuccessful bid to become the Democrats' nominee for governor.
And Republican Nicholas LaLota defeated Democrat Bridget Fleming in a reworked version of the congressional district now represented by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who decided not to seek reelection so he could be the GOP candidate for governor.
Though Zeldin lost, he won more votes than Gov. Kathy Hochul on Long Island, his political base. Zeldin's presence at the top of the ticket could have helped local House candidates, along with his campaign's laser focus on crime, said Craig Burnett, a political science professor at Hofstra University on Long Island.
The crime issue resonated on Long Island, especially after two teenagers were shot outside of Zeldin's home in October, Burnett said.
“That really amplified that message in a way that I hadn’t seen really register here,” said Burnett. “It really seemed after that moment, there was a lot of focus on crime. Even the Democrats had to pivot to start talking about crime and how they were going to handle it.”
Republicans also could have been helped by suburban voters weary of the rising cost of living near New York City, as Lawler suggested.
But beyond voter dissatisfaction, Democrats appeared to be hurt badly by the collapse of their attempt to gerrymander the boundaries of New York’s congressional districts in a way that could have given the party a huge advantage.
Courts threw out maps passed by the Legislature and signed by Hochul, citing procedural errors and excessive partisanship. A court appointee then drew new maps that prioritized competition.
The result has been more close matchups than the state has seen since the late 1990s, when Republicans represented 13 of what was then New York’s 31 congressional districts.
Many of the GOP wins this week were close, like Marc Molinaro's victory in a sprawling new congressional district that stretches from the Hudson Valley to the Finger Lakes region.
Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who was the Republican candidate for governor of New York in 2018, defeated Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney hailing from the district’s western end.
Molinaro lost a race to represent a different configuration of the 19th Congressional District in a special election in August but kept campaigning on a moderate agenda of vowing to address rising inflation, energy costs and crime.
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in two House races in New York.
In Syracuse and its suburbs, Republican Brandon Williams held a narrow lead over Democrat Francis Conole in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Republican who is retiring. And in another Hudson Valley district, U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan was clinging to a narrow lead over Republican Colin Schmitt, a second-term state assemblyman.
The race appeared exceedingly close early Wednesday, but Schmitt nonetheless conceded, saying he hoped Ryan “will do great things for our Hudson Valley families.”
Democrats held on to many of New York's top offices in Tuesday's election, winning the governor's race, the race for U.S. Senate and state attorney general.
Michael Hill, The Associated Press