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The Fallout in New York
A polarized Manhattan, the Republican realignment in Southern Brooklyn, GOP gains in the Bronx, the future of NY17 - and who is to blame for it all
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As numbers trickled in throughout Tuesday evening, Democrats, once bracing for a potentially brutal series of results, breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Besides losses in Florida and Ohio - two states that are now presumably Red until further notice - besieged Democratic Senate incumbents in Arizona and New Hampshire held serve, while Jon Fetterman won outright in Pennsylvania, coupled with Raphael Warnock advancing to a runoff in Georgia. Maintaining their already slim majority in the House of Representatives, which once appeared to be a lost cause, still remained within reach. Amidst an increasingly polarized environment for the party in power - with high inflation and low approval ratings for President Biden - candidate quality and abortion rights had persevered
Yet, while a Red Wave did not crash over the shores of New York Harbor, a ripple could still be felt.
At the top of the ticket, Governor Kathy Hochul edged Congressman Lee Zeldin statewide, by a too-close-for-comfort margin of just six points.
Editor’s Note: Even Chuck Schumer, an undefeated electoral titan unrivaled in the State’s modern history, only won his race by thirteen points.
To win, Zeldin needed to pitch a perfect game in New York City: Win over two-thirds of the vote in Staten Island, break 35% in Queens, climb to 30% in Brooklyn, and avoid a drubbing in the Bronx. All while hoping New York City’s turnout made up less 35% of the State’s total vote share - which was the case through Early Voting, as well as in 2020, 2018 and 2016.
Remarkably, all of those benchmarks came to fruition, with Zeldin breaking the coveted thirty-percent in New York City - a figure no Republican has come remotely close to matching in any Statewide race since 2002. Yet, he still fell short. Why?
Despite bleeding support throughout the City’s farthest reaches, Hochul fortified her base at its epicenter , where Zeldin managed to only win a single election district. The days of Republicans like Michael Bloomberg and George Pataki comfortably banking thirty-five percent of the vote here, let alone Joe Lhota or Harry Wilson pealing off one-quarter of the electorate, are over. Zeldin, despite his advancements throughout the five boroughs compared to past GOP statewide campaigns, is a polarizing candidate that is reflective of the current political era, and the Republican electorate’s preferences. Upper-class Manhattan moderates, despite harboring concerns about crime (like those who voted for Eric Adams and/or Tali Farhadian Weinstein), could not bring themselves to vote for Zeldin, a staunch ally of Donald Trump who voted against the certification of the 2020 election.
As the Republican Party has migrated further right, losing ground with college educated voters, the steady decrease of GOP vote share in Manhattan is another data-point emblematic of this trend. While Zeldin consistently outperformed both Trump and Sliwa throughout each of the borough’s Assembly Districts - he faced a hard ceiling of support, particularly on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood historically favorable to Republican candidates. Despite netting between 23-28% in the 73rd and 78th Assembly Districts, Zeldin ran fifteen points behind Nicole Malliotakis’ 2017 Mayoral run and thirty points behind Joe Lhota’s effort four years earlier.
For decades, New York City’s bluest borough was the Bronx - now, that title belongs to Manhattan.
Speaking of the Bronx, Republicans have slowly - but steadily - increased their vote share throughout the borough, particularly at the Citywide level, over the past decade. Against Andrew Cuomo and Elliot Spitzer, no Republican candidate for Governor exceeded eleven percent of the borough-wide vote, routinely finishing amongst single-digits. On Tuesday, Zeldin doubled that figure - netting 22% of the vote.
Last year, Curtis Sliwa also surpassed twenty-percent in the Bronx against Eric Adams, significantly outperforming Malliotakis’ and Lhotas’ totals from previous Mayoral cycles - especially in the borough’s western and southern portions. Yet, in a higher profile race with increased turnout across the City, Zeldin managed to build on the crime-focused Sliwa’s margins, with his greatest increases in the Bronx coming in the 77th, 78th and 86th Assembly Districts.
Importantly, those ADs overlap with the borough’s growing Dominican population, which is concentrated in neighborhoods like Highbridge, Morris Heights, Tremont, Bedford Park and Kingsbridge Heights - along the Bronx’s west side. Across the University Heights Bridge, Zeldin saw a noteworthy increase in his vote share east of Broadway in Upper Manhattan, further indication that the GOP is making inroads with New York City’s Dominican community.
Zeldin exceeded 20% of the vote in AD78 (Belmont, Kingsbridge Heights, Bedford Park), AD72 (Washington Heights, Inwood) and AD86 (University Heights, Tremont)
While Zeldin ran relatively parallel to Trump and Sliwa throughout much of Kings County, the borough’s Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, from Southside Williamsburg to Crown Heights to Borough Park - buoyed Zeldin’s overall numbers with resounding turnout. In the forty-eighth Assembly District - which encompasses Hasidic Borough Park and Orthodox-heavy Midwood - Zeldin won over 88% of the vote, a staggering margin of 22,508 votes to Hochul’s 2,979. For context, both Sliwa and Malliotakis barely broke 50% here - evidence that Zeldin’s courting of Hasidic power brokers and laissez faire promise with respect to Yeshiva education, particularly in the wake of The New York Times investigation - resonated throughout the neighborhood.
Southern Brooklyn continued to be a bloodbath, as Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis crushed former Rep. Max Rose in NY11, while the GOP ousted three State Assembly members, in addition to coming within a few hundred votes of nabbing a newly-drawn “Asian opportunity” State Senate seat encompassing Sunset Park East and Bensonhurst.
Out of the fallen Assembly Members, Steven Cymbrowitz, who has served in Albany since 2000, was clearly the most-vulnerable heading into election night. In fact, it would have been surprising had he won, given his district - which stretches of Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach and includes a large diaspora of Ukrainian immigrants - favored Curtis Sliwa by over twenty-points and resounding elected Inna Vernikov to the City Council. On Tuesday, Zeldin took Cymbrowitz’s Assembly District with seventy-seven percent of the vote.
Editor’s Note: It is worth remembering that Anthony Weiner began his political odyssey by winning a City Council seat in a district nearly identical to Cymbrowitz’s Assembly District.
Mathylde Frontus’ race in the forty-sixth Assembly District is still too close to definitively call, but she currently trails by hundreds of votes to Alec Brook-Krasny, who represented the district for eight years as a Democrat before moving to the private sector. This cycle, Brook-Krasny returned, but as a Republican - Frontus had escaped her 2020 general race against a QAnon-aligned candidate, Mark Szuszkiewicz, by two points. A favorite amongst reformers, Frontus comfortably defeated a primary challenger backed by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and the Brooklyn Democratic Party in June. Frontus performed well throughout Bay Ridge and Coney Island’s public housing developments - while Brook-Krasny ran up the score with white ethnics in Bath Beach (precincts adjacent to the Dyker Beach Golf Course), Asians in Gravesend, and Russian-speaking immigrants in Brighton Beach.
Ultimately, Brook-Krasny’s greater name recognition, fewer ties to extremism, and more professional campaign than Frontus’ previous challenger - likely aided his effort to consolidate those extra thousand votes that decided the race.
After serving in the Assembly since 1986, Peter Abbate’s tenure came to an unceremonious end at the hands of Lester Chang, a perennial candidate who had previously only ran in Manhattan’s Chinatown (he finished third in the 2016 AD65 special election, Yuh-Line Niou finished second on the WFP ballot line). While Abbate largely ran neck-and-neck with Chang in the district’s Asian majority/plurality precincts, Kathy Hochul’s poor performance at the top of the ticket likely dragged down the Assembly Member, as she finished ten points behind him with Asian voters - evidence of split-tickets, but not enough to keep Zeldin’s twenty-five point advantage over Hochul from cresting into an Abbate upset.
Hochul’s performance amongst Southern Brooklyn’s Asian voters only worsened in the neighboring forty-seventh Assembly District, despite incumbent Assembly Member William Colton - the lone survivor of Tuesday’s bloodbath - comfortably fending off a challenge from businessman Dmitriy Kugel. For instance, Colton’s margin in the district’s Asian 50%+ precincts was fifteen points - higher than his overall margin of victory. Yet, in those same election districts, Kathy Hochul ran twenty-eight points behind Lee Zeldin - a staggering shift of greater than forty-points from the top-of-the-ticket on down.
Abbate’s defeat, Iwen Chu’s narrow victory, and Kathy Hochul’s performance across Southern Brooklyn’s Assembly Districts are emblematic of Democrat’s hemorrhaging support with the City’s Asian voters, a current pulsing through Northeast Queens as well. On a familiar note, in the 40th Assembly District, concentrated in-and-around Flushing, Ron Kim outlasted his Republican challenger while outperforming Kathy Hochul by four points. One of Albany’s most progressive legislators, and a crusader for homecare workers, Kim has now bested two well-funded challengers from the right in just over the four months.
The collective fates of Cymbrowitz, Frontus, and Abbate can be linked to a lackluster Brooklyn Democratic Party organization, which has left incumbents stranded as the borough’s southern belt has migrated towards the right. While reform clubs have picked up some of the slack, it is galling that the Democratic organization in the State’s largest county is inattentive to a realignment of White and Asian voters in their backyard.
While Zeldin came up short, GOP candidates throughout Long Island rode his coattails to victory - picking up four open Congressional seats in Nassau and Suffolk County.
Democrats did not fare much better in the Hudson Valley, where DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney - who controversially pushed out popular freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones from the 17th Congressional District to aid his own re-election prospects - was upset by Republican Assembly Member Mike Lawler. Democrat Josh Riley, running in the House district(NY19) vacated by Antonio Delgado upon his appointment as Kathy Hochul’s Lieutenant Governor, was defeated by Republican Marc Molinaro - the former Duchess County Executive. Molinaro found paydirt after first losing the Special Election for NY19 earlier this summer to Pat Ryan, a Democrat who turned the race into a referendum on abortion rights. On Tuesday, Ryan ran in the district Maloney eschewed - NY18 - winning again in dramatic fashion while the latter was defeated. Talk about irony.
Maloney’s loss is a microcosm of Democrat’s failures throughout this year’s redistricting process. After strong-arming Jones from the district, the DCCC chair ran a lackluster campaign in the general and paid the price. Fittingly, on election night, as his re-election prospects appeared progressively more dire, Maloney was not even present in the district he was running to represent.
His stunning defeat paves the way for a potential Mondaire Jones comeback. After losing the heavily-contested race for NY10 in late August, Jones campaigned for swing-district Democrats across the country, including in the Hudson Valley (but never for Maloney). Despite relocating to Caroll Gardens, Jones made no assurances he would stick around New York City following his defeat to Dan Goldman. His immediate political future, following an unceremonious departure from Congress, appeared up in the air. Maybe a job in the Biden administration or a stint in the private sector? Well, if there is one thing I have learned covering politics, it is that opportunities always open up.
A Jones return to Rockland seems inevitable, so long as he is able to make amends with the voters and constituents he abandoned, permitting him to lay the groundwork towards running again in 2024. The question is, will Maloney go quietly?
The calculus for Jones is that the soon-to-be former DCCC chair will be significantly less formidable without the powers of incumbency, and his cache with donors and power brokers in Washington will dissipate, coupled with House leadership (by all accounts, fond of Jones) seeking to right the wrongs that led to Jones’ departure in the first place.
It cannot be forgotten that Alessandra Biaggi, the face of the anti-IDC wave of 2018 and fellow progressive firebrand, vacated her State Senate seat to move north and challenge Maloney - only to lose by a 2-to-1 margin. Biaggi, long-considered a rising star and one of the State’s most ambitious young politicians, remains in the mix as well. I won’t speculate too much, but I believe some combination of those aforementioned three will run in two years.
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Even before votes were counted, the knives had already come out for Eric Adams. The self-proclaimed “future of the Democratic Party” may have set the table for Republicans, unabashedly stimulating crime narratives that drove a wedge between Democrats and furthered Republican talking points. To the extent there is a “fall guy” for this election, or one that is still accountable to the voters (since Maloney and Cuomo are gone), Adams fits the bill - from aligned PACs backing Zeldin to personally lobbying against bail reform - the Mayor has put himself in a precarious position. As more Democrats feel comfortable criticizing Adams on the record, talk of fielding a challenge to his 2025 re-election will only increase.
Not to be outdone, State Party Chair Jay Jacobs, a Long Island native and relic of the Cuomo administration, is due for a reckoning of his own. In an early attempt to shore herself up and consolidate support, Hochul backed Jacobs at the beginning stages of her tenure as Governor. Now, after Jacobs presided over Tuesday’s statewide debacle - where Democrats faltered in the Hudson Valley, were crushed on Long Island, and continued to fall behind with voters in the outer boroughs - Hochul may be forced to re-evaluate her options. The State Party has repeatedly been caught flatfooted - weather in Jacob’s backyard on Long Island, or on statewide ballot measures for same-day voter registration and gerrymandering. On Wednesday morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaffirmed her call for Jacobs’ resignation. Other top Democrats throughout the State are likely to follow - publicly or privately. His days are numbered.
However, no one is more at fault for Democrat’s dismal topline performance than Andrew Cuomo. A net loss of four House seats - which threatens to imperil the Democratic majority in Congress - can be almost singlehandedly attributed to Cuomo. The former Governor oversaw the implementation a quasi-independent redistricting commission coupled with an anti-gerrymandering amendment to the State Constitution, the latter of which blowtorched the Democratic Legislatures plan to draw favorable district lines, a decision which the Court of Appeals - chock full of conservative Cuomo appointees - reinforced, triggering an unprecedented bout of redistricting chaos. On Tuesday, as Democrats hemorrhaged seats across the State, Cuomo’s shadow loomed large. It should not be lost on anyone that before Ruben Diaz Sr. became a de-facto surrogate for Lee Zeldin, he was rubbing arms with Cuomo as he contemplated a political comeback. Any chance of such a second-act died with Hochul’s victory.
While Democrats throughout the State hit a collective low on Wednesday morning, these pervasive failures present an opportunity to make a clean break from the past and move forward.
It cannot be done without accountability.
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