Nov 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New York Democrats spoil House party

Sean Patrick Maloney

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) leaves the press conference in which he announced his concession to Republican Mike Lawler. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

A Democratic debacle in New York is threatening to become the majority-maker for House Republicans, puncturing what had otherwise been a history-defying election for the party in power.

What's happening: Republicans won all four House races on Long Island and knocked off the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the first time in more than 40 years. Furious Democratic strategists and outside observers say the wounds were self-inflicted.

Flashback: New York Democrats' attempt to aggressively gerrymander the state map backfired in spectacular fashion this spring when state courts intervened at the eleventh hour and ordered an independent mapmaker to draw more neutral lines.

  • The move set off a mad scramble among veteran Democrats — including DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney — to choose which districts they would run in.
  • Maloney ultimately made the controversial decision to run in a neighboring district currently held by Black freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, who jumped to another district and lost his own primary.
  • "Yikes," Jones tweeted after news broke Wednesday that Maloney had conceded his race to Republican Mike Lawler.

The big picture: With chaos unfurling in the wake of redistricting, New York Democrats spent the remainder of the campaign getting hammered by Republicans on crime and bail reform — potent issues that allowed GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin to run a closer-than-expected race against Gov. Kathy Hochul.

  • "A good night could have been a great night if NY Dems hadn’t screwed up redistricting and ignored voter concerns about crime and disorder," former NYC Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted.
  • "All the warning signs were ignored. And there was a significant price that was paid for this level of incompetence," Wolfson later told Axios, citing Democratic losses in Long Island during 2021 local elections.

Behind the scenes: "The finger-pointing on the House losses in NY is at a fever pitch," a New York Democratic source texted Axios unsolicited.

  • "All blame on state senate Dems for screwing up the lines given Hochul's healthy margin. Could cost the Dems the U.S. House in the end … unreal."
  • “I don’t think Hochul created a lot of surround sound for other Democrats running in the state," another New York Democratic strategist told Axios, echoing criticisms of the governor from the final weeks of the campaign.
  • The strategist also laid blame at the feet of disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for appointing several of the conservative-leaning judges who threw out Democrats' redistricting map: "He's simmering under the surface just making everything stink."

What's next: "I would hope that this would occasion some self-reflection and a course correction," Wolfson told Axios. "Voters are screaming for a change in policy. We can take these seats back in two years if we address the causes that led to these defeats in the first place."

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