September 27, 2022

Special election for New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado’s old NY-19 seat offers big clues for midterms

The special election on Tuesday between two upstate New York county executives for a Hudson Valley congressional seat might seem like a recipe for a midsummer snooze fest.

Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro are battling to fill the few months left in the term of ex-Rep. Antonio Delgado, who resigned from the NY-19 seat to become lieutenant governor, and voter turnout is likely to be very low thanks to a late August election.

But political trend observers warn not to sleep on the NY-19 race. That’s because special elections — as opposed to primaries or races with an incumbent — have a strong record of predicting the results of upcoming general elections.

“Special elections are often seen as a barometer of which side is more engaged,” said J. Miles Coleman, an editor at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Republicans hope Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate, can demonstrate that their message that President Biden has mishandled the economy is sticking with voters.

If Molinaro romps to a big win, it might mean the GOP is primed for a big nationwide #RedWave victory in November.

On the other hand, Democrats say, Ryan, who leads Ulster County, has effectively tapped liberal anger at the conservative Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to outlaw abortion.

If Ryan can win or keep the race in nail-biter territory, it will be a strong sign that Democrats can hold their own in the midterms.

A pair of recent special elections in Minnesota and Nebraska have given Democratic candidates stronger-than-expected results, even though they both lost. They also scored an impressive defeat of a Kansas measure to eliminate the right to abortion in the state constitution.

“You really want to look for patterns,” said Coleman. “That’s why there is so much attention now on (NY-19).”

Earlier special elections in the midterms political cycle favored Republicans, offering support for the belief that the climate may have shifted towards Democrats in recent months, noted Ryan Brune, a political analyst.

The polls give mixed signals about NY-19. A recent survey done for Molinaro showed him leading by a healthy 10% margin. A Democratic poll last week said Ryan is behind by just 3%.

The district is one of the true swing seats in New York making it more of a bellwether than most in New York that reliably trend Democratic.

Former President Donald Trump won it in 2016, but President Biden grabbed it back in 2020 by less than 2%. Delgado narrowly knocked off a GOP incumbent in 2018 and won reelection easily last time.

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