Last night, we got BIG news in New York’s 19th Congressional district:
Democrat Pat Ryan has won a special election for New York’s 19th Congressional District in a race that garnered national attention ahead of November’s midterm contests.
The election was seen as a bellwether of the national mood because Ryan had focused on abortion rights, while his opponent, Republican Marc Molinaro, had tried to run on issues embraced by the GOP nationwide, such as crime and inflation. Ryan’s victory will likely buoy Democratic hopes that they can retain control of Congress in November despite historical trends, high inflation and President Biden’s low approval rating.
According to Politico, not exactly a Dem-friendly outlet (to put it mildly), the results of that election “confirmed what Democrats hoped and Republicans feared: Predictions of a red wave may be overblown.” Also, Politico notes in its headline, Democrats have “momentum.” As for Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report – an outfit that’s definitely NOT friendly to Democrats! – “This is a huge victory for Dems in a bellwether, Biden +1.5 district.” and “Lots of focus on Dems being more engaged/energetic post-Dobbs, which is undeniably true. But to me, the GOP/Trump base appears less engaged than it was last November, which is just as big a part of the story.” (Wasserman adds statistics indicating that since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe, Dems have overperformed across the country, so it’s definitely NOT just one special election in upstate New York!).
So what might this all imply for several “purple” Congressional districts in Virginia this fall – specifically VA02 (Rep. Elaine Luria vs. far-right Republican Jen Kiggans), VA07 (Rep. Abigail Spanberger vs. far-right Republican Yesli Vega) and VA10 (Rep. Jennifer Wexton vs. far-right Republican Hung Cao)? See below for some thoughts, by yours truly, as well as by Sam Shirazi and Lakshiya Jain. Highlights include:
- Lakshiya Jain (@lxeagle17): “Pat Ryan winning is nothing short of a horrid result for Rs”; “If you need another confirmation of a very real shift post-Dobbs, here it is. 2022 is shaping up as a neutral year, not a red wave”; “the House is not safe R, and Ds are favored in the Senate”; “This is what you get when you lose the female vote by 20 points and have a party dominated overwhelmingly by 60 year old white males whose social attitudes are still stuck in 1986.”; “in 2018, Democrats were winning Trump +17 seats. Republicans aren’t even winning a Biden +2 seat and nearly lost a Trump +10 one.” In sum, as Lakshya Jain points out, despite the NY19 Republican candidate being close to the ideal candidate for that district – someone who had also run statewide, was not totally crazy by today’s GOP standards, didn’t talk about abortion, etc. – he lost anyway.
- Sam Shirazi: “So for those waking up to the news Democrats held NY-19 in a Special Election This seat flipped in 2018 blue wave and Biden carried it 49.8-48.3 in 2020 Very similar to the new VA-2 which Biden carried 49.9-48.1 Shows Rep. Luria a path in otherwise challenging re-election.”
Regarding the VA02 race, I’d add that: 1) Luria’s the incumbent, with an incumbent advantage, while NY19 was an open seat; 2) Kiggans is a VERY weak opponent in almost every way (e.g., Luria’s FAR outraised her and had like 10x Kiggan’s cash-on-hand as of 6/30, Kiggans is 100% anti-choice, etc.); 3) Luria has a national spotlight on the 1/6 commission, with almost unlimited earned – and mostly positive – media exposure; etc. Also note that VA02 has composite 2016-2020 election results of 49.6% Dem-48.3% Republican and a Cook PVA of R+3, while NY19 has a Cook PVI of R+2. So VA02 is very similar in partisan makeup to NY19, but also has a FAR weaker Republican candidate than in NY19 (and note that that guy, Marc Molinaro, outspent his Democratic opponent “massively,” “was an institution in the area” and even tried to deemphasize abortion ), running against a very strong, well-funded incumbent in Rep. Elaine Luria. What does all that tell you about Luria’s prospects for this November? Of course, it’s up to *us* to make it happen, but right now, I’d rather be Luria than Kiggans (who has pretty much none of the advantages Molinaro had, and several major disadvantages Molinaro did NOT have, first and foremost on abortion rights) – for sure!
As for VA07, the problem for Republicans – and it’s a disastrous, quite possibly fatal one for the “red team” in this November’s election – is that the Republican nominee, Yesli Vega, is about as extreme as you can get, first and foremost on Roe v Wade/women’s reproductive freedom. For a taste of what Vega’s all about, see “First [Yesli] Vega said it was less likely for victims of rape to get pregnant, and now she’s suggesting only God can decide to save the life of the mother.”; “What does anti-abortion #VA7 candidate Yesli Vega have in common with the late Todd Akin? She thinks it’s harder to get pregnant from rape.”; etc. Post-Dobbs, it goes without saying that in addition to being wrong on the merits, this is also a really, really bad stance to be taking from a purely political point of view. Again, this is quite possibly fatal, especially given that Rep. Spanberger is a strong candidate herself, with a MASSIVE cash-on-hand advantage over Vega as of 6/30 – and is almost certainly going to use some of that to pound Vega relentlessly on TV over Vega’s rape comments, her stance on abortion, etc. this fall.
Finally, as for VA10, that’s a Democratic-leaning district with a strong incumbent (Rep. Jennifer Wexton) against a VERY weak, far-right-extremist/nutjob Republican nominee in Hung Cao, who among other things is 100% anti-reproductive-freedom, a climate science denier, you name it. Add in the fact that Rep. Wexton has like 10x the cash-on-hand as Cao, and…let’s just say, if we (Democratic activists, voters, etc.) do what we’re supposed to do, and as long as Rep. Wexton runs a strong campaign (which is almost certain), then Cao is in deep, deep you-know-what come November! LOL