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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

New York primaries set up Democratic fight for control of US House

Democrats are eager to field strong candidates in key districts where they underperformed in 2022 — and one where redistricting gives them a better shot.

NEW YORK (CN) — In the battle over congressional control, New York’s primary elections next week could help determine if Democrats will be able to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

“If you were to ask me, if Democrats were going to win back the House, what states would it run through? It would be New York and California,” Shawn Donahue, a political science professor at the University of Buffalo, told Courthouse News. “States where, in 2022, Democrats underperformed in a lot of districts.”

New York has one of the largest concentrations of Republican lawmakers sitting in districts that Biden won in 2020, otherwise referred to as crossover districts. Of New York’s 26 congressional seats, seven are considered competitive and the results of the primaries could shape whether Democrats can gain a majority in the House.

One of the state’s most-watched primaries centers on a seat Democrats already hold: Westchester County Executive George Latimer’s bid to replace Representative Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th Congressional District.

Bowman has faced public backlash for his open criticism of Israel’s military response in the war with Hamas, condemning what he has called the “slaughter of civilians” in Gaza.

“We should not be sending any more weapons at this time to Israel,” Bowman said in a debate against Latimer last week. “They are engaged in collective punishment by killing mostly women, children and babies in Gaza.”

Latimer, on the other hand, has endorsed Biden’s call for an immediate cease-fire of at least six weeks. He has also received backing from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee super PAC, which spent $1.9 million on its first set of ads attacking Bowman.

Latimer has directly criticized Bowman’s views on the Israel-Hamas war, suggesting that Bowman fails to acknowledge the impact of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

“What the congressman fails to mention in all of this is the role that Hamas has played,” Latimer said in last week’s debate. “It’s not merely a simple condemnation of what they did. What they did that day on Oct. 7 triggered everything that has followed afterward.”

In a recent Emerson College poll, 45% of voters said they are more aligned with Latimer’s views on the Israel-Hamas war compared to 29% who said they are aligned with Bowman.

“What you have here, and I think in other seats in the country, is that more moderate Democrats are really pushing back against some of the really far-left progressives,” Donahue said.

In another primary, two Democrats are competing to unseat Republican Representative Nick La Lota in New York’s 1st Congressional District, which Republicans have held for nearly a decade. The district covers much of the eastern portion of Long Island, including most of Suffolk County.

Nancy Goroff, a former Stony Brook University chemistry professor and department chair, ran for the seat in 2020 but lost to then-incumbent Republican Representative Lee Zeldin in the general election.

She’s competing against John Avlon, a former CNN commentator who also worked for The Daily Beast and wrote speeches for then-mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani.

Despite Republicans' hold on the seat, both Democratic candidates contend it is up for grabs. The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC wrote in a February memo that while the district has a “slight tilt towards Republicans,” it remains “one of the most competitive districts in the country.”

“The district is more Democratic than it was. Lee Zeldin is no longer on the ballot,” said Goroff, who lost to Zeldin by nearly 10 points in 2020, in an interview with City & State New York.

While Avlon shares Goroff’s sentiment that the district can flip, he has repeatedly jabbed at her 2020 loss.

“You need candidates who can energize people, inspire the base, but also win over independent voters and that reasonable edge of Republicans,” Avlon said in an interview with Spectrum News. “I think I can do that. I think my record and my beliefs can help facilitate that."

Goroff has raised more than $925,000 and received endorsements from Emily’s List, an organization that works to elect Democratic women, and 314 Action. Avlon, who has raised more than $1.1 million, has gotten endorsements from New York State United Teachers and state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs.

In the state's 22nd Congressional District, Democrats John Mannion and Sarah Klee Hood are competing for the opportunity to face Republican Representative Brandon Williams in November.

“This is probably Democrats’ best chance, or second best chance, to flip a seat to their side, especially given the redistricting process,” Donahue said.

After New York’s highest court ordered the state to redraw its congressional maps, the 22nd district saw one of the biggest changes. The district includes the city of Syracuse, Onondaga and Madison counties, as well as southern Oneida County, southern Cayuga County and northern Cortland County.

“Some of the more conservative parts of Oneida County were taken out in favor of some more Democratic parts of the Finger Lakes,” Donahue said.

According to Donahue, the redistricting in that county may make it difficult for Williams to keep his seat.

Klee Hood, an Air Force veteran and Dewitt town council member, and state Senator Mannion will face off in a debate Tuesday, a week before the primary election on June 25.

Follow @NikaSchoonover
Categories / Elections, Politics

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