Democrats received a major confidence boost heading into the November midterms after Pat Ryan won a special election for New York's open 19th House seat in a race that's considered a national bellwether.
Ryan, the Ulster County executive, was leading Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, with 51 percent of the vote when the Associated Press called the race just after midnight Wednesday, Aug. 24.
The swing district, located in the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley regions and which includes Ulster and Dutchess counties, was left vacant when Democrat Antonio Delgado became New York’s lieutenant governor in May 2022.
The district was carried by President Joe Biden by fewer than two percentage points in 2020. In 2016, Donald Trump won the district in the presidential election against Hillary Clinton.
“Choice was on the ballot,” Ryan said following his win. “Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won. We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is.”
Watched closely nationally, the race could serve as a playbook for Democrats in the general election who are expected, as Ryan did, to focus on recent Supreme Court rulings on guns and abortion.
Ryan’s campaign ads touted the need for a representative who will fight for abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
“Upstate New Yorkers showed up to the polls and voted for a true champion who will stand up for the values we hold sacred in New York — reproductive freedom, protecting our fundamental rights, and creating opportunity for everyone,” Lieutenant Governor Delgado said in a statement.
Molinaro, meanwhile, focused his campaign on crime and inflation.
Republican leaders were quick to dismiss the notion that the results spell trouble for their party in the general election.
“Majorities are won in November not August,” Michael McAdams, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Axios.
“We look forward to prosecuting the case against Democrats’ failed one party rule that’s left American families worse off.”
Ryan will serve in the new role until November, when he will face Republican state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt for the newly-redrawn 18th House district.
Molinaro will go up against Ithaca attorney Josh Riley to represent the newly-redrawn 19th district.
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