NEW YORK — A victory in a Bellwether House district in Hudson Valley gives Democrats new hope ahead of the daunting 2022 midterm elections and raises questions for Republicans anticipating a “red wave” this fall.
Democrat Pat Ryan won the hotly contested special election on Tuesday, beating Republican Marc Molinaro, NBC News predicted.
The outcome reveals the power of Democratic coverage on abortion: Ryan had put the Supreme Court’s overthrow of Roe v. Wade at the center of trying to get his party’s voters to the polls, using his military service to argue that fighting for American freedom means protecting reproductive rights.
It was contrasted with the Republican message, carried by Molinaro, that the election is a referendum on President Joe Biden, economic pain from inflation and crime. Molinaro ran as a check on “one-party rule” by Democrats in Washington, which Republicans have long viewed as a winning pitch. On Tuesday morning, Molinaro insisted voters to appear and “send a message to Washington”.
It wasn’t enough.
The Hudson Valley district has been tracking the national vote for years — it voted by about 2 points for Joe Biden in 2020 after voting for Donald Trump and Barack Obama in their successful presidential campaigns. It was a Republican-occupied House district until it went to Democrats in the 2018 golf election.
In 2010 or 2014—the last two midterm elections when a Democrat held the White House—Democratic candidates probably wouldn’t have stood a chance in this district. Ryan overcame the headwind and won.
“Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was at stake, and tonight choice and freedom won,” Ryan said Tuesday night, proclaiming the victory.
The Molinaro campaign did not immediately respond to the result on Tuesday evening and did not respond to messages asking for comment. Ryan will serve for the last few months from the seat vacated by Democrat Antonio Delgado to become New York’s lieutenant governor, before going on November 8 for a full term in a neighboring district.
Before Election Day, strategists from both parties had downplayed their chances of winning. Democrats were concerned about Republican spending and the tendency of many Liberal voters to sit out when their party heads the White House. GOP staff noted that the special election coincides with a primary day in a blue state where Democrats typically show up in greater numbers due to more competitive competition within the party.
If Ryan’s performance on Tuesday is repeated by Democratic candidates this fall, it means control of Congress is still up for grabs. Republicans need only a handful of seats to flip the House majority, and a net gain of one seat to win the Senate.
In a statement congratulating Ryan, Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said his victory “sends a clear signal that voters are fighting back against Republicans’ extreme attacks on abortion rights.”
“I am delighted to welcome Pat to Congress where I know he will continue to be a champion for the Hudson Valley,” he said in a statement. “Republicans can say goodbye to their ‘Red Wave’ as voters are clearly moving forward to elect a pro-choice majority in Congress in November.”
Dasha Burns contributed.