Joe Biden winning New York was never in doubt.
But that doesn’t mean Tuesday’s election results didn’t contain any drama, or surprises.
In a year when Democrats might have been expected to build on the gains they made in the 2018 midterm election, Republicans showed unexpected resilience. They won’t retake the state Senate, but a party many had left for dead appears to be very much alive.
Indeed, state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy sent out a jubilant message to supporters on Wednesday afternoon in which he described Tuesday as “an outstanding night for New York Republicans!” and declared how “energized and excited” he was about the future.
Langworthy’s missive might be a touch hyperbolic — New York remains one of the bluest states in the country — but it isn’t entirely wrong.
Going into the election, Democrats in the state Senate had hoped to pick up two more seats, giving them a veto-proof majority. Instead, there’s a good chance they’ll lose several seats, although it’s worth noting that absentee ballots are still pending and that could change some results.
Other unexpected signs of life:
In 2018, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Utica, defeated Republican Claudia Tenney by less than 4,000 votes. In this year’s rematch for New York’s 22nd Congressional District, Tenney leads Brindisi by nearly 30,000 votes.
On Staten Island, Republican Nicole Malliotakis appeared to unseat Democrat Max Rose in the state’s 11th Congressional District, ousting the one-term incumbent and returning the seat to GOP hands. Long Island Democrat Thomas Suozzi seems likely to lose his seat to Republican George Santos, who holds a small 1,469 vote lead in the 3rd Congressional District.
Count me among those who expected Saugerties Democrat Michelle Hinchey to beat Rensselaerville Republican Rich Amedure in the contest to succeed Republican George Amedore of Rotterdam in the 46th Senate District. Instead, Amedure appears to be the victor, and the race wasn’t all that close: On Wednesday evening, Amedure’s lead was a daunting 8,000 votes.
In the North Country, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanick walloped Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb — a victory that ought to put to rest any notion that New York’s 21st Congressional District is a swing district.
Let’s be clear: The Republican gains in New York are modest.
The state Assembly, Senate and executive branch remain firmly in the control of Democrats, and its Congressional delegation is dominated by Democrats.
But it’s still surprising to see Republicans chip away at that dominance, especially in a presidential year when Empire State Democrats came out in force to support former Vice President Joe Biden for president.
In an interview with “Capital Tonight’s” Susan Arbetter, state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs acknowledged that the results were disappointing for Democrats. “I think that Donald Trump did better than we had expected, both nationally and in New York state,” he said. “He had a lot to do with driving some of the vote.”
Another possibility is that voters were motivated to reject the state’s drift toward one-party rule.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wasn’t on the ballot, but his handling of the pandemic might have influenced voter behavior, fueling down-ballot Republican victories.
Polls show that a majority of New Yorkers approve of the governor’s COVID-19 response, but that support isn’t unanimous.
One thing I’ve been wondering is whether unhappiness with Cuomo’s pandemic-related restrictions and policies manifested itself in a better-than-expected day for Republicans at the ballot box. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the answer was yes.
Democratic enrollment in New York has been increasing in recent years, putting the Republicans at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to reversing Democratic control of the state Senate and winning statewide offices.
But on Tuesday night the GOP showed that it can still compete in New York — and that it intends to do so.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.