In the lead-up to New York's gubernatorial race, I consistently expressed my skepticism that Republican nominee Lee Zeldin could actually pull off the upset against incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul. Granted, she seemed to be doing everything within her power to lose, from focusing incessantly on non-top-tier issues, to her dismissive buck-passing on crime. She ran an awful campaign. But for a statewide campaign to actually be competitive in a place as blue as New York, the awfulness of the Democrat isn't enough. The Republican also has to run a smart, aggressive, spirited campaign. Lee Zeldin did that. Republicans across the state, and the country, should be grateful.
In some ways, Zeldin wasn't a great fit for New York, writ large. Hochul hammered on his votes against certifying some of the 2020 presidential election results, and she targeted his pro-life stance, which is a tough sell statewide in a very liberal place. But he focused like a laser on crime and the economy, and he was both energetic and relentless on the campaign trail. He attracted a ton of earned media and excited a lot of New York voters. Many of them turned out, motivated to help defeat Hochul. Republican Governors like Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin came in to help the cause. The result was a single-digit loss -- the closest Empire State gubernatorial race in decades:
It wasn't enough to win, but @leezeldin 47 percent is the best showing for an R gov candidate in NY State in 20 years, and will help flip a few House seats.— Matthew Continetti (@continetti) November 9, 2022
With nearly all of the votes counted, Hochul won by less than six points. Frustratingly and tantalizingly close, perhaps, but I've been making the point on television and radio for weeks that a tight race at the top of the ticket would have down-ballot implications. Thanks to a flagrantly unconstitutional gerrymander attempt that was blown up by the state supreme court, New York was home to an array of competitive House races this cycle. I argued that Zeldin blazing a path for the party, even if he fell short, could pay dividends in these races, and that's exactly what has happened. As of this writing, Republicans have flipped two seats (update: looks like four, see below) already, with potentially more on the way:
If Democrats lose the House (which seems likely at this point), New York may be a big reason why.— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) November 9, 2022
In #NY03, #NY04, #NY17, #NY19, and #NY25, Republicans appear heavily favored.
All five voted for Biden in 2020 (by 5-15 points) and were considered highly competitive. pic.twitter.com/TZUHLVIJby
Democrats have conceded in NY-3, on Long Island, and in NY-17, where DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney has admitted defeat. Amazingly, the DCCC had an almost miraculously good night, but he lost. Incidentally, this is an interesting note about the GOP winner in NY-3, who is Jewish and Hispanic, among other traits:
GOP pickup & it’s historic. Santos is the son of immigrants and will become the first ever openly gay Republican to serve in Congress. https://t.co/mBm5dJD9O9— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 9, 2022
If NY-4 holds, and the Republican has declared victory there (update: it's been called), that would be a major GOP gain in a Biden +15 district. NY-19 would be another pick-up for Republicans, who narrowly lost a special election in the district earlier in the year. It's looking pretty good, it seems (update: it's now been called). NY-22 would be an important hold, but not a gain. Also looking pretty good. New York, of all places, could end up delivering crucial seats for a narrow Republican House majority (which hasn't been called yet, but it appears fairly likely). If that happens, Zeldin and DeSantis in Florida (R+4 seats with the new FL map) were MVP's for the party. I'd also guess that Zeldin likely had some knock-on effects beyond the borders of his state, but within his media market, too:
BREAKING: Republican Thomas Kean Jr. wins the House race in New Jersey's 5th congressional district, defeating Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski and flipping the seat https://t.co/BM5xSEfdvV pic.twitter.com/A90ISZu7Dq— Bloomberg (@business) November 9, 2022
I'm not taking anything away from either of those candidates who ranhard-fought races (the CT race has not been called), but Zeldin beating the drum on key issues, all over TV in this market, couldn't have hurt. By the way, is it possible that some of these hyper-close House wins in the New York area could be wiped out in 2024? Absolutely. But the dynamics in other areas of the country could shift next cycle, too, and big Republican wins in state Supreme Court races in Ohio and North Carolina last night mean that there will probably be a handful of new GOP-leaning districts drawn soon.