New York special election latest test of Democrats’ messaging on abortion

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A New York special election on Tuesday will put the Democratic Party’s abortion campaign playbook to the test as they seek to counter Republican messaging on the economy and inflation to hold a Democratic seat with the November election just 11 weeks away.

The matchup in the Empire State’s 19th Congressional District, which covers New York’s Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley regions, features Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan, a Democrat who has campaigned on a promise to protect abortion access, and Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who has focused on inflation, gas prices and crime.

Both Ryan and Molinaro are seeking to fill the seat formerly held by Antonio Delgado, the Democrat who resigned to become New York’s lieutenant governor this summer. The remainder of Delgado’s term is up in 2023.

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In the final week of campaigning to represent the 19th District, which then presidential candidate Joe Biden carried by less than 2 points in the 2020 election, Ryan, an Army veteran, said during a campaign rally in Woodstock that he hopes to “send another message as the national spotlight starts to shift” to Democrats.

“Think about the message sent in Kansas, think about the message we can send right here,” he said, referencing a ballot decision from voters in the Midwestern state last month that prevented elected representatives from regulating abortion in Kansas.

“How can we be a free country if the government tries to control women’s bodies?” Ryan asked in his first ad. “That’s not the country I fought to defend.” 

At a campaign event held by Molinaro, however, the conversation remained laser focused on issues like crime and the economy.

“This is a special election. It is about the voters of the 19th Congressional District. And it is both disingenuous and a bit insulting to tell them what their issues are,” he said. “They are fearful for the future and they are concerned about their safety. I hear it everywhere.”

“Under one-party rule our communities are facing uncontrollable inflation, a government-fostered crime wave and massive tax increases,” Molinaro said in a recent social media post. “I’m running for Congress to be the voice that is desperately needed in D.C. to fight this insanity.”

Molinaro, once the youngest mayor in America when he was elected to represent Tivoli as a teenager, has name recognition in the race after he ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018. The Republican garnered a little more than 2.2 million votes compared to Cuomo’s 3.63 million in the state.

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Delgado narrowly defeated his Republican challenger, an incumbent, in the 2018 election for the seat, and won by a landslide when he sought re-election in 2020. Although Biden won the district, former President Donald Trump won it in the 2016 presidential election.

Due to redistricting, in addition to the special election on Tuesday to serve out the remainder of Delgado’s term, both Molinaro and Ryan are also on the primary ballot for the general election

Ryan is looking to win a full term representing the state’s new 18th District, a seat abandoned by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who is now seeking to represent the state’s 17th District in the House. Should he advance to the general election, Ryan will face off against Colin Schmitt, the Republican and Conservative Party nominee who ran unopposed in the primary.

Molinaro is running unopposed in the Republican primary for a full term to represent the state’s new 19th District. While his challenger in the November election is yet to be decided, the two Democratic candidates seeking to represent the district are attorney Josh Riley and business owner Jamie Cheney.

Originally slated to take place on June 28, a federal judge shifted the congressional and state Senate primary date to Aug. 23 due to drawing of congressional districts. The only elections held in June were for governor and state Assembly seats.

The Associated Press has contributed to this article.

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