Democrats will need to win places like New York’s 3rd District if they want to take back the House later this year.
The Long Island seat hosts a hotly contested special election on Tuesday, shaping up to be an early messaging and turnout test for both parties ahead of November, not just for Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazie Philip.
“No matter which party wins this seat, there’s no question it’s going to be a push into the general election cycle,” said Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York Democratic Party, who also chairs the Nassau County caucus in the 3rd District, represented by Republican George Santos. before that He was expelled from Congress in December.
Although strategists caution against extrapolating too much from special elections with unpredictable turnout, the House race will be tight for the rest of the year, with Democrats needing a five-district net gain to flip the House. Like other House battlegrounds, the New York district is a Republican-held seat that Joe Biden carried in 2020 — 8 points each Calculations from Daily Kos Elections.
And the district is in a state with many competitive House races, though it’s not a presidential battleground.
About two-thirds of the 23 House races Cook Political Report with Amy Walter The 2024 runoffs are in non-presidential battleground states, including a number of competitive races in New York and California.
While this dynamic may make it harder for these races to attract donor and activist attention in a presidential election year, candidates in these House races may have more room to pitch their races and put their personal policy proposals front and center. A year in which Biden and former President Donald Trump entered the general election with low approval ratings.
Tuesday’s race in Long Island is a test of whether Democrats can put some distance between themselves and Biden as they struggle with the lowest support levels of the presidency.
A Newsday/Siena College poll A poll released Thursday found that a majority of likely voters in the 3rd District viewed both Biden and Trump unfavorably. In the poll, Trump leads Biden by 5 points, while the same poll leads former congressman Suozzi’s Philip by 4 points.
Still, Republicans are optimistic they can remain competitive in those districts because of Biden’s low approval ratings — and voters voicing concerns about the economy and the flow of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The biggest issue coming out of the November 2022 election has been the impact of this crisis on our southern border into New York and the surrounding areas,” said former GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, who represents a neighboring district. Last year, he carried Nassau County in an unsuccessful gubernatorial race.
Zeldin also said the region has swung Republican in part because, he said, the large Jewish population has moved to the right since the Obama administration’s 2015 deal with Iran aimed at preventing the nation from acquiring nuclear weapons. Support for Israel is front and center in this race amid the ongoing war with Hamas since the October 7 attack.
“After October. Voter activity, relevance and interest in 7 continues to grow,” said Zeldin.
Philip, a Nassau County legislator, has maintained his willingness to stand up to critics of Israel in Suozzi’s party, while emphasizing his Jewish faith and his service as a gunsmith in the paratrooper unit of the Israel Defense Forces.
Popular issue previews
The special election offers an early opportunity to test party messaging and counter-messaging on key issues such as immigration and abortion, which are sure to play a large role in this fall’s U.S. races.
While support for Israel is the main issue, the influx of migrants has dominated television ads in the race. Republicans have criticized Suozzi over the issue, and Suozzi has said he will work with both parties to resolve the crisis.
Republicans believe the issue has given them an edge in Tuesday’s 3rd District and other House races in November.
“We will do great things because all the issues [are] is on our side,” Philip, an Ethiopian immigrant who is running for the county seat for the first time in 2021, said in a brief phone interview Thursday evening. He called border security the “number one concern” for voters.
Republicans have been winning in New York since 2020, especially in Long Island, winning the 3rd District and recent local elections.
“The Democratic brand has been destroyed over the last three years,” Suozzi told reporters in a Zoom briefing Wednesday, noting Republican attacks on issues like crime and bail reform.
Asked in a phone interview Thursday by NBC News why the GOP messages resonated, Suozzi said, “There’s a perception from a lot of people — the public, the press, politicians — that crime and immigration and patriotism and so on are all Republican issues. “It’s not a Republican issue. These are American issues that everyone should be talking about.”
“We need to address the issues that people are concerned about,” he said.
Border security is one of them, and Suozzi said he’s focused on it since the start of the long race.
There is Suozzi too He tried to capture Philip’s opposition to a bipartisan Senate deal tightening asylum laws and strengthening border security. But the outcome of the border deal may come too late to significantly affect the race.
Voters polled by a 9-point margin in a Newsday/Siena College poll say Philip would do a better job of handling the migrant crisis. Suozzi’s biggest lead over Philip is on abortion, with voters saying he would do better on the issue by 22 points.
While Suozzi mentioned abortion on the campaign trail and during Thursday night’s heated debate, he barely mentions it in his TV commercials. He declined to say why, noting that outside groups are focusing on the issue.
On abortion access, Suozzi said, “I don’t support any restrictions.”
Democratic groups outnumbered Republicans in airtime, with Suozzi and his allies dropping $13.8 million in advertising to Republicans’ $7.7 million, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm.
one final announcement PAC from the Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC offers images of Philip describing himself as “pro-life” and accusing him of supporting a national abortion ban, citing his position on the Conservative Party ballot.
Philip said in the debate that he would not support a federal ban, but declined to say whether he would vote to protect abortion rights at the federal level. He did not directly answer this question in a telephone interview.
“I can tell you that in the state of New York, in my district, that right is protected,” Philip told NBC News.
Philip’s argument that abortion is protected in New York reflects that some GOP members think abortion won’t be as prominent an issue in House races in Democratic-leaning states. But Democrats still intend to work on it. A Democratic strategist involved in House races noted that polls show anti-abortion positions are “toxic” in various battleground states.
Both parties are also testing turnout operations on Tuesday as they prepare efforts to boost House candidates in states that may not benefit from the resources flowing into presidential battlegrounds.
Both major House super PACs — the Congressional Leadership Fund on the Republican side and House Majority PAC on the Democratic side — have engaged in special elections, running ads and targeting voters.
Battleground New York, a Democratic group, is also running a special election campaign to strengthen its organizing in state House races later this year.
“The special election is definitely the first opportunity to test this,” said Gabby Seay, co-director of Battleground New York. The group is spending more than $700,000 on an outreach program targeting 40,000 voters.
Republicans are also testing their turnout operations, with the Nassau County GOP activating a network of 1,100 precinct volunteers for each county GOP Chairman, Joe Cairo.
New York GOP spokesman David Laska said he is “100%” confident the national party will focus on the state’s House races, given their “majority delegation.”
Laska noted that New Yorkers are in “wait and see mode” as they await the new congressional map. State redistribution commission you have until February 28 to draw a new mapand Laska said the state GOP would challenge the new map if it was a partisan gerrymander.
Even with this uncertainty, Laska and other House strategists still expect New York to remain a key state in the House race.
“We’ll see what happens on February 13,” Zeldin said. “But you know, no matter what happens, everybody on both sides of the aisle will understand on February 14th that everything remains an extremely competitive House environment for the fall.”