The San Juan Daily Star
What to know about New York’s midterm elections
By Michael Gold
After a hectic primary season, New Yorkers will now head to the polls to decide contests that will have consequences for both state and national politics.
With Democrats looking to hold onto their slim majority in Congress and Republicans eager to take control, New York has become a key battleground with more competitive congressional races than nearly any other state.
Voters in New York are also facing choices in four statewide races, including a marquee contest for governor, with Gov. Kathy Hochul seeking election to her first full term in office after she succeeded Andrew Cuomo 14 months ago. Her race against Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican challenger, has appeared increasingly close as Election Day nears.
When and where to vote
The early voting period began on Saturday and ends Nov. 6. Operating hours vary based on county and polling location.
You can also vote on Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 8 — when polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In many cases, early voting locations will be different than your designated Election Day polling site. You can find either by entering your name and address at voterlookup.elections.ny.gov, a state Board of Elections website. If you live in New York City, you can also call 1-866-VOTE-NYC.
Voters who encounter any difficulties can call the attorney general’s election protection hotline at 1-866-390-2992.
The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot online has already passed, but voters can still apply for one at their local county Board of Elections office until Nov. 7.
Ballots must be returned by mail, with a postmark no later than Nov. 8, or in person at a polling site or a county Board of Elections office by 9 p.m. that day.
If voters have requested to vote by absentee ballot, they cannot cast a ballot on a voting machine. They can still vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day by using an affidavit ballot. That affidavit will only be counted if the voter’s absentee ballot has not been received.
It starts at the top
At the top of the ballot is the race for governor, a contest in which Republicans have traditionally faced long odds: No Republican has been elected to statewide office in 20 years.
Hochul, a Buffalo-area Democrat, became the first woman to serve as New York’s governor last year when she replaced Cuomo after his resignation.
In a state where Democrats far outnumber Republicans, Hochul entered the race with a significant advantage. She dominated her primary election and has a significant fundraising lead over Zeldin. For months, she has harped on Zeldin’s close ties to former President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in New York. She has also warned that Zeldin would roll back abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But polls in recent weeks have shown Hochul’s initial lead over Zeldin — a Republican congressman who has represented eastern Long Island since 2015 — narrowing to the single digits. Recent surveys have found that fears about public safety and inflation have become the chief concerns of likely voters, and Zeldin has made those issues — and crime in particular — the focal points of his campaign.
In Democrats’ mission to maintain control of the House of Representatives, New York was regarded as a party bulwark. But after an erratic redistricting process that ended earlier this year, political analysts now say that Republicans may be poised to flip a handful of Democratic seats.
Of particular interest are three districts in the Hudson Valley currently represented by Democrats. While the party has picked up support in the area in recent years, Republicans are hoping to seize on discontent with President Joe Biden and his party.
In the 17th Congressional District, which includes Poughkeepsie and exurban areas in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads the House Democrats’ campaign committee, is facing a strong challenge from Mike Lawler, a Republican assemblyman.
Lawler has garnered millions of dollars in outside help from Republicans, who have spent the money on ads that blame Democrats for inflation and the rising cost of gasoline. He has also pointed to fears over public safety.
Democrats, too, have spent heavily on the airwaves, focusing their messaging on abortion rights and concerns about Republican attacks on election integrity. Maloney has sought to link Lawler to Trump, who lost the 17th District by 10 percentage points.
The battle lines are roughly the same in the neighboring 18th District, where Rep. Pat Ryan, who won a special House election in August, is facing a challenge from Colin Schmitt, a Republican assemblyman.
In the 19th District, Marcus Molinaro, a Republican county executive who lost to Ryan, is running against Josh Riley, a lawyer and first-time candidate who has spent much of his professional career outside the state.
Republicans are also hoping to make pickups in Long Island, where three of the region’s four House seats are open after incumbents stepped aside. Democrats currently hold the two districts that mostly represent Nassau County, which borders New York City, while the two districts further east in Suffolk County are held by Republicans.
In the 4th District, in central and southern Nassau County, candidates are running to replace Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who is retiring at the end of the year. Anthony D’Esposito, a Republican town councilman and a former New York City police detective, is facing Laura Gillen, a Democrat and a former town supervisor.
In the 3rd District, to the north, Robert Zimmerman, a small-business owner and well-known Democratic activist, wants to fill the seat currently held by Rep. Tom Suozzi. Zimmerman has repeatedly attacked his Republican opponent, George Santos, as being too extreme for the district, pointing to Santos’ support of abortion bans and his attendance at the pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
In the 2nd District, an affluent region on the South Shore of Long Island, Rep. Andrew Garbarino, a Republican, is heavily favored to win reelection against his Democratic challenger, Jackie Gordon, an Army veteran whom he defeated in 2020.
A contest for another open seat lies in the 1st District, which Zeldin has held since 2014 but gave up to run for governor. The Democratic candidate, Bridget Fleming, a county legislator and former assistant district attorney, has a significant fundraising lead and was endorsed by a police officers union. Her Republican opponent, Nicholas LaLota, is a former Navy lieutenant who works in the Suffolk County Legislature, and has focused his campaign on rising prices and interest rates.
In New York City, Democrats are also to eager to regain the 11th Congressional District, which encompasses Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn. The race there is a rematch between Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican who won two years ago, and Max Rose, the Democrat who flipped what had been a conservative stronghold in 2018.
What else is on the ballot?
In the other statewide races, incumbent Democrats are heavily favored. Sen. Chuck Schumer, currently the majority leader, is running for his fifth term. His opponent, Joe Pinion, is a Republican who grew up in Yonkers and until recently hosted a show on the right-wing news network Newsmax.
The New York attorney general, Letitia James, is also running for reelection after suspending her campaign for governor last year. Her Republican opponent is Michael Henry, who works as a lawyer in New York City. The state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, faces a Republican challenger, Paul Rodriguez, an investor.