The slumbering Democratic midterm electorate awakened this year, in both New York and the nation. Across the country, the sum of the votes of the Democratic candidates for every House of Representatives race in the nation was 60.5 million and still counting. In 2014, only 35.6 million voted Democratic.
While Democrats are celebrating their booming turnout and major wins, including flipping the House of Representatives and the New York State Senate, there’s a big question Democrats need to ponder: can they sustain and even grow this kind of turnout in 2020 and hold onto the many razor-thin wins in these midterms?
First, let’s look at some key numbers nationally and in New York.
In 2018 the Democrats have gained nearly 25 million more votes for the House Democratic candidates than in 2014 ( this is called the National House Popular Vote), 70% more than the past midterm election. The Republican House Popular Vote this year is 50.8 million, compared to 40.1 million in 2014, a gain of 10.7 million, 27% over the prior midterm. The count is still not finished. The Democrats won 40 seats in the House and a race in North Carolina remains uncertified as a fraud investigation unfolds.
In New York, Governor Cuomo and the statewide Democratic ticket won an overwhelming victory. Compare the Election Night results by region on NY’s gubernatorial line in 2018 with those same regional results in 2014. NYC just certified its results on Dec.3rd, so these numbers are final for NYC.
The overall statewide turnout increased 50%, from 3.8 million in 2014 to 5.8 million this year (absentee and other paper ballots will soon be added). In New York City, the turnout doubled, surging from 1 million in 2014 to over 2 million this year. In the New York City suburbs, the turnout rose 46% over 2014, but, more importantly for the State Senate races, the Democratic turnout in the suburbs rose 60%, from 483,000 votes in 2014 to 774,000 votes in 2018. Governor Cuomo’s margin in the suburbs in 2014 was 60,000, winning 52%-45%, but this year his margin rose to 208,000 votes, and a win of 57%-41%. The dramatic improvement in the suburbs for the Democrats was a critical factor in their winning seven Republican State Senate seats, four on Long Island and 3 in the Hudson Valley. (They won an 8th in NYC.)
LONG ISLAND WINS FOR DEMOCRATS
Here’s a look at the results on the Governor’s line and the six seats won by Democrats, including two incumbents, on Long Island:
The Republicans lost 4 State Senate seats on Long Island and have been wiped out in Nassau County. Just four years ago, they held all nine; when the Democrats take control in January, the Republicans will hold 3 of the nine Long Island Senate seats. Their troubles began with the corruption conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos; his seat was won by a Democratic Assembly member and former Federal prosecutor, Todd Kaminsky, in a special election held the same day as the New York Presidential primary in April 2016. Another Democrat, John Brooks, won a second Long Island Senate seat in November 2016 by 314 votes. This year Kaminsky won handily and Brooks won re-election with 54%. In the four new victories the Democratic candidates had two 10,000 vote wins. The other two victories were very close, one by 2,500 votes and 3 points, the other by 1,400 and just one point.
HUDSON VALLEY WINS FOR DEMOCRATS
Here’s a look at the results on the Governor’s line and the 3 Senate seats in the Hudson Valley where the Democrats won, by county in the northern suburbs of the City and the counties in the Hudson Valley.
The Democrats won three Republican seats in the Hudson Valley. Democratic Assemblymember Jim Skoufis, who won his Assembly seat in 2012 at the age of 25, ran for the seat vacated by Republican incumbent Bill Larkin and won by 6,700 votes and nearly 54%. He won in Orange County by more than 4000 votes and in Rockland County by 3000 votes. Democrat Jen Metzger won the seat held by retiring Republican incumbent John Bonacic by a slim 2,500 votes, 51%-49%. She won Ulster County by 5,000 votes and lost Orange County by only 61 votes, 23,708 to 23, 647. Both Skoufis and Metzger likely ran ahead of Cuomo in Orange County, but his wins in Ulster and Rockland surely helped their campaigns.
Democrat Peter Harckham won the third seat in the Hudson Valley in another close race, defeating Republican incumbent Terence Murphy by 2,100 votes, 51%-49%. Harckham lost in both Putnam and Dutchess Counties, as did Cuomo, but he won solidly in Westchester, where most of the district is located, by 10,000 votes. Cuomo won Westchester County 2-1. Democrats are celebrating their wins in the Hudson Valley, but two of the three wins were very tight.
Here’s a look at the results of the three Congressional wins in New York for the Democrats. The two Upstate New York victories, in the 19th and 22nd Congressional districts, occurred entirely outside the New York City suburbs:
In the two Upstate districts, the Democratic candidates ran ahead of Governor Cuomo, and needed to do so to win. In the 19th Congressional district, charismatic Rhodes Scholar and Harvard graduate Democrat Antonio Delgado defeated incumbent Republican John Faso by over 7,500 votes. But in Ulster County he won by 16,000 votes, 43,000 to 27,000, while Cuomo’s margin in Ulster was 6,000. The Governor won there 37,000 to 31,000. Delgado also won by small margins in traditionally Republican Columbia and Dutchess County, while Cuomo lost there by slim margins. Faso defeated Delgado further north, in Rensselaer County and the Catskills, where Cuomo did not do well.
In Central New York, Democratic Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi overcame many challenges to win a very close race against incumbent Republican Claudia Tenney. Despite a 30,000 voter registration edge for the Republicans and polls showing majority approval of Trump in the district, Brindisi won by slightly more than 1%, 122,000 to 119.000. Nearly all the absentee ballots have been counted there. Brindisi won his home base in Oneida County 38,000 to 37,000, and won Broome County, where the City of Binghamton is located, by 8,000 votes. He managed to stay close to Tenney in other heavily Republican counties. Here’s a comparison of the Cuomo-Molinaro race with the Brindisi-Tenney race in counties overlapping with the 22nd Congressional district. The results demonstrate how competitive Brindisi was in Republican turf.
NEW YORK CITY
In New York City the Democratic margins were staggering.
Cuomo won 82%-15% and by 1.38 million votes. The lone New York City Republican member of Congress, Dan Donovan, was defeated. One of the only two Republican State Senators in New York City, State Senator Marty Golden, whose Brooklyn district overlapped Donovan’s Congressional district, which is 70% Staten Island and 30% Brooklyn, was also defeated. Democrat Max Rose won the Brooklyn side of the Congressional district by 11,000 votes, and, amazingly, won Staten Island by 1,400 votes. In the Democratic part of Staten Island, the North Shore, Rose won the Assembly district there by 16,000 votes, a margin the Republicans were unable to overcome in the rest of Staten Island. Rose had more than double the vote of the Democratic candidate for the seat in 2014, 95,000 vs. 45,000. Seems like somebody finally put an alarm clock next to the heads of the Democratic voters on Staten Island. Kudos to the Rose campaign.
In the Senate race, the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gounardes, defeated Senator Golden by nearly 1,300 votes, 33, 507 to 32,236, another extremely close election won by two points. Gournardes and Rose benefited from the energy and synergy of running in the overlapping sections of the Congressional and State Senate districts.
2020 will be a big challenge for the Democrats to hold the victories in New York and the nation. Many of the State Senate and Congressional wins were extremely close. The new Democratic incumbents will have to work hard. Republicans in New York and the rest of the country will make intense efforts to recover during the Presidential election, when turnout will be higher and President Trump will be on the ballot. Of course, Republicans have the repudiation of President Trump to blame for their losses this year. Exit polls also showed the Democrats won the 18-29 age group by 35 points, a very encouraging long-term sign for the Democrats. Nonetheless, the Republicans will be highly competitive in many of these districts and the Democrats can take nothing for granted next time.
*New York City’s final certified results from Dec. 3rd are included and added to totals.