Five takeaways from primary night in New York, Florida

Elections 2022

Rep. Jerry Nadler cast his ballot in the Democratic primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in New York. (Associated Press/Mary Altaffer)

(The Hill) — Voters in New York picked their representatives for two vacant House seats on Tuesday, while Florida Democrats chose their nominee to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall. 

The primaries and special elections in the two states were among the last to take place before the country enters the sprint toward the general election, and they offer some final clues about the political landscape heading into the fall.

Here are five takeaways out of New York and Florida:

Democrats make safe choice to take on DeSantis

Staring down the potential of four more years of Ron DeSantis in the governor’s mansion, Florida Democrats turned to a familiar face.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., himself a former Republican governor of Florida, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday for the Democratic nomination to take on DeSantis in November, setting up his second general election campaign to reclaim his old office in Tallahassee in less than a decade.

Heading into the primary, Crist appeared to have an edge over Fried. But his victory was still a blow to Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat and someone who had been heralded as the future of the state party. 

From the outset of her campaign for governor, Fried billed herself as “something new,” casting herself as part of a new generation of Democrats in the state who could bring the fight to DeSantis in November.

But Florida Democrats ultimately chose the establishment favorite in Crist, who argued that his “happy warrior” persona and compromise-minded brand of politics made him the best candidate to win over moderates and independents disenchanted with DeSantis’ combative style and culture war rhetoric.

The Democratic establishment held its own

It was a good night for the Democratic establishment. 

In New York, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of Democrats’ House campaign arm, prevailed in his primary over a progressive challenger. Former Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., overcame a challenge from his left, giving him a chance to reclaim his old House seat in November. 

And Daniel Goldman, who prosecuted the first impeachment case against former President Donald Trump, beat out his main progressive rival, state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou.

A similar case played out in Florida: Crist, who had the support of Democratic establishment heavyweights, beat out Fried in the party’s gubernatorial primary, while Jared Moskowitz, a former state representative and Florida emergency management director, defeated five other Democrats to win the nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

Overall, Tuesday was a show of force for the party establishment, even amid signs that voters in both parties are irritated with their figureheads. 

As Democrats look to ward off a red wave in November, the primary results as a whole might just be a sign that voters aren’t ready to take any chances on less-experienced candidates.

Special elections in New York give Democrats new hope

Republican Joe Sempolinski pulled off a win for a vacant Western New York House district on Tuesday, holding a seat for the GOP after former Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., stepped down earlier this year.

His win was, naturally, a disappointment for Democrats. But it’s not all bad news for the party in power. Democrat Max Della Pia came closer than expected to pulling off an upset in the race. 

And Democrats scored an even bigger win in the special election to represent New York’s 19th District, where Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro in a race that was seen as a bellwether of the political environment ahead of November.

Della Pia’s closer-than-expected loss and Ryan’s narrow win add up to the latest evidence that Democrats may be on the verge of regaining some lost momentum in the runup to the November midterm elections. 

The party has so far faced a bruising political outlook this year, but with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, the seminal abortion rights case, Democrats have seen a burst of energy in recent weeks, raising their hopes of avoiding an electoral rout this fall. 

Maloney loss ushers IN end of political era in Manhattan

No matter who won the Democratic primary to represent New York’s Manhattan-based 12th District, the race was destined to end the political career of one Democratic heavyweight. In the end, that turned out to be Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Maloney lost her primary on Tuesday to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Both currently helm powerful committees in the House — Maloney is the chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, while Nadler leads the Judiciary Committee — and both have served in Congress since the early 1990s. 

There was little animosity between Nadler and Maloney. The two members of Congress are ideologically similar and have a long history of working together. They were only pitted against one another as a result of New York’s redistricting process, which combined the cores of their Manhattan districts earlier this year.

Nevertheless, the results on Tuesday all but assure that Maloney won’t be returning to Washington next year for the first time since 1993. Nadler, meanwhile, is virtually guaranteed another term on Capitol Hill, given the district’s strong Democratic politics.

contentious primary season gives way to general election

The 2022 primary season isn’t over just yet, with a handful of states still waiting to choose their nominees for November. 

But the primaries in Florida and New York saw some of the final major showdowns before the general election campaign starts in earnest and marked the beginning of the end of a particularly contentious primary season that saw incumbents fighting incumbents, Democrats battling over the direction of their party and Republicans squabbling over their loyalty to Trump.

With the primaries nearly over, the focus will now turn to larger questions: Can Democrats defy history and stave off a midterm thrashing, even with President Joe Biden’s approval ratings plumbing new lows? Can Republicans keep their base energized even without Trump on the ballot? 

And most importantly, which party do voters trust the most to control Congress for at least the next two years?

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