New York mostly met expectations last night. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand won easy reelections, continuing a disturbing trend: no sitting Democratic Senator has been unseated in New York, ever. Andrew Cuomo trounced Carl Paladino, as anticipated; Paladino brought his notorious baseball bat to his concession speech, and encouraged Cuomo to use it on Albany lest he (Paladino) be forced to use it on Cuomo instead. Like I said — nothing unexpected.
In the House races, however, there were a few surprises, and a few causes for optimism. The biggest shock of the evening was Republican Mike Grimm’s victory over Democratic incumbent Michael McMahon in NY-13. The New York Times gave McMahon a 90 percent chance of victory, but Grimm finished the night leading by over 4,000 votes. Another surprise — though less shocking — was Republican Richard Hanna’s convincing victory over Democratic incumbent Michael Arcuri in NY-24. Hanna had been leading in polls in September, but dropped off sharply in October — the conventional wisdom was that Paladino’s gaffes were dragging him down, via guilt by association. By election day, the FiveThirtyEight Forecast gave Hanna a less than 40 percent chance of winning — but now, with 96 percent of precincts reporting, he’s up by more than 10,000 votes.
New York Republicans let out one collective groan while watching the returns from NY-23. By the end of the evening it had become clear that Democratic incumbent Bill Owens would win reelection with only 48% of the vote, defeating his Republican challenger Matt Doheny. The difference in this race? Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. He siphoned away five percent of the vote, handing victory to the Democrats. Hoffman had actually withdrawn from the race and endorsed Doheny in October, but not quickly enough to get his name taken off of the ballot. This is the second time in a row Doug Hoffman has been the spoiler for Republicans in NY-23.
Conservatives should be elated by the news from NY-19 and NY-20. There, two cerebral and accomplished Republican candidates, Nan Hayworth and Chris Gibson, respectively, unseated Democratic incumbents. With an O-6 ranking in the Army, bronze stars, purple hearts, four tours in Iraq, a PhD in Government from Cornell, and a charismatic personality, Gibson could make a big splash upon landing in Washington. Same for Hayworth. They are two New York Republicans to watch.
Finally, Republicans picked up the old seat of the disgraced Eric Massa, in NY-29: Republican Thomas Reed trounced Democrat Matthew Zeller. And Republicans held the only two seats they had in the 111th Congress — Republicans Christopher Lee and Peter King both won easy reelections. That’s five Republican pickups, and two Republican reelections. So New York Republicans have multiplied their congressional presence — but they still hold only seven out of 29 spots in the House delegation, and are still a long way away from a Senate seat.
It was a night of relative gains, and a few happy surprises. Overall, though, New York conservatives aren’t elated. What could have been a real chance to use this year’s anti-incumbent momentum, Senator Gillibrand’s unpopularity, and Governor David Paterson’s ineptitude, to win back New York’s highest offices was, many think, spoiled by that less-than-serious candidate at the top of the ticket. There are a few good signs for the future, but bad ones, too. Concluding his concession speech last night, he slung his baseball bat over his right shoulder and said, “Make no mistake. You have not heard the last of Carl Paladino.”