Getting Involved: A NYC High School Student’s Guide to the Midterms

By Adrian Flynn

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It’s no secret that the midterm elections just under a month away will be enormously consequential for the future of the country and this administration. Democrats seem to be in a good position to win a majority in the House of Representatives, as many Republican representatives are in vulnerable positions and the tendency of high midterm turnout from supporters of the minority party seems all but certain to continue (the President’s party has lost House seats in 35 out of the last 38 midterm elections since the end of the Civil War, with the relative unpopularity of the current President likely to magnify this trend.)

The Senate, on the other hand, is a different story. Democratic incumbent senators are running for re-election in ten states which Trump won. Additionally, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Democrats only have four viable opportunities for pickups from Republicans. These are in Nevada and Arizona, which are rated “toss-up,” meaning that a reliable prediction cannot be made either way, and Texas and Tennessee, which are rated “lean R.”

However, there are great opportunities around New York City to get involved in the midterms. Below are three ideal House districts chosen according to how easy they are to get to and the degree of how competitive the election is.

 

New York’s 22nd Congressional District (Toss-up)

Incumbent: Claudia Tenney (R)

Challenger: Anthony Brindisi (D)

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The 22nd district is a total toss-up with two candidates who could both use all the help they can get. It’s further from the city than the other two, so it would be better for people who have a weekend or more to help.

The incumbent, Claudia Tenney, is a former member of the New York State Assembly who was first elected to the seat in 2016 by winning 44% of the votes against a Democrat, Kim Myers, with 39% and an Independent, Martin Babinec, with 13%. She has been described as a “tea party favorite,” and has garnered the support of the Conservative Party of New York State, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and the Citizens United Victory Fund, among other groups. During her two-year tenure in Congress, she has co-sponsored a NRA-supported bill that would substantially eliminate National Firearms Act restrictions on obtaining gun silencers, as well as being quoted as saying after the Parkland school shootings: “It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats.” She also supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the Republican tax overhaul bill (TCJA).

Her opponent, Anthony Brindisi, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and has served in the New York State Assembly since 2011, as well as having served as a member of the Utica City Board of Education before running for office. While he has the support of the Working Families Party, Independence Party, and Women’s Equality Party, he has been a centrist and moderate Democrat in the Assembly. He has an “A” rating from the NRA, supports Nancy Pelosi’s continued leadership of House Democrats, and “devotes more airtime to burnishing his bipartisan credentials than he does to criticizing President Trump.” However, it may be these qualities which make him an attractive alternative to Tenney, whose rhetoric allows no real room for bipartisanship.

The district includes the cities of Utica, Cortland and Binghamton, while also housing Binghamton University, Colgate University and Hamilton College, making the district an ideal place for youth to flex their political muscle. It stretches from part of the Finger Lakes region to the Hudson Valley, and is accessible from the city by train and bus.

 

New York’s 11th Congressional District (Lean Republican)

Incumbent: Dan Donovan (R)

Challenger: Max Rose (D)

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The 11th district covers all of Staten Island and small parts of Southern Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge. It is extremely easy to get to via the ferry, but also slightly more tilted towards the Republican incumbent, as it’s the only congressional district in New York City to be represented by a Republican and to have its majority vote for Trump in the 2016 election. Still, it presents a viable opportunity for a Democratic pickup and is more accessible than upstate districts.

The current holder of the seat, Dan Donovan, was elected in a 2015 special election after the resignation of Michael Grimm, and has since been re-elected once. Before his election to the House, he ran unsuccessfully to be Attorney General of New York against Eric Schneiderman following Andrew Cuomo vacating the position to run for governor. He received national attention in 2014 during the Eric Garner case when as District Attorney for Richmond County, his office declined to indict the officer who put Garner in a chokehold. In Congress, he has worked with Democrats on a number of bills. However, he is close with the President, even introducing legislation to require post offices to display Trump’s portrait and publicly supporting his 2017 executive order to impose a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. However, curiously, he voted for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act but against the Republican tax overhaul bill and American Health Care Act. He is on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security committees.

Donovan’s challenger is Max Rose, who won the primary with 63.32% of the vote. Rose served in the Army from 2010 to 2014 and continues to serve as a Captain in the National Guard. While serving in Afghanistan, Rose was injured when his vehicle was hit by an IED, and he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He has the support of the Working Families Party, Women’s Equality Party, former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama. After his service with the Army, he worked as Director of Public Engagement and Special Assistant to the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

 

New York’s 19th Congressional District (Toss-up)

Incumbent: John Faso (R)

Challenger: Antonio Delgado (D)

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Considered by many across the country to be the most high-profile Congressional race in the state and one of the most vulnerable Republican-held seats in the country, the 19th district is comprised of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions as well as the northernmost region of the New York metropolitan area. Because of this, it is relatively easy to get to on the Metro North or a bus. The district went for Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections but then switched to Trump in 2016.

John Faso, the incumbent, was in the New York State Assembly for 15 years and was the Minority Leader from 1998 to 2002. He has run for statewide office and lost twice, including in a run for governor in 2006 to Eliot Spitzer. He was elected to the seat he currently holds in 2016 after the incumbent, Chris Gibson, retired and endorsed him against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. Faso is is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and has been a bipartisan influence in the House of Representatives. He has spoken out against the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy resulting in family separations at the border as well as expressing support for legal status for “DREAMers.” He also voted against the Republican tax overhaul bill and introduced the bipartisan Challenges and Prizes for Climate Act of 2018 to encourage innovation in combating climate change with Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski. In contrast to these more progressive stances, Faso voted for the American Health Care Act to replace the Affordable Care Act, and received much criticism from his constituents as a result. Additionally, from 2012 to 2015, Faso was a public affairs consultant for the Constitution Pipeline Co., an energy company that was attempting to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York. The pipeline was controversial because it would have transported gas extracted from fracking and was blocked by the state.

Antonio Delgado, an attorney and Rhodes scholar, is challenging Faso for the seat. He won a crowded primary among six other Democratic candidates, but amassed the most votes out of the group with 22.1%. Born and raised in Schenectady, N.Y., Delgado has garnered the endorsements of the Women’s Equality Party, Citizen Action of New York, and former President Barack Obama, among others.

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To get involved, contact the campaign office of the candidate you support to see what kind of work is available for the dates that work for you. If you are unable to work in these districts personally, there are always phone banking and community organizing opportunities to get out the vote. For Democrats to control the House, they need to have a net gain of 24 seats. Whether or not you would like to see this happen, there are many golden opportunities nearby to have an impact. Make no mistake about it, every single door knocked on makes a difference. This is true in any election, but is especially accurate in this one, where the races which decide control of Congress will be decided by the thinnest of margins.

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