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Black Police Chief’s Crime-Centered Campaign Could Bring Shock Upset in Deep-Blue New York District

Dem groups rush to save Rep. Joe Morelle against Republican challenger La'Ron Singletary

Rep. Joseph Morelle (Getty Images)
• November 1, 2022 1:30 pm

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A former police chief's crime-centered campaign has Democrats sweating in deep-blue Rochester, N.Y., where incumbent congressman Joe Morelle suddenly finds himself on upset alert.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) House Majority PAC dropped $275,000 on an ad buy to help Morelle that will air this week, Politico reported Monday. The spending suggests Democrats are increasingly nervous about Morelle's campaign against Republican La'Ron Singletary, a former Rochester police chief who has focused his campaign message on the city's homicide surge following a state bail reform law that went into effect at the start of 2020. 

Singletary, who is black, was not expected to give Morelle a run for his money. The incumbent Democrat cruised to reelection in 2020, defeating his Republican challenger by 20 points. New York's redistricting process went on to make Morelle's 25th Congressional District slightly less blue, but President Joe Biden still would have won the newly drawn district by 20 points two years ago. Morelle also holds a strong financial advantage over Singletary, having spent $800,000 on TV ads to Singletary's $160,000 prior to House Majority PAC's ad buy.

Morelle is far from the only surprisingly vulnerable Democratic incumbent with Election Day just one week away. In deep-blue Southern California, Rep. Julia Brownley is begging her Democratic colleagues for cash as internal polling shows she could lose to Republican Matt Jacobs in a newly drawn district Biden also would have won by 20 points in 2020. Like Singletary, Jacobs—a former federal prosecutor—has centered much of his campaign on a law-and-order message as Los Angeles County deals with rising homicides. Nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report on Tuesday changed its rating of Brownley's race from "Solid D" to "Lean D," one of 10 rating changes that favored Republicans.

"Things are not great," one House Democrat told NBC News in a piece published Sunday. "Everyone knows that."

Published under: House Democrats, New York