New York's 19th Congressional District Resists 'Blue Wave'

'This district is overwhelmingly central in the political ideology landscape'

Rep. John Faso of New York's 19th / Youtube
August 18, 2018

The House election in New York's 19th Congressional District pits a one-term GOP congressman against a first-time Democratic congressional candidate in a district President Trump won in 2016. The race could prove crucial for either party's ability to control the House of Representatives.

New York's 19th district covers a broad swath of New York State, extending almost 8,000 square miles and containing about 700,000 people. Prior to 2013, the district was made up of counties closer to New York City, including Putnam and part of Westchester. President Obama won this district in 2008 and 2012, both times by more than five points.

Since 2013, the district has consisted of Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster counties, and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery, and Rensselaer counties, giving it a more rural, agricultural character. President Trump won the district by almost seven points in 2016.

The progressive base of the Democratic Party in the district is mainly centered on Ulster County, located in the south of the district, which contains a state university and was the only county to not vote for the district's current representative, Republican John Faso, in 2016. Dutchess County, which is more suburban than much of the district, supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, but Faso in the congressional race.

Robert Bishop, a member of the Delaware County Republican Committee and president of the Livestock Exporters Association of the USA, argues that most of the district is favorable to Republicans. "I think that New York 19 is a very conservative, centrist to right-leaning district," he told the Washington Free Beacon.

Nevertheless, voter registration in the district favors the Democrats, especially in the more populous Ulster County, although this has not translated into a clear electoral advantage for the Democratic Party.

"I really think this district is overwhelmingly central in the political ideology landscape," Elmer LeSuer told the Free Beacon. LeSuer is a Second Amendment advocate in the district and a committeeman on the Kingston Republican Committee.

Bishop goes further, arguing that looking at voter registration alone could give observers the wrong impression of the district's politics. "Even though the enrollment may mislead some of the people looking at just the numbers to think that, 'Okay this could be a swing district,' I think it's a solidly conservative district."

All but three counties in the district—Ulster, Columbia, and Dutchess—supported Trump in 2016. Yet more than half of the counties making up the district voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

For Kim Muller, who chairs the Otsego County Democratic Party and who previously served as mayor of Oneonta, economic difficulties largely account for the district's turn to Trump in 2016. "I think the swing to Trump was a reflection of what we've seen in so many other parts of the country, of challenges with jobs, with socioeconomic issues," she said to the Free Beacon.

"It's a middle-of-the-road district, so while that was an unfortunate swing, it's certainly not a permanent swing by any means," Muller added.

The first serious test of whether this district continues to favor Trump and the GOP will come in November, when first-term congressman John Faso faces Democratic nominee Antonio Delgado for a key House seat.

The Cook Political Report currently lists over three dozen Republican House seats as toss-ups or leaning towards Democrats heading into the midterms. The Democratic Party needs to win 25 seats to have a majority in the House. The race in New York's 19th district is labeled a toss-up.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll last month showing Delgado with a seven-point lead over Faso. On the other hand, Faso led Delgado by five points in a recent survey by IMGE Insights.

The DCCC poll claimed 33 percent of voters approved of Faso, while 45 percent disapproved. Even among Republicans, the survey showed 23 percent disapproved of Faso.

Nevertheless, Bishop pointed to challenges Delgado could face among voters, including the fact that he only recently moved into the district. Although Delgado was born in Schenectady, he only moved to the district last year, having previously lived in New Jersey. Voter data shows Delgado registered to vote in Rhinebeck, New York, on February 23, 2017, one day before filing as a candidate.

Delgado also released a rap album in 2006, which includes lines such as, "Keep pace with my imagination, better yet my infatuation with self-love, i.e., masturbation."

"My music was always about raising our collective socio-political consciousness by challenging young people to address issues from racial injustice to income inequality to misogyny and environmental pollution," Delgado told the Free Beacon last month.

The lyrics may not play well with voters. "I've looked at some of the lyrics," Bishop said, "and I know that's just a business, I can't hold that against him, but some of them I find a little embarrassing. They don't represent the values of people living in this district."

The race in the 19th district could ultimately depend on the impact of third-party candidates and turnout in the district's more rural counties.