Democrats have every right to crow over their win this week in the NY-19 special election, and to hope it’s a harbinger of a less-grim Election Day this November than they’d long feared. It shows that Republicans can’t just play it safe by running against soaring crime and inflation, even though Dems fully own both.
To be fair, the race between Pat Ryan and Marc Molinaro was less of a bellwether than Dems would like: Ryan is a West Point grad and Iraq war combat veteran, credentials that minimize centrists’ national-security concerns about most Democrats. And since the special was held on the same day as party primaries, unaffiliated (and so mostly centrist) voters had far less reason to show up at the polls.
But the fact remains that polls showed Molinaro leading the whole way, and Ryan ran hard on abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court tossing Roe v. Wade and it paid off, driving up Democratic turnout enough to eke out a win.
It doesn’t matter that New York law already protects every conceivable abortion; people passionate about the abstract issue still responded — making the difference in a low-turnout August special election.
Longer term, those passions will ease as the actual impact of the high court’s ruling becomes clear and most states settle just where they’ll draw the line on legal abortion. For now, though, pro-life Republicans will pay some price at the polls.
Which is no doubt why Gov. Kathy Hochul is running as if abortion were the most important issue before New Yorkers this November, and all Lee Zeldin can do is drive home the plain truth that it’s utterly irrelevant.
The real issues are far more immediate: Hochul’s refusal to act on crime means needless bloodshed every day, while her policies on taxes, energy, education and everything else guarantee the Empire State’s continued decline.
For the sake of New York’s future, hope that the Nov. 8 electorate pays attention to the real stakes.