It’s been a tumultuous year for New York’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Following the 2020 Census, the state lost a seat in Congress, lowering its representation in Washington to 26 members. This was followed by a politically messy redistricting process and months-long legal battle that resulted in a bifurcated primary election in the unusual voting month of August. Two incumbents bowed out of seeking re-election, candidates jumped to running in different districts multiple times, powerful incumbents were forced to run against one another, and two congressmen resigned this spring, prompting two special elections for two districts that will no longer exist in just over four months at the same time as primary elections for the very districts that will replace them.
Voting for primary elections takes place Tuesday for those newly drawn House seats and those special elections. The winners of the primaries will go on to face each other in the November general election, which will determine who controls Congress for at least the next two years.
Here are the races in upstate New York that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
NY-23 Republican primary
Barely two months ago, the race for the new boundaries of the 23rd Congressional District looked like it would be a sleepy affair. That changed dramatically very quickly.
Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, who was elected in 2020 to the soon-to-be defunct 27th District, turned his sights to the new 23rd, the most conservative district in the state. The GOP congressman faced a fierce backlash from various conservative officials back in May when he publicly announced he would be open to a federal ban on certain firearms after the mass shooting at a Buffalo Tops grocery store left 10 people dead. A week after those comments, he said he would discontinue his campaign.
The Republican race to succeed Jacobs turned into a contest between two of the state’s most well known GOP heavyweights – Nick Langworthy, the state Republican Party chairman, and Carl Paladino, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor.
Both come with their share of advantages and controversies. Paladino is well known in his native Western New York from his business dealings, recent political campaigns and activism. The region helped him defeat the state party favorite in the GOP primary for governor 12 years ago and voted heavily for him in the general election. Since then, Paladino served on the Buffalo School Board and served as New York co-chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Most recently, he played a heavy hand in Byron Brown’s successful write-in campaign against India Walton in the Buffalo mayoral race last year. He has the backing of Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House.
Paladino is also well known for being accused of racism, sexism and social media posts alluding to conspiracy theories, among other things. His candidacy for Congress prompted the 2018 GOP nominee for New York attorney general to publicly lambast Paladino as a "straight-up, old-school racist” and said if he wins the primary, he hopes “he loses in November.”
Nick Langworthy took over as state GOP chairman in 2019. A native of the Southern Tier, he also has strong ties to Western New York as the Erie County GOP chairman and his current residence in Niagara County.
He has the backing of a few prominent local Republican officials and has recently been making repeated calls on Paladino to take part in numerous debates with him. No such debate has taken place.
Langworthy has also taken heat, including from many in his own party, for remaining as GOP chairman during his campaign, with some saying it’s a distraction from helping other Republicans’ chances for other offices in the state.
Both Paladino and Langworthy have advertised their ties to Trump, though the former president has not made an endorsement in this race.
The winner of the primary will face Air Force veteran Democrat Max Della Pia in the general election.
The new 23rd District covers southern and western Erie County and the Southern Tier.
NY-19 special election
From a contest between two statewide political moguls to one between two at the county level.
Former Rep. Antonio Delgado walked away from two terms in Congress to become lieutenant governor this spring. The contest to succeed Delgado for the remainder of his term in the Hudson Valley seat is one between two county executives.
Aiming to keep the 19th seat in Democratic hands is Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. A West Point graduate who lives there with his wife and sons, Ryan was first elected to the county executive role in 2017. He first ran for the 19th seat in 2018, losing the Democratic primary to Delgado.
Looking to flip the seat is Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who has a background in several offices. He was a young mayor, county legislator, a state assemblyman and was first elected county executive in 2011. He was also the Republican nominee for governor in 2018.
This race is an intriguing finale to a politically complex district that for the last few cycles has produced close contests and colorful candidates. Molinaro is among the former gubernatorial candidates who have run in the district. The 2016 race pitted Republican John Faso, who ran for governor in 2006, against Zephyr Teachout, who attempted a Democratic primary challenge against Cuomo in 2014.
And the finale isn’t exactly a finale. Along with this special election, Ryan is running for the Democratic nomination for a full term in the new 18th District, which emcompasses a swath of the Hudson Valley, while Molinaro is seeking a full tern in the new 19th, which stretches west to include the cities of Binghamton and Ithaca.
NY-17 Democratic primary
Staying in the Hudson Valley, the Democratic primary for this district’s new boundaries is a classic contest between the Democratic establishment and the progressive wing of the party.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney represented the 18th District since 2013, and after redistricting, opted to run in the 17th District instead, which angered some officials in his own party, including state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who decided in May to launch a primary campaign against him.
Biaggi faces what is expected to be a difficult fight, given Maloney’s powerful position. A former aide to President Bill Clinton and deputy secretary to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Maloney serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is the current chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He also has a much larger war chest and the backing of House leadership.
But Biaggi is no stranger to steep odds. She is one of the group of progressive Democrats who ousted powerful incumbents in primaries for state Senate seats in 2018. In the Legislature, she has been a reliably progressive voice and chaired the Senate Ethics Committee.
The winner of the primary will face the winner of the five-way Republican contest in November. The 17th District includes parts of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland counties.
NY-22 Republican and Democratic primaries
Central New York has been home to a number of close congressional races in the last decade. The 2020 race for the outgoing 22nd District wasn’t finalized until February 2021.
The 22nd District’s new boundaries — Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties — could continue that reputation. An open seat due to the retirement of Republican Rep. John Katko, the race to succeed the four-term congressman has been a crowded one.
The most familiar face in the field is Democrat Francis Conole. He ran for the Syracuse-based seat in 2020. Passed over by local Democrats as the designated nominee in favor of two-time candidate Dana Balter, Conole mounted a primary challenge against her, but was unsuccessful. This time around, the Onondaga County Democratic Committee has thrown its support behind Conole.
Also in the race is Sara Klee Hood, an Air Force veteran and current DeWitt town councilor, as is Chol Majok, a former refugee from Sudan who sits on the Syracuse Common Council. Rounding out the Democratic ticket is Sam Roberts, who has served in the Onondaga County Legislature, state Assembly and as commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
The GOP field has changed numerous times due to redistricting, but includes Steven Wells, a former prosecutor, treasurer of the New York Republican Party and finance chair of the Onondaga County Republican Committee, and Brandon Williams, a Navy veteran and software company founder from Cayuga County.
Following Rep. Katko’s victories in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, the new 22nd District is likely to get the attention of campaign leaders from both national parties, despite who wins the respective primaries. If the new 22nd District had existed in 2020, it’d be a Biden-favored district by eight points.
NY-19 Democratic primary
From many races with some familiar names to one that has fresh faces. The Democratic race for the new 19th District has been one of getting the name out there.
One of the candidates is Josh Riley, who, following the messy redistricting process, changed districts three times, finally landing in the 19th when the courts threw out the Legislature’s maps and a special master decided the boundaries.
Riley served as a staff assistant for former Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s office, as a policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor and counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He has the support of the Working Families Party and seven county Democratic committees.
He faces Jamie Cheney, a businesswoman and sits on the Leadership Council of the National Small Business Association. She has the backing of the New York Democratic Rural Conference of the Catskill-Hudson region.
The victor will face Republican Marc Molinaro in the general election.