His August victory gave Democrats hope. Now this congressman needs to win again.

Home » His August victory gave Democrats hope. Now this congressman needs to win again.
His August victory gave Democrats hope. Now this congressman needs to win again.


“Our message has not changed,” Ryan said in an interview. “The intensity is only stronger, and I think we are going to see another rejection of this whole ‘red wave’ idea that’s out there that we certainly dispelled in our race.”

But polls and a shift in election strategy by candidates across the country suggest abortion alone won’t keep the House in Democratic hands. Republicans are finding new success with messaging focused on crime and the economy, and Democrats are responding in kind.

Ryan is among them. His interview came just moments before he stood with local law enforcement officials to promote the Invest to Protect Act, a bill in Congress that would boost funding for small police departments.

The news conference was surely strategic: His opponent, state Assemblymember Colin Schmitt, has joined other Republican candidates nationwide in pushing a tough-on-crime message. He has sought to tie Ryan to the state’s contentious bail laws, which have limited the ability of judges to set cash bail for accused criminals and that Republicans — and some Democrats — blame for a spike in crime.

“There’s a great kind of disconnect they feel with Albany, to Washington,” Schmitt said in an interview after campaigning at the Goshen Farmers Market in Orange County with his wife, Nikki Pagano-Schmitt.

“One-party control has a lot to do with that. Here in the Hudson Valley, we tend to be that moderate, ticket-splitting area, and we feel left behind because of the economic issues, the public safety issues, the immigration issues.”

The district, New York’s new 18th, is one of the biggest battlegrounds in the state — a mix of blue-collar workers, New York City police officers, firefighters and a growing influx of urban transplants buying up homes through the rolling hills and farmland.

POLITICO’s midterm forecast lists the district as leaning Democratic, as have several major prognosticators. New York has at least six close House races that will help determine which party controls the chamber in January.

The 18th District is a more advantageous one on paper for Ryan than the 19th District race he won two months ago, when he beat Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro with 51 percent of the vote.

And now Ryan has the power of incumbency, allowing him to build off his August victory and significantly outraise and outspend Schmitt in a pitched battle on the airwaves over crime and abortion rights. Ryan has raised $3.4 million and spent $2.8 million, compared to Schmitt’s $1.8 million raised and $1.3 million spent, records show.

National Republicans have tried to make up the difference for Schmitt, pumping $3 million into ads and mailers aimed at beating Ryan, while Democrats have spent $2.2 million to knock down Schmitt.

The new district, which President Joe Biden would have won by 9 percentage points in 2020, stretches across Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties.

How important is this race? Biden visited Poughkeepsie in the district earlier this month to promote IBM’s plan to put $20 billion into its sprawling, once-massive industrial park. And Ryan was at Biden’s side.

“The president’s delivered. People want us to deliver. That’s what they want, and that’s what they should want and expect,” Ryan said.

The race is between two young, rising stars in New York politics. Schmitt, 32, said voters are more concerned about pocketbook issues than abortion rights.

Schmitt calls Ryan “extreme” on abortion — which he has highlighted in ads — because the congressman supports New York’s abortion laws, which allow for the procedure throughout pregnancy in the absence of fetal viability or to protect the life or health of the patient.

Schmitt is anti-abortion rights but has stopped short of saying he opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest.

“I view it from a commonsense, compassionate approach, and I find that most people in this district are talking to me about these commonsense issues: crime, economy, immigration,” Schmitt said.

Ryan, 40, who served two tours in Iraq in the U.S. Army, counters that Republicans want to strip abortion rights nationally, pointing to the federal 15-week abortion ban proposed last month by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“Talking about abortion rights that have been such a wedge, divisive issue for most of my life in a way that was unifying as an idea of freedom was very potent, because that is a shared American value,” Ryan said.

Princella Whatley, a vendor at the Goshen market, said abortion rights are critically important to her. She wouldn’t vote for a candidate opposed to abortion rights.

“A woman has the right to do what she wants with her body,” she said after Schmitt walked by. “I don’t think anybody has the right to tell you what your view is or what you choose to do. You don’t know people’s circumstances.”

But others were focused on the pocketbook issues that Schmitt and Republicans hope will outweigh the attention on abortion.

“We need help for small businesses,” Sarah Gailie, a greenhouse vendor, said. “We need a Republican in right now.”

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