A Special Election Next Week Is Being Closely Watched

Contest to fill open congressional seat in New York state seen as a national 'bellwether'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2022 8:15 AM CDT
A Special Election Next Week May Speak Volumes
Republican Marc Molinaro is running for Congress in a closely watched race in New York state. He faces Democrat Pat Ryan in a special election.   (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

It was shaping up to be a ho-hum special election in New York state to fill an open congressional seat. But next week's contest between Republican Marc Molinaro and Democrat Pat Ryan has suddenly become so much more. Politico sees it as the "ultimate bellwether" race, one that could go a long way in determining whether Democrats get trounced in the midterms or whether Republicans' advantage may be overstated. The New York Times also uses the word "bellwether" in its assessment of the race for the 19th Congressional District seat in the Hudson Valley. The main reason? It's become a proxy fight over abortion rights.

After the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision came out, Ryan has made abortion rights a central focus of his campaign. The Times sums it up succinctly: "Mr. Ryan, a combat veteran who serves as executive of Ulster County, is in favor of protecting abortion access nationwide. Marc Molinaro, the Republican executive of Dutchess County, is not." Molinaro has been trying to keep the race focused on local issues, particularly the economy. But because the race is seen as a toss-up, it's also now seen as a test of whether abortion could prove to be a deciding factor in November, in terms of overall results as well as turnout.

Politico reports that both parties have been pouring money into Tuesday's race because of the potential stakes. "For Democrats, a win would offer proof that the party can translate their recent legislative victories and voter anger over the Supreme Court's abortion ruling into tangible gains," write Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris. For Republicans, "flipping the district would calm fears that the party peaked three months too early." One quirk: The special election is to complete a term that has only four months to go—and because of redrawn legislative maps that take effect in January, it's possible both candidates might end up in Congress next year. Molinaro will be running to represent the new 19th district in November and Ryan the adjoining 18th, per Hudson Valley One. (More special election stories.)

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