Democrat Pat Ryan, a combat veteran and Ulster County executive, narrowly defeated Republican Marc Molinaro in a special election in New York's 19th Congressional District, The Associated Press and other news organizations projected late Tuesday. The seat was vacated when former Rep. Antonio Delgado (D) became New York's lieutenant governor, and Ryan will serve the final four months of Delgado's term while campaigning for a full term in the newly redrawn 18th District.
President Biden won the district by about 1.5 percentage points, but polls had shown Molinaro winning, especially before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Ryan then made access to abortion a central focus of his campaign, turning the swing district into "a potential test of the impact that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion might have on the midterm elections," The New York Times reports. Molinaro, who is running in the newly redrawn 19th District in November, campaigned on the economy, crime, and baby formula shortages.
Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman called Ryan's win "a huge victory" for Democrats in a "bellwether" district Biden narrowly won, but he cautioned that Republicans are "still clear favorites" to win the House in November, thanks largely to the Democrats' "devastating string of legal defeats toward the end of redistricting" in New York, Florida, Ohio, and other states.
New York Times analyst Nate Cohn said he wasn't surprised by Ryan's victory, "but the reason it's not a massive upset is because the signs of Democratic strength just aren't rare anymore," he tweeted. "Democrats have overtaken Republicans on the generic ballot. They've been outperforming in several straight congressional races."
The Republicans won the second New York special election on Tuesday, with local GOP leader Joe Sempolinski beating Democrat Max Della Pia in the conservative 23rd Congressional District. But the margin was narrower than expected. Sempolinski, a former aide to former Rep. Tom Reed (R) — who vacated the seat earlier this year to take a lobbying job — will not run for a full term in November. Della Pia is running in the newly drawn 23rd District. His opponent will be New York GOP chairman Nick Langworthy, who beat Carl Paladino in a contentious Republican primary Tuesday night.