Welcome to a new series here on Elections Daily! Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a possible sleeper race in the 2020 elections – one that may be more competitive than expected. Today, we’re looking towards the New York exurbs in NY-18, an Obama-Trump district in upstate New York.
The demographics of NY-18
NY-18 is less diverse than the nation as a whole. According to 2018 estimates from the US Census Bureau, this district is roughly 76.2% white. The largest minority group within the district are African-Americans, which make up 9.9% of the district’s population. The 18th also primarily consists of urban areas, with this district being 81% urban to just 19% rural.
Geographically, NY-18 is rather uniform and largely consists of outer suburbs of New York City. The most notable city in this district is Poughkeepsie, which is one of the largest cities in the Hudson River valley (excluding Albany and New York, of course). Also notable is the military presence in this district – West Point, one of the nation’s five military academies, is located in Orange county, which makes up the Western half of NY-18.
Given the district’s military ties, it would be expected that this district is at least somewhat conservative, and looking through past elections, that does appear to be the case. Prior to 2010, most of NY-18 was in the 19th Congressional district, which Bush carried in 2004 54-45 and Obama won 53-45. This would be indicative of at least a typical bellweather, and 2016’s results show this as well, with Trump winning the current 18th (most of the old 19th) by 2.1% over Hillary Clinton.
From a congressional perspective, there’s a similar story. The old 19th elected a Republican representative in 2010, Republican Physician Nan Hayworth. As she was redistricted, it created some razor thin races this decade – Maloney defeated her by just 3.5 percent in 2012 and by a smaller 1.6 percent margin in 2014. This district is also one of the few that moved rightward in 2018, with incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney’s margin decreasing from 11.6 to 11 percent between 2016 and 2018.
The incumbent Representative of New York’s 18th is Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat who has represented the district since it took its current form in 2012. His time in politics dates back to the Clinton administration, working on both of his election campaigns. He ran for New York Attorney General in 2006 and finished 3rd, which helped put him on the map for this district down the road. His initial election, in 2012, saw him narrowly take down Nan Hayworth (whom he also faced in 2014), and received criticism for buying a house here prior to the election (of which he had never previously lived in). However, Maloney has been rather safe since 2016, winning by 11 point margins both times. According to FiveThirtyEight’s congressional tracker, he is a rather straight line voter, only voting in agreeance with Trump 5.5% of the time so far in the 116th Congress.
Maloney’s major party opposition comes from Chele Farley, a financial services employee whom previously worked for Goldman-Sachs.
She’s had at least marginal experience running for office before, as she was the Republican Opponent against incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. As you would expect for New York, she lost that race pretty handily. Her platform appears primarily as anti-socialism and pro-transparency, going so far as to call Washington “toxic”.
In fundraising, Democrats currently hold the advantage here, though for an incumbent, Maloney’s advantage isn’t entirely comfortable, as he has nearly 1.7 million in receipts to Farley’s 700,000, according to the FEC.
Ultimately, this looks like a race that is swept under the rug compared to the other Trump-won districts that are considered more competitive in nature. Farley’s previous office run in 2018 affords her a large fundraising base, allowing her to seek outside help in fundraising. This alone makes her a decently strong candidate for the seat, in my view, at least since Nan Hayworth’s 2014 run. She’ll probably also have some degree of Trump coattails to ride, given how he performed here in 2016.
If Farley can fundraise into gear, I could see this becoming a troublesome spot for Democrats, where Maloney has to find outside help – and that wouldn’t be good news for Democrats here. This district, in my view, is definitely Likely Democratic for now, but has the potential to be a squeaker in the right circumstances.