From the looming fight between longtime incumbent Eliot Engel and newcomer Jamaal Bowman, to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez facing off a challenge from the right of the party, New York’s Democrats are facing many contentious primaries today. A quieter battle, however, has been in NY-17.
Situated in northern Westchester County and Rockland County, NY-17 is a reliable Democratic seat. Filled with a diverse population of NYC commuters, Orthodox Jews, and farmers, NY-17 has many different communities and interests. Despite a few conservative towns, liberal suburbanites and the high minority population deliver a knockout blow to Republicans in my home congressional district. Nita Lowey has represented the seat for years, but her retirement has led to a crowded primary.
History of NY-17
Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey has represented the seat since 1989. She has been a standard rank and file liberal, and sparred with the President. Lowey has always been very popular in her district, and her only competitive race was in 2014 when she bested Rockland County Town Supervisor Christopher Day (the son of the Rockland County Executive) by nearly 13 points.
Her Westchester County base offsets the conservative Orthodox Jewish community in Rockland County, which often votes red for federal and local office (Rockland County Executive Ed Day is a Republican). However, Rockland as a whole is still a blue county, especially at the federal level.
The Westchester County section has minority-heavy towns such as Harrison, as well as the more rural and swingy north. Donald Trump won the rural town of Yorktown Heights in the north on the back of blue-collar voters, but this was an outlier, as his success there did not translate in the suburban south of the county.
Rockland County has some blue-collar presence in the north, a heavily conservative Jewish base in the center, and liberal suburbs everywhere else. Trump lost the County handily, but won several areas. With Lowey retiring, NY-17 is wide open for the taking.
The Democratic Candidates
The perceived front runner in NY-17 is progressive newcomer Mondaire Jones. He is facing Evelyn Farkas and Adam Schleiffer, both mainstream liberals. Conservative State Senator David Carlucci, who is one of the two remaining former members of the Independent Democratic Conference, is also running.
Mondaire Jones – A former Obama Justice Department Official, Jones is running as the progressive in the race. He is highlighting his extensive background, as well as progressive stances such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. If elected, he would be the first black and openly gay man in Congress.
Evelyn Farkas – Another Obama-era official, Farkas is running as a liberal in the mold of prominent district resident Hillary Clinton. She is touting her credentials as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Obama administration. She is endorsed by EMILY’s List and is well funded, but has struggled to gain enough traction to be seen as a frontrunner.
Adam Schleiffer – A Former U.S. Attorney, he is running a campaign with heavy ad spending. Schleiffer is flooding homes with mailers and media televisions with ads. This has helped him raise his name recognition as a previously unknown. He is seen as on even footing with Farkas.
David Carlucci- A State Senator representing parts of both counties, Carlucci has high name recognition (partly for the wrong reasons) compared to the other candidates. Carlucci is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democratic State Senators who worked with Republicans and gave them a majority until Cuomo strong-armed them into dissolving. Now Carlucci is vacating the chamber to run as a conservative Democrat with broad support from the Orthodox Jewish community. This move was welcomed by many Democrats, who are happy his departure from the State Senate will mean one less former IDC member in the chamber.
David Buchwald – A Westchester Assemblyman, Buchwald is running as a friend of the Westchester Democratic Establishment, with notable endorsements from figures such as Westchester County Executive George Latimer. He was seen as a frontrunner early on, but has slowly dissipated to the single digits.
Allison Fine – The last notable candidate is former NARAL Chairwoman Allison Fine, a staunch women’s rights advocate. She is working to appeal to a lane that Farkas has a tight grip on, and thus will likely come up short.
There are several other candidates running, but none with a chance tomorrow.
Who Will Win?
The NY-17 Democratic primary is expected to be tight, and likely not decided on Tuesday, with many outstanding ballots being left to count after initial returns.
Geographically, Carlucci will likely do very well in his Spring Valley base in Rockland County. However, Jones will likely win the county as a whole due to his home field advantage there. The more vote-rich Westchester will be very close. Evelyn Farkas will most likely dominate in the upper-class suburbs, such as her home town of Chappaqua. Jones will likely win the minority-heavy eastern section of Westchester. The rest is a tossup, however.
My little town of Croton on Hudson is progressive and is going to be very close. Many Buchwald signs have been in town as well as Jones. Farkas will likely win the upper-class outskirts of town, but the actual village will likely vote Jones and have a higher than average Buchwald support. Blue-collar areas will also be a battleground, but Carlucci’s centrism could play well.
Jones is seen as having a modest lead, but Farkas, Carlucci, Schleiffer, or even Buchwald have a chance.
As a NY-17 resident, my sense is the race will be close, with a plurality Jones win by around 5% being the most likely outcome. Farkas will likely do well with women voters, but Jones will have support across the spectrum.