NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
The Democrat, who won a New York special congressional election Tuesday, put abortion front and center in his campaign, and his party is calling it a resounding sign that pro-choice messages will hurt the GOP in November.
Pat Ryan, a county executive in New York’s 19th congressional district, defeated his Republican opponent by about 2 percentage points – slightly above President Biden’s margin of victory in the district in 2020. After running on concerns that the GOP would seek to ban abortion nationwide following the landmark Supreme Court Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June, Democrats have seen a boost in polls from those who view pro-choice policies as key election issue.
“Pat’s win sends a clear message that voters are fighting back against Republicans’ extreme attacks on abortion rights and their fundamental freedoms,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said celebrating Ryan’s win. “I’m excited to welcome Pat into Congress where I know he’ll continue to be a champion for the Hudson Valley. Republicans can say goodbye to their ‘Red Wave’ because voters are clearly coming out in force to elect a pro-choice majority to Congress this November.”
However, despite the loss, Republicans doubt abortion will be able to eclipse the historical headwinds Democrats face heading into the midterms — including inflation and high prices for basic goods, a deeply unpopular president and uncertainty about the future of the economy.
Patrick Ryan won a House seat in New York’s 19th District Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“The fact that this seat was in play at all is further evidence of how bad this environment is for Democrats,” Republican National Committee spokesman Nate Brand told Fox News Digital. “Biden and Democrats remain committed to pushing their out-of-touch taxpayer-funded, abortion on-demand agenda, and it will be costly for them in November. The American people struggle with Biden’s recession, increased cost, and Democrat tax increases — this will ultimately be why they lose the House in November,” Brand said.
Though Ryan won the special election, he will only serve a few months of Delgado’s remaining term. However, he also won the Democratic nomination for a full term representing the state’s new 18th District, a seat abandoned by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who is now seeking to represent the state’s 17th District in the House. Ryan will face off against Colin Schmitt, the Republican and Conservative Party nominee who ran unopposed in the primary.
“Think about the message sent in Kansas, think about the message we can send right here,” Ryan said at a campaign stop before the election, referencing a vote in early August that prevented Kansas legislators from regulating abortion in Kansas.
“How can we be a free country if the government tries to control women’s bodies?” Ryan, a U.S. Army veteran, said in one campaign ad. “That’s not the country I fought to defend.”
Republican candidate Marcus Molinaro attempted to keep the race focused on issues like crime and the economy.
“This is a special election. It is about the voters of the 19th Congressional District. And it is both disingenuous and a bit insulting to tell them what their issues are,” he said. “They are fearful for the future, and they are concerned about their safety. I hear it everywhere.”
Abortion-rights protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Friday, June 24, 2022. ((AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana))
“I think there’s limited impact of Dobbs,” said GOP pollster and political analyst John Couvillon, but just how limited that effect is could be difficult to predict across the country. What is likely is that the voters who do see abortion as a critical issue are highly motivated to vote, and according to Couvillon, “It looks like they’re going to be punching above their weight, electorally.”
The New York district that Democrats held on Tuesday — the seat had been vacated by former Rep. Antonio Delgado, who resigned to serve as lieutenant governor for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last year — has some unique characteristics that do not apply to every congressional area where Democrats are defending seats.
“Those New York special elections have been problematic for Republicans for years,” said Couvillon. He pointed to several New York congressional special elections in 2009 and 2010 — when Republicans swept most of the country following former President Obama’s victory — that saw Democrats bucking the red wave.
However, another factor played into the race, according to Couvillon: Ryan mobilized a young, college-aged demographic in Ulster County, where he served as county executive. Other special elections since Dobbs have a similar factor: Where Democrats have done well, there has been a strong university presence, Couvillon said.
“The common thread I’m seeing in these special elections where you have underwhelming performances for the Republicans, is the one group I do think are energized from the Dobbs would be areas with a large college and/or youth population, which still is progressive. I’m therefore not expecting to see any defection from Biden and the Democrats amongst that group.”
The impact of the Dobbs ruling will be strong in a certain progressive Democrat, but that effect could be limited in many districts.
Crowds outside the Supreme Court reacting to the Dobbs ruling. (Joshua Comins/Fox News)
Democrats in more blue-collar areas will likely not see the same progressive turnout increase if the demographics are more working-class, according to Couvillon.
“Say the special election were held in Tim Ryan’s district in Ohio — I think you would have a different result,” he said.
Another factor, however, that Democrats believe that abortion is a major issue for Latino voters. The DCCC launched a six-figure ad buy this week focused on Hispanics in swing districts, featuring spots that paint a dark picture of life for minority women if abortion is restricted further in the U.S.
“Republicans’ anti-choice, anti-freedom agenda is not only unpopular but is downright dangerous — especially for Latinas and their families,” DCCC senior advisor for Latino engagement Mariafernanda Zacarias said in a statement. “These ads remind us of the choice in this election: Democrats who will fight for our communities and freedoms, or the Republicans’ who are working to ban reproductive freedoms nationwide even in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.”
Still, the Republican’s House campaign arm is downplaying the idea that New York’s special election is a harbinger of the party’s chances to win control of Congress in the November midterms.
“Majorities are won in November not August,” National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams told Fox News Digital. “We look forward to prosecuting the case against Democrats’ failed one party rule that’s left American families worse off.”
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this story.
Thomas Phippen is an Editor at Fox News.