National campaign committees eye early push for 19th Congressional District
Richard Moody Columbia-Greene Media
February 1, 2018 11:30 pm
The national Democratic Party and campaign committees have their eyes on the Empire State as several Democrats seek the nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, who is up for re-election this year.
New York Congressional District 19 has been represented by Republicans for the last eight years, but several Democrats are striving to take the seat back.
The last Democrat to hold the seat was John Hall from 2007 to 2011. Before his election, Hall, who is from Ulster County, was best known as the lead singer of the pop group Orleans.
Six Democrats are vying for the chance to challenge Faso in November.
The national parties and campaign committees recognize the district is a toss up — for Republicans it could be a threat to their 238-193 majority in the House of Representatives, and for Democrats it’s an opportunity to balance power in a federal government dominated by a single party.
“We know NY-19 is a toss-up district. The district has voted for Democrats in the past,” said Evan Lukaske, spokesman for the Democratic National Campaign Committee. “We have so many challengers looking to run against Faso, which is not normal compared to the rest of the country. I think people are ready for a change.”
The six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination include Brian Flynn, of Hunter; Gareth Rhodes, of Kerhonkson; Patrick Ryan, of Gardiner; Jeff Beals, of Woodstock; David Clegg, of Woodstock; and Antonio Delgado, of Rhinebeck.
“Large primaries are good things because, traditionally, any resources candidates gather go to whoever wins the primary so they will be ready to take the fight to Faso,” Lukaske said.
The committee has been airing targeted digital advertisements against Faso and organizing grassroots groups in the district, Lukaske said.
“We started the Marching into ’18 Program last spring to organize grassroots groups and make sure they are prepared to help in the general election,” Lukaske said. “We will have a grassroots army. We are turning volunteers into super-volunteers.”
Originally, the program was focused on 20 districts nationwide including New York Congressional District 22, which is held by freshman Congresswoman Claudia Tenney — a former state Assemblywoman — and District 24, which has been represented by Congressman John Katko since 2015.
The Marching into ’18 program also added an operative in District 19 later, Lukaske said.
Lukaske’s counterpart, Chris Martin, the regional spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, said the Republican committee considers Faso’s district and Tenney’s district, which includes Chenango, Cortland, Madison and Oneida counties, and parts of Broome, Herkimer, Oswego and Tioga counties, among the top 10 races in the country this year.
Martin, who is in Pennsylvania working on the special election for a House seat vacated by Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, said the state’s districts are high priorities.
“We are fully committed to ensuring Faso is re-elected,” Martin said Thursday.
The Democratic Committee started a new investment program — called Every ZIP Code Counts — over the summer to better help state committees turn red seats to blue seats by providing all state parties with a monthly $10,000 investment to the state’s Democratic Party through 2018 — a 33 percent increase over the base funding levels from 2016.
The committee also established a $10 million State Party Innovation Fund and offers grants to state parties to create and support grassroots engagement programs for millennial and youth voters, rural communities and other base constituencies.
“The [the $10,000 monthly investments to the party] goes directly to helping the state party elect Democrats running up and down in the ticket in New York, including in the critical NY-19 congressional race,” said Elizabeth Renda, the committee’s Northeast regional press secretary. “After our historic victories across the country last year, we’re confident Democrats can flip this district and oust John Faso once and for all, the same way we’ve flipped 34 state legislative seats from red to blue since Trump took office.”
In November, Democrats won several important state positions from Republicans across the country, including several traditionally held local government positions in the state.
“The American people are fed up with Donald Trump’s Republican Party, and they’re hungry for Democratic leadership,” Renda said. “We look forward to continuing our support of the state party so they can flip NY-19 from red to blue and elect Democrats up and down the ticket come November.”
Faso has remained largely silent about this year’s election, saying there is plenty of time to campaign after the Democratic Party primary scheduled for June 26. Republican National Committee Regional Communications Director Ellie Hockenbury said the committee is pledged to see Faso serve a second term.
“The RNC, in partnership with the NRCC and the New York State Republican Party, are committed to supporting and protecting our Republican congressional incumbents in the Empire State, including Congressman Faso,” Hockenbury said. “The RNC’s top-notch data operation will be engaged in ensuring we have a sophisticated and meaningful way to communicate with voters in key districts.
“Additionally, we will work closely with candidates, campaigns and caucuses on the ground to make sure they have the skills and tools needed to be successful.”
Hockenbury did not disclose how much money the committee plans to spend in the 19th District, but said, “We will be as active and involved as needed to ensure we are successful this November.”