The path to control of the U.S. House runs in no small part through New York state next year.
After losing several congressional seats outside of New York City in 2022, Democrats are looking to reverse their fortunes, launching a statewide coordinated campaign to get everyone in the famously fractious party working together to win.
What You Need To Know
- The initiative is spearheaded by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The latter two are on the ballot next year
- In 2022, Democrats lost six congressional races across New York in districts that President Joe Biden carried just two years earlier. Flipping those seats blue is a primary ambition of the coordinated initiative
- The theory is that Democrats will perform better by working cooperatively on everything from mobilizing voters to messaging, instead of having each candidate working alone
- In an interview, Jeffries praised Hochul for her "outreach" and dismissed the notion he is trying to take over the state Democrat apparatus
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who is one of those spearheading the initiative, calls it an “all hands on deck moment.”
The theory is that Democrats will perform better by working cooperatively on everything from mobilizing voters to messaging, instead of having each candidate simply working alone.
“It lifts up the entire Democratic brand. It helps the first time candidates with how to get your message out,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand and Jeffries are joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul in leading the effort. Gillibrand and Jeffries are both on the ballot next year.
The trio and their teams are talking regularly and raising money. Last month, they hosted a call for hundreds of local party leaders, union officials and supporters — part of their ambition to get everyone on the same page.
Asked for an example of what this coordinated campaign initiative could look like in practice, Gillibrand pointed to campaign mailers.
“When I’m sending out a mailer, maybe that mailer will have me plus the House candidate running in this district along with an Assembly member and a state senator, and we do one mailer on the same message. So you can really do strong message discipline,” she said.
Gillibrand says this has not existed before “for federal candidates.”
A major goal of this new initiative is winning the six congressional seats on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and the Syracuse area that President Joe Biden carried in 2020, but Democrats lost in November. Those results contributed to the GOP winning control of the U.S. House.
Defending Democrat Pat Ryan’s hotly contested district in the Hudson Valley is also a priority.
“I have never seen this level of cooperation and coordination in my time in electoral office,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries is a major force behind the campaign, reflecting his growing influence in state and national politics after being elected House Democratic Leader.
Major gains in his home state could help to make the Brooklynite the next speaker.
The launch of the coordinated campaign follows the resignation of governor Andrew Cuomo amid scandal. During Cuomo’s reign, the state party was often accused of putting Cuomo’s needs first.
In an interview, Jeffries praised Hochul, saying she is changing the paradigm.
“I’ve never seen this sort of outreach when anyone was governor, even though they always indicated a willingness to be helpful to the congressional delegation.”
Asked about Hochul’s 2022 electoral performance and why she should still be trusted to help lead this 2024 initiative, Jeffries said members of the New York congressional delegation trust her in part because she is a former member of Congress.
Last year’s losses in New York prompted criticism of the state party’s chairman, Jay Jacobs. Some called for his ouster.
That said, the coordinated campaign is formally housed in the state party, which is now advertising job openings for operatives to help staff the coordinated effort.
Jeffries says Jacobs has been cooperative.
But should the coordinated campaign be seen as an end run around the state party apparatus?
“Throughout states across the country, there are coordinated campaigns that are highly functional between the state Democratic Party and the local congressional delegation political apparatus,” Jeffries said. “It just has never existed in a meaningful way in New York state.”
Jeffries also stresses he is not taking over the state political operation.
“I have enough responsibilities in Washington D.C., here at home representing a district, helping to raise money across the country, to in any way want to take over the New York State Democratic Party,” he said.
Jeffries said he has spoken with colleagues who represent traditional battleground states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. They stressed, he said, the importance of coordination and gubernatorial buy-in.
This new coordinated campaign operation only underlines the significant role New York is set to play in the coming year.
Democratic aligned groups are already focusing a great deal of attention on the state. The House Democrats’ campaign arm, the DCCC, is already targeting Republicans in competitive congressional seats.
In February, the House Majority PAC announced a $45 million fund to help Democrats in New York’s congressional contests.