It’s the only congressional swing district in New York where Democrats are on the defensive heading into 2024: the 18th District, which straddles the central Hudson Valley. 

Democrat Pat Ryan is looking to turn back a challenge from Alison Esposito, who is seeking the GOP nomination here after unsuccessfully running for New York lieutenant governor last year.

What You Need To Know

  • New York's 18th congressional district, as it is currently designed, stretches from Orange County to Dutchess County. Joe Biden won the district by more than 8 percent in 2020

  • Rep. Pat Ryan, a Democrat, is seeking re-election. Alison Esposito, the former candidate for NY Lieutenant Governor, is seeking the GOP nomination with the goal of unseating Ryan.

  • Abortion is poised to be a flashpoint in a potential general election matchup between these two.

Ryan, who previously served as Ulster County executive, is no stranger to tight races. Last year, he won a special election for Congress and then a few months later, won again in November. The margin each time was just a few thousand votes.

“We have to provide relief — economic relief — to folks that are struggling. We’ve got to lower costs of health care, housing, gas,” he told Spectrum News, outlining his campaign pitch. “[Double] down to protect reproductive rights, to stand against gun violence, to ensure every American has the right to vote, to have free and fair elections.”

The district, as it is currently designed, stretches from Orange County to Dutchess County. President Joe Biden won the district by more than 8% in 2020

(Spectrum News 1 graphic)

Hoping to defeat Ryan in a general election is Esposito, a longtime New York City police officer who was born in Highland Mills. She served as deputy inspector and commanding officer of NYPD’s 70th Precinct, according to her campaign biography, before running alongside GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin last year. 

Her priorities, she told Spectrum News, include border security, improving education and making the U.S. energy independent. 

“In an endeavor to continue to fight for common sense, fight for American values, fight for New Yorkers and fight for all Americans, I thought it best to continue my service in my hometown, running for federal office,” Esposito said. 

Already, abortion is poised to be a flashpoint in a potential general election matchup between these two.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Ryan made abortion access a centerpiece of his successful campaigns last year, and is now poised to again next year. 

He argues lawmakers should “reinstate the Roe framework.”

“Important personal human health care decisions about pregnancies and a potential decision about abortion is between a woman and her doctor,” he said. “Politicians shouldn't be making that decision.”

Esposito, meanwhile, says the Supreme Court was right to return the issue to the states. 

“I think we need to be working for commonsense consensus on the very difficult decision of abortion,” she said, arguing abortion should be “very rare and not used as birth control.”

“Instead of talking about a hardline number or days or timeframe, we can get behind legislation that's supporting women that want to choose life,” she said, citing “better access to adoption” and “financial support services” as examples.

“I had many friends that would have loved to have adopted children that had to go overseas to get children. They would love to have an American child here, to give them a good and loving home,” she continued. “The point to this is: there are options to choose life.”

On Capitol Hill, the GOP-led House just emerged from a chaotic, speakerless three weeks following Kevin McCarthy’s ousting from his post.

Democrats are already slamming the new speaker, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, over his hardline opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. 

Esposito declined to say whether she would have voted to back Johnson for speaker.

“I wasn't in the room. I wasn't privy to the conversations,” she said.

Asked where she disagrees with Johnson, Esposito said, “same-sex marriage is now codified, so it really doesn't matter what he thinks.”

Across the aisle, a Siena College poll conducted last month shows Joe Biden, the man set to be atop the Democratic ticket next year, underwater among registered voters in New York. The poll shows 45% view the president favorably, while 52% view him unfavorably.

Asked if he would be proud to run alongside Biden in 2024, Ryan said, “I think the president's done a great job. He's delivered for the Hudson Valley. And I will stand by and with him, and continue to push to deliver for the Hudson Valley.”

As an example, Ryan points to the announced semiconductor manufacturing investments at IBM in Poughkeepsie.

But, Ryan says, he has also leaned on the White House from time to time, including urging the president to declare a state of emergency amid the surge of migrants into New York. 

“It's one area where I have been very direct in saying the president needs to do more,” Ryan said. 

The general election is just one year away, set for Nov. 5, 2024.