HL 160 – New York’s Recipe for Losing the House: 2 Parts Kathy Hochul, 1 AOC and a Pinch of Jay Jacobs

November 14, 2022

Home | Blog | HL 160 – New York’s Recipe for Losing the House: 2 Parts Kathy Hochul, 1 AOC and a Pinch of Jay Jacobs

While counting continues out West, it’s virtually certain that Democratic control of the House and Nancy Pelosi’s heroic service as Speaker will end in January.  Due to Election 2022 loss of seats in the suburbs and exurbs of New York City.  Most regrettably, Representative Sean Maloney lost by a tiny margin in New York’s 17th, a new Congressional district in New York’s lower Hudson Valley.  Maloney a five-term member was Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and skillfully and unselfishly ran the Democrats’ national effort in House races.  The resulting virtual standoff in the House contrasts with a loss of 30 to 65 seats that was widely predicted.  Not a single pre-election poll projected the Ds doing nearly as well as they did/will do.  Beyond Maloney’s loss in the face of his triumph for party and nation, he is the paradigm of the superbly experienced statesperson we once aspired to elect.  He was a Senior West Wing Adviser and White House Staff Secretary (Clinton).  He maintained a modicum of stability and competence in the governor’s office after the Eliot Spitzer resignation.  And during his five terms in Congress became one of the members most well-versed in foreign, national security, intelligence and agricultural policies.  He will be heard from again, loudly and soon.

Sean Maloney

The pervasively simplistic explanation for the overall 2022 election results is that Trump hurt his candidates, while Biden was not nearly as big a drag as predicted but a boon to many, by putting democracy on and at the center of the ballot.  But like the Naked City, where there are 8 million stories, this year there were 435 House narratives, 35 in the Senate and 50 distinct ones in the states.  New York’s was the singular major tragedy for Democrats and big victory for Republicans and their ultra-Trumpist leadership.  How did that happen?

New York’s mixology didn’t produce a Manhattan – but instead a Cosmo – if one considers Buffalonians cosmopolitan.[1]  The recipe that lost 4 Democratic House seats was two parts Governor Kathy Hochul from Buffalo, one part Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a generous pinch of state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs.

Kathy Hochul

New York is a deep and steadily deepening blue state, as measured by party registration.  But tepid support and lack of enthusiasm for Hochul proved decisive in the four lost House seats and made several others unnecessarily too close for comfort.  She won by 5+ points over Republican Lee Zeldin, which compares to the four previous gubernatorial margins of 13.4, 13.4, 18.5 and 41 percent.[2]

Maloney ran significantly ahead of Hochul in two of the counties that comprise the new New York 17th.  Putnam, where Hochul was Zeldin minus 21 points and Rockland where she lost by 12.  Those sorts of gaps from the top of the ticket are bridges too far.  The same occurred on Long Island where two formerly safe Democratic seats were lost despite the D candidates running well ahead of Hochul.

Jay Jacobs

Hochul, who became governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned, ran a lackluster and tone-deaf campaign, despite having all the money in the world.  Scared independent suburbanites didn’t believe her tardy promises to address their fear about resurgent violent crime.  Nor did liberals and progressives trust her.  They remembered her high NRA rating and the gun lobby’s endorsement of her over a Republican opponent in the 2012 House elections.

Her sluggish effort this year was not merely the product of her mediocrity but also her lack of battle readiness.  She had no serious primary challenge, because party chair Jacobs waited a full 41 days after she replaced Cuomo to endorse her candidacy for a full-term.  No doubt based upon her spectacular performance during those 6 weeks – including appointment of an unvetted Lieutenant Governor, who soon had to be given the hook while waiting indictment on political corruption charges.

Hochul is well known and badly thought of in the liberal, progressive and even moderate wings of the Democratic party.  Not merely because of her romance with the gun lobby, but her vote with Republicans to censure former Attorney General Eric Holder and her promise (while Erie County Clerk) to have arrested undocumented aliens lawfully applying for drivers’ licenses.  An initiative of the Governor that appointed her.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

These last three among many more Hochul credentials clearly cause AOC to think badly about Hochul and about Jacobs, and she properly has opposed both.  But as for support of her own Democratic caucus and majority in the House, she was absent.

Despite Maloney’s Pelosi-appointed position as chair of the DCCC, AOC backed a primary opponent to Maloney in the 17th – who he defeated 2 to 1, but which sapped his money and delayed attention to the true Republican opponent.  And in the national effort to maintain Democratic and Pelosi leadership in the House, the DCCC chair said:

“I didn’t see her one minute of these mid-terms helping our House majority. . . she had almost nothing to do with what turned out to be a historic defense of our majority.  Didn’t pay a dollar of dues. . . she’s an important voice in our politics.  But when it comes to passing our agenda through the Congress, or standing our ground on the political battlefield, she was nowhere to be found.”

AOC helped produce the NYS debacle, but it was mostly Hochul – begat by Andrew Cuomo – begat by Governor David Paterson – begat by Eliot Spitzer that created the mess that New York’s Democratic Party is today – and was last week when it delivered the House to the party of insurrection, election denial and Donald Trump.

[1] The “City of Light” once was the 5th most populous U.S. city and had more millionaires than the Big Apple.

[2] Not a mathematical nor typographical error – 2006 – Spitzer 69%, Faso 28%.


  1. Rhonda Singer

    Great comment !

  2. Bruce Fisher

    Main reason for House debacle: incompetent state legislature couldn’t follow its own rules in reapportionment. That sent process to a rural judge, whose special master saved separate districts for Tenney and Stefanik instead of combining them. Zeldin campaign was device to help GOP Congressional effort. PS snarking at Hochul, Buffalo, is, how should one say it — unfortunate. Why are upstate voters receptive to R messaging? Could it be something beside Hochul?


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