How Many N.Y. Democrats Does It Take to Fill a House Seat? Try 15. (2022)

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A congressman, an ex-congresswoman, an ex-mayor, a Trump prosecutor and several state and city officials are eyeing an open congressional seat in New York City.

How Many N.Y. Democrats Does It Take to Fill a House Seat? Try 15. (1)

By Dana Rubinstein and Nicholas Fandos

Beneath a maple tree by a red brick elementary school in Brooklyn, a lanky, recognizable figure lingered on a recent morning, hoping to catch the attention of moms, dads, the grounds worker mowing the lawn.

“Registered Democrat?” asked Bill de Blasio, the former two-term mayor of New York City, as he cajoled potential voters to help him get back in the game.

Mr. de Blasio, who once believed he could be elected president, has now set his sights lower, aiming to represent a newly redrawn House district in New York City. But he is far from alone.

Others contesting the seat include a Levi Strauss heir who helped impeach Donald J. Trump; rising stars from the City Council and State Assembly; a Chinese American activist involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; and a pathbreaking liberal who was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — 50 years ago.

There is also a sitting congressman currently representing a suburban region, who only recently moved into the district. Exactly when, he couldn’t say.

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“Time is a blur,” said the congressman, Mondaire Jones, pivoting away from questions about his new residency, “when you’re fighting to end gun violence in America.”

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do politicians. So when New York’s redistricting fiasco last month unexpectedly opened up a House seat in a safely Democratic area, stretching from Lower Manhattan through much of brownstone Brooklyn, the political floodgates opened wide.

A total of 15 Democrats, representing a broad range of ages and backgrounds, have taken steps to enter a summertime primary that may prove to be one of the largest and most freewheeling in the nation.

“It’s like a sweepstakes contest,” said Steven M. Cohen, a longtime government official and frequent donor from the district who said he has been inundated with fund-raising requests. “Everyone can potentially be a winner, no purchase necessary.”

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The candidates have only until Aug. 23 to win the sympathies of primary voters who represent some of New York’s most politically engaged and diverse neighborhoods: Greenwich Village, Wall Street, Chinatown, Park Slope, Sunset Park and even parts of Borough Park, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish stronghold.

The result is a contest not so much of ideas — almost every major candidate has condemned threats to abortion rights and bemoaned the lack of strict limits on guns — as of brute force, blunt ambition and identity politics.

“Let me start by saying this: I fear no man,” said Mr. Jones, the sitting congressman who decided to try his hand in the reconstituted 10th District, rather than run for re-election in the 17th District or contest the neighboring one to the south. Either option would involve competing against a House incumbent.

Key Results in New York’s 2022 Primary Elections

On June 28, New York held several primaries for statewide office, including for governor and lieutenant governor. Some State Assembly districts also had primaries.

  • Kathy Hochul: With her win in the Democratic, the governor of New York took a crucial step toward winning a full term, fending off a pair of spirited challengers.
  • Antonio Delgado: Ms. Hochul’s second in command and running mate also scored a convincing victoryover his nearest Democratic challenger, Ana María Archila.
  • Lee Zeldin: The congressman from Long Island won the Republican primary for governor,advancing to what it’s expected to be a grueling general election.
  • N.Y. State Assembly: Long-tenured incumbents were largely successful in fending off a slate of left-leaning insurgentsin the Democratic primary.

Mr. Jones did not have to move to Brooklyn to run for the seat; House candidates must live in the state they represent, but not the district. Mr. Jones, who grew up in Rockland County, contended that his status as a newcomer was irrelevant. He suggested that he is sufficiently tied to the district by virtue of his time living elsewhere in the city and socializing in Greenwich Village, as a young gay man of color trying to discover his “authentic self.”

In any case, he said, regular voters care more about what a congressional candidate has done and whether he can fight for their interests rather than where he hails from or when he moved. (A spokesman later clarified that the move occurred June 6.)

“Harping over the length of someone’s residency in a district and lines that were just drawn a few weeks ago is something that the political class, including many journalists, give outsize weight to,” Mr. Jones said.

Jo Anne Simon, a former disability rights lawyer who currently represents parts of the district as a state assemblywoman in Brooklyn, adamantly disagreed as she pitched her own candidacy.

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“People vote for people that they know, that they trust and they have reason to know show up,” said Ms. Simon, referencing her decades of activism on local issues like pollution from the Gowanus Expressway. “Nobody here has voted for Mondaire Jones.”

Then again, in such a crowded race, there may be no such thing as home-field advantage.

Take Carlina Rivera, a city councilwoman who lives just outside of the district, and Yuh-Line Niou, another state assemblywoman. Both are up-and-coming progressive women of color representing parts of Lower Manhattan and could end up cannibalizing each other’s base of support.

Ms. Niou said she had more than 600 volunteers eager to carry petitions for her. Ms. Rivera on Friday won the endorsement of Representative Nydia Velázquez, who has represented much of the new district and is expected to wield substantial sway among voters. She is expected to win re-election in a neighboring redrawn district covering parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

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They, in turn, will face off against a progressive rising star from another era, Elizabeth Holtzman, spurred to re-enter the arena by the threat to abortion rights.

In 1972, Ms. Holtzman became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, when she defeated a 50-year incumbent at age 31. Now, at age 80, she is trying to become the oldest non-incumbent elected to the House of Representatives in history.

In between, she had a trailblazing career as the first woman elected district attorney in Brooklyn and as New York City comptroller, racking up experience that she argues positions her to make an immediate impact in Washington. Still, she has not held elected office since 1993, when several of her competitors were in elementary school.

“Somebody said to me, your slogan should be something like ‘Google me,’” Ms. Holtzman said.

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The Chinese American activist, Yan Xiong, who after his role in Tiananmen went on to become a chaplain for the U.S. Army, now believes he can attract a significant number of votes from large Asian populations in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Voters can be forgiven for being overwhelmed. There was not even supposed to be a primary race in New York’s 10th District until a court-appointed expert so thoroughly scrambled New York City’s congressional map in May that the technical incumbent, Representative Jerrold Nadler, decided to run in the 12th District in Manhattan instead.

That decision set him on a collision course with a longtime ally, Representative Carolyn Maloney, but it also left a rare open seat in Manhattan and Brooklyn — political gold to which no one had a rightful claim.

“Anyone who tells you that they know what’s going to happen in this race, or that there is an obvious outcome, is lying to you and themselves,” said Chris Coffey, the chief executive of Tusk Strategies, who is unaffiliated in the race.

Mr. de Blasio has his claim. He enters the race with near universal name recognition, years of electoral successes and some policy triumphs, too — most notably, universal prekindergarten. But Mr. de Blasio does not have a fund-raising advantage. That belongs to two other candidates.

As of March 31, Mr. Jones had $2.9 million on hand — a huge sum in a race so short it will make fund-raising difficult. Last week, he dropped his first in an expected deluge of television advertising, a placement of at least $169,000, according to Ad Impact, an advertising analytics firm.

Daniel Goldman, the chief investigator for House Democrats in the first impeachment of Mr. Trump, and a frequent legal analyst for MSNBC, is running on what he casts as a record of fighting for democracy and public safety.

He is also a former federal prosecutor who spent a decade working in the Southern District of New York, a lesser-known part of his résumé that may help him stand out with voters as the city confronts what Mr. Goldman called “the biggest public safety crisis in decades.”

“The core experiences of my professional career, which has been devoted entirely to public service, happen to be very timely for the circumstances we are in now,” he said in an interview.

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Still, he is a relative newcomer to electoral politics and starts the abbreviated race with few of the institutional relationships other candidates will draw on. To try to make up the difference, Mr. Goldman, the Levi Strauss heir who rents a TriBeCa apartment listed for sale for $22 million, said he was prepared to “put some of my own money into this to level the playing field.”

But given the timing of the contest, and its brevity, the race is also widely expected to turn on get-out-the-vote efforts, which may help candidates like Ms. Niou.

“Field is the most important thing,” she said. “We’re running against folks with 100 percent name recognition.”

Labor unions and outside political groups could also help turn the race. The retail workers union has endorsed Mr. Jones. Aspire PAC, an outgrowth of the Asian American and Pacific Islander congressional caucus, has been reviewing candidates and will make a decision soon, according to Grace Meng, the Queens congresswoman and PAC chair. It remains unclear if other unions will engage.

It is also difficult to gauge how many voters will be in the district in late August, when the city gets torrid and all those who can leave town do. Matthew Rey, a prominent Democratic consultant who is unaffiliated with any of the campaigns, estimated voter turnout could be between just 70,000 and 90,000 in a district of 776,000 residents.

The other Democratic candidates are Brian Robinson, John Herron, Maud Maron, Peter J. Gleason, Quanda Francis, Laura Thomas and Jimmy Li.

Given the overcrowded field and the late summer election date, the race is hard to pin down.

Last week, after dropping off his two children at school in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, Nicholas McDermott said he would absolutely consider voting for Mr. de Blasio.

“I think it’s great to have someone with experience who’s from the area,” Mr. McDermott said.

He was less certain if he would be around in August to vote.

“That’s a good question,” he said.

FAQs

How many seats does New York have in the House of Representatives? ›

U.S. House of Representatives

This is a list of members of the current New York delegation in the U.S. House, along with their respective tenures in office, district boundaries, and district political ratings according to the CPVI. The delegation has a total of 26 members, including 18 Democrats and 7 Republicans.

How big is the House of Representatives? ›

The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435, proportionally representing the population of the 50 states.

How many seats are in the House of Representatives? ›

There are currently 435 voting representatives. Five delegates and one resident commissioner serve as non-voting members of the House, although they can vote in committee. Representatives must be 25 years old and must have been U.S. citizens for at least 7 years. Representatives serve 2-year terms.

How many reps does California have? ›

California is the most populous U.S. state; as a result, it has the most representation in the United States House of Representatives, with 53 Representatives. Each Representative represents one congressional district.

How many Democrats are in the House of Representatives? ›

In the 117th Congress, the current party alignments as of July 12, 2022,6 are as follows: House of Representatives: 224 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), 213 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), and 5 vacant seats.

Why there are 435 members of the House of Representatives? ›

The law also designated the increase in the ratio of Representatives to the population. Because the House wanted a manageable number of members, Congress twice set the size of the House at 435 voting members. The first law to do so was passed on August 8, 1911.

How many House of Representatives are up for reelection in 2022? ›

House of Representatives elections. All 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives will be up for election. As of July 2022, 50 representatives and one non-voting delegate (32 Democrats, 19 Republicans) have announced that they will be retiring.

Which state has the most House of Representatives? ›

Here are the 10 states with the most representatives:
  • California (53)
  • Texas (36)
  • Florida (27)
  • New York (27)
  • Illinois (18)
  • Pennsylvania (18)
  • Ohio (16)
  • Georgia (14)

How many reps does Texas have? ›

Texas House of Representatives
Structure
Seats150
Political groupsRepublican (85) Democratic (65)
Length of term2 years
25 more rows

Who is the most powerful member of the House of Representatives? ›

Elected by the whole of the House of Representatives, the Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles: the institutional role of presiding officer and administrative head of the House, the role of leader of the majority party in the House, and the representative role of an elected member of the House ...

How many representatives do each state have? ›

However, in the House of Representatives, a state's representation is based on its population. For example, smaller states like Vermont and Delaware have one representative while large states like California have 53 representatives.

How is the number of representatives in the House determined? ›

"Apportionment" is the process of dividing the 435 memberships, or seats, in the House of Representatives among the 50 states. The Census Bureau conducts the census at 10-year intervals. At the conclusion of each census, the results are used to calculate the number of House memberships to which each state is entitled.

How are the 435 seats in the House distributed? ›

The Constitution provides for proportional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the seats in the House are apportioned based on state population according to the constitutionally mandated Census.

When was the House of Representatives capped at 435? ›

The Reapportionment Act of 1929 capped the number of representatives at 435 (the size previously established by the Apportionment Act of 1911), where it has remained except for a temporary increase to 437 members upon the 1959 admission of Alaska and Hawaii into the Union.

When was the last supermajority in Congress? ›

February 4, 2010: Republican Scott Brown's election to the Senate ended the Democratic super-majority.

Who elects the speaker of the House? ›

The Speaker is elected at the beginning of a new Congress by a majority of the Representatives-elect from candidates separately chosen by the majority- and minority-party caucuses. These candidates are elected by their party members at the organizing caucuses held soon after the new Congress is elected.

Who is the current Speaker of the House? ›

The current House speaker is Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California. She was elected to a fourth (second consecutive) term as speaker on January 3, 2021, the first day of the 117th Congress. She has led the Democratic Party in the House since 2003, and is the first woman to serve as speaker.

Who is in charge of the Senate? ›

Current floor leaders

The Senate is currently composed of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. The current leaders are Senators Chuck Schumer (D) of New York and Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky.

When was the last time the House and Senate were controlled by the same party? ›

The Democratic Party won a majority in both chambers, giving them full control of Congress for the first time since the 103rd Congress in 1993, which was also the last time they controlled the House.

Who represents Texas in Washington DC? ›

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson proudly represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. First elected to Congress in 1992, she is currently serving her 15th term in Congress.

How old does someone have to be to serve in the Texas House? ›

The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, each elected for a two-year term. A member of the house must be a citizen of the United States, must be a qualified elector of the state, and must be at least 21 years old.

Who is the Texas representative 2021? ›

4th district: Pat Fallon (R) (since 2021)

Who is running the House of Representatives 2021? ›

2021 United States House of Representatives elections
LeaderNancy PelosiKevin McCarthy
PartyDemocraticRepublican
Leader sinceJanuary 3, 2003January 3, 2019
Leader's seatCalifornia 12thCalifornia 23rd
Last election222 seats, 50.8%213 seats, 47.7%
5 more rows

What is a House whip? ›

Every major political party appoints a whip who is responsible for the party's discipline and behaviours on the floor of the house. Usually, they direct the party members to stick to the party's stand on certain issues and directs them to vote as per the direction of senior party members.

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