NY-19 Special Congressional Election Odds: More SCOTUS Fallout?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on July 5, 2022

On August 23, the voters of New York will be going to the polls again for their Congressional Primaries – and, in the NY-19 Congressional Election, they’ll also be electing a member to fill the seat left vacant by the promotion of Antonio Delgado to Lieutenant Governor. With PredictIt, we can legally bet on the outcome.

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NY-19 Special Congressional Election Odds

PartyPredictIt PriceImplied Odds

NY-19 Congressional Election Analysis

Because this has to be unnecessarily confusing, this election is being fought on the lines of the old NY-19, a Biden +1.5, Trump 2016 +6.8 seat that goes from Vermont to Pennsylvania, stretching through upstate and encompassing Democratic small cities with GOP friendly rural areas.

Despite it being a Trump seat in 2016, Democrats flipped it in 2018 by beating a Republican incumbent, before the GOP didn’t credibly contest it in 2020, inflating Democratic winning margins.

With the former member now in Albany, the Republicans see a chance to make a gain, even though the successor district to this will be bluer in November, as having an incumbent in the seat will make the chances of flipping the bluer 19th in the fall easier.

For Democrats, there’s not too much to suggest fighting for the seat makes sense. The candidate running in the special for them will not be the same candidate in the fall. So even if he wins, there’s nothing to be gained, except embarrassing the GOP.

That, and the fact the GOP are running a strong candidate who won the 2018 GOP Primary for Governor and has a strong fundraising base suggests they’re favorites to win the race. At least, they were, until the Supreme Court overturned access to abortion.

Worrying Signs For Republicans in NY-19?

The Tuesday after the GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices ruled against a universal right to abortion, there was a special election in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, a Trump +11 district that takes in Lincoln and a whole ton of other rural areas.

In a decently shocking result, the GOP only won it by 5.8%, on the basis of higher than average turnout in the only Democratic part of the district (Lincoln), and better Democratic performance in the suburban Omaha county in the district. Democratic turnout was up, especially on the day compared to recent patterns, because the overturning of Roe had an invigorating effect on the base of the party.

That same night was Part 1 of the New York Primaries – the State House and Governor’s Primaries, because a court ruling pushed the State Senate and Congressional primaries to August. In the Governor’s primary, 66% of the votes cast in a major party primary were cast in the Democratic one, as opposed to 34% in the GOP one. This 32% gap is sizably bigger than Joe Biden’s margin in the state of 23% in 2020.

Primary turnout is an imperfect guide to general election turnouts – especially when one side has no competitive top of the ticket primaries – but it’s generally the case that the party with the wave behind them outperforms the party seeing the wave crashing into them. The GOP got higher primary turnout in Pennsylvania and Georgia despite them being Biden states, and GOP turnout in Ohio was nearly double Democratic turnout.

With that context, and the fact that Democrats had mostly non competitive primaries for Governor and LG, while New York Republicans had an open race, this is a fairly ominous result for Republicans, because Democrats have the turnout itch now in a way they didn’t before this.

The polls right now are showing a fairly consistent 2-3% shift towards Democrats in the wake of the decision to overturn Roe, meaning that the red wave that has been presumed since November might not be on in the same way. It could still be, but in a pre-Roe world, this race is an easy GOP gain. Now, it’s not.

Is There Value In This Political Betting Market?

If this was a Biden +1.5 seat with no incumbent in November, the GOP would win it, easily. But it’s not in November, and this matters – a lot.

The trends in American politics these days have had the effect of reversing the usual turnout dynamics by making the Democratic coalition more likely to turn out in these sorts of oddball special elections. As the GOP have bled support with educated voters, and gained with those without a degree, they’ve traded voters more likely to turn out for every single election to ones less likely to do so.

Levels of educational attainment, of attentiveness to news, and voter propensity are all correlated, and the more turnout falls, that fall will be asymmetrical – educated degree holders will increase their share of the electorate as their turnout levels fall less than those without degrees.

This is why the GOP used to win runoffs in Georgia by more than the original election – they used to win in educated parts of Atlanta and the well-educated suburbs, and now those voters vote for Democrats, which is why Democrats broke their 0/8 streak in runoffs and elected a Democratic Senate in January 2021.

That same dynamic will be in play here, with the GOP increasingly reliant on voters who will not be motivated to turn out for a random election in the middle of the summer, while Democrats – livid about the decision in Dobbs – will turn out, as the New York Primaries and the Nebraska special show.

Will it be enough to overcome a still-Republican tilting year, especially with six weeks for the Dobbs anger to fade? It’s hard to tell, but this is likely to be closer than this number suggests.

I’m not saying Democrats will win the seat, but 29 cents for a party with considerable upside is plainly missing the clear story of the post-Dobbs political world. This price made a lot of sense before we saw the New York primary turnout data and the way that the Nebraska 1st race went, but it doesn’t make sense anymore.

Democrats rallied in the Trump era because of a discernable thing that could unite the factions of the party, and without a common enemy, the broader Democratic Party and progressive movement has been at a factional war ever since.

Now, post-Dobbs, the party has something else to unite around – the Supreme Court and abortion rights – that can stop the sniping about Biden and refocus everyone on fighting a common enemy. It’s their best chance at pulling out better results, and if the results of last week mean anything, they can easily pull out a win in NY-19.

Democrats have a much better chance of winning than this NY-19 price suggests. So long as that’s the case, it’s worth a small bet.

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