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Balance of Power in the House Could Hinge on New York Swing Districts

Mike Lawler, Rockland’s lone representative in Congress, is aiming to thread a difficult (bi)partisan needle during a tight re-election bid that pits him against former Rockland representative Mondaire Jones.

Congressman Mike Lawler, Rockland’s only representative in the House, is up for re-election this fall. (File photo)

It took more than a week for Republican Mike Lawler to admit that he’d voted for his party’s presumptive presidential nominee in the recent New York primary. 

Lawler, Rockland’s lone representative in Congress, is aiming to thread a difficult (bi)partisan needle during a tight re-election bid that pits him against former Rockland representative Mondaire Jones, who was squeezed out in 2022 because Democratic big dog Sean Patrick Maloney shifted districts, ultimately setting up Lawler’s narrow (0.6 percent; roughly 1,800 votes out of around 285,000) victory.

A regular on cable TV news shows, Lawler’s notable delay in conceding what seemed inevitable is a reminder of how problematic the former president has become down ballot, even for some of his staunchest allies. 

Lawler was a delegate for Trump in 2016 and worked on his reelection bid in 2020 – though Biden once said “Mike is the kind of guy that, when I was in the Congress, they were the kind of Republican I was used to dealing with.”

But Lawler’s reticence also illustrates a less-noted, if related, phenomenon: New Yorkers could decide the balance of power in the US House come November, and Republican incumbents are gambling with a wild card.

Five Republican-held seats in New York are up for grabs – enough to usurp the four-seat House majority the GOP enjoys, after losing one New York seat in February.

Lawler’s belated and reluctant admission that he had, in fact, voted for the former president, brought a barrage of headlines about just exactly how MAGA Lawler has been. 

A letter in The Examiner News asks: “Who is the real Mike Lawler?” 

“Is he the bipartisan moderate he claims to be or is he a crusading member of the Republican majority, least productive Congress since the Great Depression?”

The letter, which focuses on Lawler’s support for the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, answers its own question.

“Mike Lawler is a lifelong political operative and lobbyist, not the devoted public servant he makes himself out to be,” it reads.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in March put out a press release claiming that “As GOP loyalists, Lawler and Molinaro are propping up Trump’s dangerous, extreme record…” 

In a district close to Lawler’s, Democrat Tom Suozzi won back his flipped House seat in February after lawmakers expelled serial fabulist George Santos in an embarrassing spectacle. 

The district supported Biden in 2020 before electing Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms.

That kind of flexibility could be a problem for Lawler and other New York Republicans come November.

Lawler’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Although City & State considers Lawler’s district “one of the most competitive” in the country,” it was made safer after redistricting. 

And yet Lawler is literally getting a run for his money from a progressive Democrat. 

Mondaire Jones, a progressive Democrat, raised over $1.75 million in the first quarter of the year. (On the other hand, Lawler has yet to release his fundraising figures).

“While Mike Lawler was getting caught defunding law enforcement and blocking a bipartisan border security bill, our grassroots campaign has raised nearly $4 million thus far this cycle because of the incredible support from everyday people across the Lower Hudson Valley,” Jones said in a statement. 

Biden is beating Trump by about 10 points in New York state, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of the latest Siena College poll from February, and Democrats are seizing on that negative association in local elections. 

According to NY1, The Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC has budgeted about $21 million for TV ads across New York State ahead of Election Day.

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