NEW YORK — Democrats have a New York problem.
For the second year in a row, the party performed well nationally but lost key races to Republicans in the Empire State.
And while abortion access was a potent, winning issue Tuesday in conservative states, public safety, affordability and the migrant crisis were on the ballot in New York.
Ecstatic GOP leaders on Wednesday touted a red wave on Long Island and a rare foothold in the Bronx. They said the local wins were proof their House victories here last year were no fluke — and they warned Democrats to prepare for even worse in 2024.
“We’re talking about a big movement, and we’re talking about this movement starting in a very blue state,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in an interview. “There is a message for the Democratic Party and the message is: You’re too extreme, you’re too far left, you’re too woke.”
New York is set next year to host half a dozen competitive House races, the most of any state but California. Democrats believe they have an edge with abortion-rights questions slated for the ballot, but they keep confronting a recurring theme: New Yorkers don’t follow national trends.
Republicans turned out especially big Tuesday on Long Island, where the party swept all four House seats a year earlier.
In Nassau County, the GOP retained its majority in the county Legislature and saw Republicans in the Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay town supervisor posts handily reelected. These are not small towns: Hempstead has a larger population than Boston.
In neighboring Suffolk County, which has 1.5 million residents, Ed Romaine trounced to become the first Republican to win the county executive’s office in two decades.
The party clinched several more local seats in the New York City suburbs critical swing areas in 2024.
The GOP wins were replicated to much lesser degrees elsewhere in the state. Democrats showed strength in upstate New York, where other key congressional races will take place next year.
But the National Republican Congressional Campaign was gleeful after less than stellar results in less-blue states.
“We have a simple message to New York Democrats: Giddy up, the ride has only begun,” NRCC spokesperson Savannah Viar said in a statement.
GOP House members facing tough reelection races next year were similarly buoyed.
“We’re seeing that we can win in districts that Joe Biden won,” freshman Nassau County Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said in an interview, adding that Republicans, Democrats and independents “realize that we are the party of protecting our quality of life; we are the party of law and order; we are the party of hard work.”
Even parts of New York City showed an appetite for new representation. In the East Bronx, a different first-in-two-decades milestone was hit when Republican Kristy Marmorato declared victory. She is poised to flip the City Council seat held by Democrat Marjorie Velázquez and become the first in her party elected in the borough since 2002.
“People just didn’t feel like they had a voice, and they felt like things were changing so quickly around them,” Marmorato said in an interview. “They knew they had to step up and vote and be the change.”
Democrats in the deep blue borough argued the result was a one-off.
Right-leaning Democrats and an active GOP operation are largely contained to the district, said John DeSio, a Democratic communications consultant.
“This is an area where NIMBYism is not a dirty word,” he said in an interview. “There’s basically a hard line at Westchester Square; there’s not going to be a more conservative spread out of the East Bronx.”
But beyond that corner of the Bronx and outside of Long Island, Democrats kept their overwhelming footprint in the state.
Every other Democratic City Council incumbent cruised to victory. Democrat Justin Brannan overcame Republican Ari Kagan by a larger-than-expected margin in a bitter contest in southern Brooklyn, helped by how carefully he discussed the Israel-Hamas war in a blended district of Arabs and Jews.
And in the biggest population centers in upstate, voters reelected incumbents of both parties in high-profile county executive races.
Further down the ballot, Democrats had a strong night.
They flipped the Monroe County Legislature for the first time in 30 years and gained in the Rochester suburbs that will be crucial if Democrats want to keep their state legislative supermajority next year.
Democrats also won the county Legislature in Cayuga outside Syracuse, which could wind up being part of Republican Rep. Brandon Williams’ district next year, and had their first lead in generations in the clerk’s race in Onondaga County that is part of Williams’ district.
In the Hudson Valley, represented by Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan and Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro, Democrats similarly prevailed in down-ballot races. They won the district attorney’s contests in Dutchess and Columbia counties.
In addition to Williams, Molinaro and Ryan, the most vulnerable incumbents in the state next include Republicans D’Esposito, George Santos and Nick LaLota of Long Island and Mike Lawler of the Hudson Valley.
Tuesday’s inroads for Republicans did serve to motivate one leading Democratic House candidate to ostensibly put his party first. Zak Malamed, who raised $720,000 as a first-time contender, dropped out of the race for Santos’ Nassau and Queens seat and endorsed former Rep. Tom Suozzi.
“My north star has always been to do whatever it takes to flip this district blue,” Malamed said in a statement, calling Suozzi “our best chance to flip this district blue and end the toxic hold that MAGA Republicans have on Long Island and Congress at large.”
Bill Mahoney contributed to this report.