A new poll shows Republican incumbent John Faso five points ahead of Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado in the race for New York’s 19th Congressional District. But Delgado supporters are counting on an enthusiastic base and an intense voter outreach effort to close the gap in the run-up to Election Day.
The poll by the Siena College Research Institute and Spectrum News gauged voters’ attitudes about the race in late August ahead of Labor Day, which traditionally marks the start of campaign season. The telephone poll asked 501 “likely” voters who they would cast their ballots for if the election were held that day. The poll found voters titling towards Faso by a 45 to 40 percent margin. But with the poll’s margin of error of 4.8 percent and many voters just now tuning into the race, poll organizers say the survey shows a district that is effectively up for grabs. The survey did not seek voters’ opinions on Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield of New Paltz.
“In a district closely divided between Republicans and Democrats, freshman incumbent Faso has a real race on his hands,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg.
Greenberg’s analysis is shared by many, including party leaders and PACs from both sides which are expected to pour millions of dollars into the race over the next nine weeks. The 19th, which covers Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie Sullivan counties and portions of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties voted for Barack Obama in 2012 before swinging to Donald Trump in 2016.
Faso, a veteran of the state Assembly, onetime candidate for governor and state comptroller and a former lobbyist, is defending his seat for the first time in what is expected to be tough year for Republicans in moderate-leaning districts like the 19th. Delgado, who most recently worked as an attorney for the high-powered law and lobbying firm Akin Gump, comes into the general election race after a bruising six-way primary fight for the Democratic nomination.
The poll shows Delgado leads 49 to 36 percent in Ulster and Dutchess counties, while Faso holds commanding leads in the rest of the district. The poll also shows that 44 percent of respondents had not heard of or formed an opinion about Delgado. Just 24 percent had no opinion on Faso. Delgado led the polling among women, Democrats and voters over the age of 55, while Faso held leads among non-party-enrolled voters, Republicans, men and younger voters. The poll also showed that voters in the 19th preferred Faso by the same margin they expressed a desire to see Republicans control congress in 2019.
This week, both campaigns sought to tease out positive news from the poll. Faso’s campaign issued a statement touting his record as “the 18th most bipartisan member of Congress” and calling the poll evidence that the energetic Democratic primary campaign had failed to dent the incumbent’s hold on voters.
“After Democratic candidates collectively spent over $8 million in their primary falsely smearing Congressman Faso, we are very pleased with our lead in this race,” a statement issued by Faso’s campaign read.
Delgado’s campaign, meanwhile, has described Faso’s lead as flimsy, considering the traditional advantages of incumbency and that many voters in the district were just beginning to pay attention to the race. Much of that attention can be attributed to an early and intense rush of negative advertising by independent political action committees. The Republican-affiliated Congressional Leadership Fund has flooded airwaves and social media feeds with ads highlighting Delgado’s brief career as a Los Angeles-based rapper under the name AD the Voice, depicting the Harvard law graduate and onetime Rhodes Scholar as a foul-mouthed and unpatriotic misogynist.
The ads are part of a broader campaign strategy to paint Delgado, who grew up in Schenectady and moved to Rhinebeck from New Jersey shortly before announcing his run for Congress, as an outsider out of step with his would-be constituents.
Democrats, meanwhile, have hammered Faso for his vote in favor of the failed effort to repeal Obamacare and allegations that he has ducked face-to-face interactions with the public. This week Delgado called out Faso for his reluctance to hold public town hall events, while announcing he planned to hold open forums in all 11 district counties before the election starting with a Sept. 7 event at Gallagher’s Banquet Hall in Cairo.
Last month also saw the removal of two independent candidates from contention after a court ruled that they had not produced enough valid signatures to meet the threshold of 3,500 for a spot on the ballot. Actor and Hurley resident Diane Neal and Rhinebeck inventor Dal Lamagna both had their petitions challenged by a member of the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee. Democrats had feared that the independent candidates could siphon votes from Delgado in what is expected to be a close race. On Friday, Lamanga will have a chance to appeal the decision in state Supreme Court. It’s unclear if Neal is planning to appeal the ruling.