At this point in the 2018 election cycle, progressive energy was coursing through New York’s 19th Congressional district. Democrats had a crowded primary field of seven candidates—with one more, Erin Collier, yet to enter the fray—who had raised a collective $3.1 million.
Antonio Delgado, the eventual winner, had raised just over $1 million, more than twice as much as the vulnerable Republican incumbent, John Faso, who had raised $424,000. That was an early warning sign that Faso, who lost to Delgado, was in deep trouble.
Fast forward to today. Delgado is a Democrat who got elected by just five points in a very favorable year for Democrats. The 19th district, which covers the Hudson Valley and parts of the Catskills and the Capital region, voted for Donald Trump by seven points in 2016 and may very well vote for him again in 2020. And yet, despite his vulnerability on paper, the strong opposition that Faso faced as an incumbent two years ago hasn’t materialized for Delgado thus far.
There are currently just three Republicans running to challenge Delgado: former New York National Guard Adjutant General Anthony German, fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh, and non-profit director Mike Roth. As of the latest FEC filings, none has even come close to even matching the lowest tier of fundraising in the 2018 Democratic primary.
German, who is essentially the frontrunner and has received a sizeable donation from Faso, doesn’t have much of an operation to speak of at the moment. He raised just under $50,000—half of what Beals raised in the third quarter of 2017.
A deeper dive into German’s itemized receipts reveals that even what little he has raised doesn’t reflect much grassroots support. Nearly 70 percent of his total fundraising ($34,600) has come from donations of more than $1,000. Just eight percent comes from donations of less than $500, while 16 percent comes from PACs.
Moreover, most of the money German has raised doesn’t even come from donors in the 19th district. Fifty-four percent of his receipts ($26,900) so far have come from outside the district, with nearly a third coming from outside the state.
Hawatmeh, meanwhile, has raised about $5,500, while Roth hasn’t reported any fundraising so far. Compare that to Delgado, well known for his fundraising prowess, who has raised an eye-popping $632,000 this quarter. That brings him to a total of $2,063,000 raised this cycle, with $1,525,000 cash on hand.
The non-financial aspects of German’s campaign don’t look much better. He is mostly unknown in the district and has just 21 Twitter followers and 146 likes on Facebooks—fewer than fringe candidate Mike Roth. (Delgado, by comparison, has 13,600 Facebook likes and 26,600 Twitter followers.)
While German will undoubtedly ramp up his fundraising and campaigning in the coming months, this sluggish start, especially compared to what the Democrats did as opposition in 2018, paints a bleak picture for Republicans going forward. This begs the question: Is there anyone better? The answer, unequivocally, is yes.
On a local level, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and the Capital Region have plenty of Republican politicians who could potentially make the race competitive. One problem, however, is that nobody is jumping at the opportunity to take on Delgado, who is seen as generally strong and well-liked in the district.
Some potential Republican candidates for the district include State Senator Sue Serino, Rensselaer County executive Steven McLaughlin, and Dutchess County executive and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro. Molinaro is seen by Republicans in the district as their best chance at taking back the seat in 2020.
While Molinaro lost the governor’s race to Andrew Cuomo in an expected landslide, he beat Cuomo in the 19th district by 10 points, 51.4 percent to 41.5 percent, even as the district went for Delgado by five points.
Molinaro, who began his political career as the 19-year-old mayor of Tivoli, is also well liked in Dutchess County—one of the largest and more Democratic counties of the district—where he won re-election by a landslide in 2017 and is widely expected to win again this November. That would go a long way toward Molinaro mounting a challenge to Delgado, who also hails from Dutchess County.
However, Molinaro—who has said he is focused on his re-election race—would likely have difficulty explaining to voters why he pivoted straight from campaigning for reelection to seeking higher office. Ultimately, he would have to hope that voters would forgive his hunger for higher office, as was the case with Sean Maloney in the 18th district.
But that’s if Molinaro runs, and it’s a big if. The same goes for Serino and McLaughlin. At the moment, Anthony German is what the Republicans have to work with.
Unfortunately for them, this race seems to mirror the 2018 race in the 18th district. In that contest, Maloney defeated mostly unknown New York State Trooper Lieutenant Colonel James O’Donnell by 11 points, despite anger over Maloney’s decision to run for New York Attorney General earlier that year.
The signs aren’t pointing towards success for Hudson Valley Republicans. If a stronger and more energized challenge to Delgado doesn’t materialize, the party may very well opt to shift resources towards taking down vulnerable Representatives Anthony Brindisi or Max Rose, instead of propping up token opposition to Delgado.
Andrew Solender is a political reporter based in Kingston. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSolender.