Breaking: DCCC Chairman Maloney Struggles to Put Away Mike Lawler in Flashing Warning Sign for Dems

Democrats have been caught by surprise in New York's 17th congressional district, where state assemblyman Michael Lawler is putting up a stronger fight than they expected against Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney.

Last week, the Cook Political Report shifted the race from "lean Democrat" to "toss up." That the newly redrawn district is competitive has come as a shock, given that President Joe Biden won the area by ten points in 2020.

If Lawler defeats Maloney, it would be the first time a Republican has defeated the chair of the DCCC in 40 years. Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois faced a similarly narrow challenge in 2020 when she was DCCC chairwoman, but ultimately pulled out a win.

"This would certainly have historical significance, but I think would certainly be a harbinger of what is to come on Election Night, if we’re able to flip a district like this, that is labeled a D+3, by Cook," Lawler told National Review. "They’ve now put this in the toss-up category and certainly if we can win here, we’re going to have a very, very good night across the country."

He said three things have helped make the race so tight: his time spent on the campaign trail with targeted messaging about issues that matter, redistricting, and a "significant amount of money" spent by outside groups.

"Whether you’re talking about inflation, whether you’re talking about crime, whether you’re talking about education, those are what folks are concerned about," he said.

The lower Hudson Valley district is a "pure suburban district" and "very much a blue-collar working class" area, where 50 percent of households have a cop, firefighter, first-responder, or veteran living there, he said. Lawler believes his messaging on public safety and cost of living has been resonating in the area, where he said national issues are "amplified" in many respects.

Redistricting means that Maloney only currently represents 25 percent of the residents that will be in the newly drawn district, stripping him of the typical incumbent advantage. Lawler represents about 20 percent of the district in the state assembly as a first-term assemblyman.

Republicans have spent nearly $8.8 million on the race, including $4.7 million from the Congressional Leadership Fund and $1 million from the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC). The NRCC recently announced plans to dump another $867,000 into the race.

The DCCC, meanwhile, scrambled to spend more than $600,000 on tv ads to boost Maloney in the race's final stretch.

Democratic lawmakers told NBC News Maloney has been caught in a tricky balancing act, trying to save Democrats' razor-thin House majority while also looking out for his own reelection prospects. Maloney told the outlet he has recused himself from making the decision to spend DCCC money on his own race.

A DCCC spokesman took a shot at Lawler, suggesting Republican groups have spent so much money on the race because Lawler's campaign "couldn't compete on its own."

"Since day one, Chairman Maloney has been working tirelessly as a player coach. He's built a campaign and we've built an operation at the DCCC that can support that reality," spokesman Chris Taylor told the outlet. "As we have with every decision this cycle, we are making investments that ensure Democrats hold our House Majority."

Meanwhile, Lawler has been out talking to voters who he says are "hyper-focused" on the cost of living and crime, and are sick of one-party rule, he said. He offered Representative Lee Zeldin's surge in the polls for the New York gubernatorial race as evidence that voters across the state are tired of Democrat rule.

"Democrats control everything in Washington, Albany, in New York City for the first time in our nation’s history, and they’ve created a mess," he said. "And I think voters are looking for change."

Lawler told National Review his priorities, if elected, would be to tackle the cost of living by bringing down inflation, increasing domestic production of energy and lifting the cap on state and local tax deductions.

"We have to bring down the cost of living, and we have to make sure that folks can afford to stay here," he said. "There’s a reason New York has led the nation in outmigration, it very much has to do with the cost of living."

He believes the federal government "has a responsibility to intervene with respect to New York's cashless bail law, which has made our communities less safe and people in harm’s way."

Maloney has been hard hit by an ad focused on comments he made in 2018 while running for state attorney general that he "absolutely" backs ending the cash bail system and that he'd "make it a top priority."

Meanwhile, the DCCC's new ad tries to paint Lawler as "MAGA Mike Lawler," connecting him to "MAGA extremists," including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas).

Maloney currently serves in New York's 18th congressional district, but chose to run in the newly drawn 17th district, which encompassed most of Representative Mondaire Jones's district. Jones chose to run in New York's 10th congressional district in New York City but was defeated in a crowded primary.

Progressive Democrats were furious at Maloney's decision; Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) demanded Maloney resign from the DCCC.

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DCCC Chairman Maloney Struggles to Put Away Mike Lawler in Flashing Warning Sign for Dems

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