Editor’s Note: This post was written by John Massaroni, Matt Plante, and Kayla Rissew.
Our predictions lead us to believe that the Republican freshman incumbent Lee Zeldin will be successful in his bid for NY-01 and will emerge victorious in this election for his second term in Congress by a margin of 53% to around 38%.
By now, Zeldin has gained a sizeable lead over his Democratic challenger, Anna Throne-Holst. A recent Siena Research Institute poll finds that Zeldin leads over his Democratic opponent by a significant 15 points, or 53% to 38%. Additionally, this survey found that around 40% of the electorate for this district know very little about Throne-Holst. By virtue of being the incumbent, Zeldin has greater name recognition in the district over Throne-Holst. This idea was also evident in the primary phase of the election, where Throne-Holst succeeded with only 2.6% more of the vote than her challenger. In this district, the number of registered Republicans is 19% higher than those registered as Democrats. This advantage gives Zeldin access to a greater base of voters than Throne-Holst, meaning he needs to convince a smaller number of moderates than Throne-Holst has to. Over the last few months, Throne-Holst’s competitive edge has diminished significantly. Despite Throne-Holst’s recent increased spending efforts, she is having difficulty finding traction in the polls. In this district Republican nominee Donald Trump has a 3% lead over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, highlighting this district’s tendency to have a slight Republican/conservative lean. It is, however, somewhat surprising that Trump has maintained this lead despite numerous seemingly campaign-ending controversies. This district is unique in that many people support progressive issues like increasing citizenship for illegal aliens and the need to address climate change, but also hold more conservative values that are most likely due in part to the district being generally wealthier compared to other districts in NY.
Over the course of this campaign, Throne-Holst has employed a number of negative ads in an attempt to garner support. However, these ads have been largely ineffective at shifting public perceptions of Zeldin and his work in Congress. The main focus of Zeldin’s ad campaign is to portray him in a better light for moderates who may not know his conservative leanings. Zeldin also has a more detailed record of the actions he has taken to benefit the district. Essentially, the information cost for voters to learn about Zeldin’s accomplishments is much lower than attempting to evaluate Throne-Holst. In addition, Zeldin started the race with nearly half a million dollars already raised, allowing him to more easily finance his campaign. This has resulted in Zeldin currently having nearly an additional million dollars in contributions over Throne-Holst. These advantages for fundraising can be attributed to Zeldin’s status as the incumbent, as he has already established himself with donors and his beliefs are more in line with influential interest groups like the NRA. Also, Zeldin can directly claim credit for the constituency service he has performed in Congress, potentially swaying voters towards his camp. Throne-Holst is unable to claim this type of service to the entire constituency as her only elected office prior to this election was as the town supervisor of Southampton. This has resulted in an uphill battle to spread her name throughout the district and demonstrate her intentions in Congress to the electorate. Throne-Holst has received more high-profile endorsements for office than Zeldin has, yet this has not been sufficient in swaying voters into her camp.
The battle for New York’s 1st Congressional district has been widely competitive between incumbent Zeldin and challenger Throne-Holst. Despite the competitiveness displayed between the two of them, Zeldin maintains a resounding lead in the election. Many of the advantages he has obtained can be attributed to his position as the incumbent, allowing him greater access to and utility of resources. Throne-Holst has underperformed in the polls and has had difficulty in obtaining more fundraising. Because of these factors, Zeldin will win a second term in Congress. To conclude, this race was initially competitive, but has steadily moved in Zeldin’s favor over the last several months.