In a Tuesday night special election race on Long Island, Democrats flipped a long-Republican State Assembly district to mark their 40th Trump-era takeover of a GOP-held seat. The seat had been held by a Republican since 1978.
The New York State Assembly is firmly in Democratic hands, and control of the New York state Senate is caught up in intra-caucus weirdness, so the flip has no particular concrete result. But it does serve as a further sign of the strong wind at Democrats’ backs downballot in the Trump era, with their candidate Steve Stern running 11 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin in the seat and 15 points ahead of Barack Obama’s 2012 margin.
The race was also notable as yet another example of the GOP trying and failing to make the Salvadoran street gang MS-13 into the Democratic candidate’s running mate.
More failed scare tactics for the GOP. They ran mailers like this against the Dem in a suburban NY swing Assembly District. But Dem Steve Stern won big: 59%-41% in a seat long held by the GOP. pic.twitter.com/Q2MApwUZT1— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) April 25, 2018
Unlike in some other races where the GOP has played the MS-13 card, the gang really does have a substantial presence in Suffolk County, and it’s not a totally unreasonable issue for candidates to talk about. But in practice, the issue seems to be falling flat here as elsewhere.
Democrats are cleaning up in special elections
According to an extremely useful comprehensive spreadsheet compiled by Daily Kos, across 70 special elections in 2017, Democrats ran 10 points ahead of Clinton and 7 points ahead of Obama’s 2012 results. Those numbers have accelerated into 2018. Across 27 races, Democrats are running 21 points ahead of Clinton and 10 points ahead of Barack Obama.
Historically speaking, special election results usually are somewhat predictive of midterm general election outcomes, though I don’t think anyone believes it’s realistic for Democrats to obtain a nationwide 45-point swing relative to Clinton’s numbers.