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New York Republicans Running for Congress Keep Their Distance from Toxic Trump and His Slumping Poll Numbers

August 8, 2016


Bobby Cuza

With Donald Trump slumping in the polls, some Republicans are concerned he could jeopardize their majorities in both the Senate and the House — an issue that’s particularly relevant here in New York, which has a number of closely contested House races, including one in Queens. Our Bobby Cuza has that story.

Like so many Republican candidates this year, Jack Martins has a problem. The man at the top of the ticket is so toxic, Martins tends not to mention him by name.

"I’m going to vote for the Republican nominee," Martins said.

While disagreeing with his more inflammatory rhetoric, Martins says he’ll vote for Trump; he just isn’t endorsing him. His opponent says he can’t have it both ways.

"If you’re voting for the guy, you’re supporting the guy, just come out and say it," said Tom Suozzi. "That’s the way it is. I’m a Democrat, I was a delegate for the convention. I’m supporting the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. You’re a Republican, you’re supporting Donald Trump."

Trump looms large this year in closely contested races like this one—the third Congressional district covering northern Long Island and eastern Queens, where Democrat Steve Israel is retiring. Martins says voters can make distinctions.

"I won my first race with Carl Paladino at the top of the ticket against Andrew Cuomo," Martins said. "And so we know how to win races.”

"There is a real chance that Jack Martins could take this seat," said Roll Call reporter Simone Pathe.

Her newspaper rates the Israel seat as a rare pickup opportunity for Republicans.

The outlook is brighter for Democrats here in New York, whose 27 House seats currently include 18 Democrats, 9 Republicans.

"It’s fair to say that Democrats’ path to winning the House majority, to the extent that they can, runs through New York," Pathe said. "They have six pickup opportunities — as I said, some are more competitive than others. They have three toss-up races that could easily fall in their favor.”

"I have said all along that I will support the Republican nominee," said Republican candidate for Congress John Faso.

One is the open seat featuring two former candidates for governor, Faso—also keeping Trump at arm’s length—and Democrat Zephyr Teachout. Another is the race to replace Republican Richard Hanna, who last week endorsed Hillary Clinton.

"Voting for Trump is huge, monumental mistake," Hanna said.

The challenge for Republicans, of course, is not to alienate Trump’s base, some of whom may be first-time voters, while at the same time appealing to moderates, a balancing act that becomes harder with every new Trump controversy.