When Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney started his campaign to unseat a first-term Republican in 2012, his Democratic party held a narrow enrollment advantage of just 5,000 voters in New York's 18th Congressional District.
Eight years later, that Democratic edge has widened to 30,000 voters in Maloney's district, which takes in all of Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess, according to the latest voter counts posted online on Friday by the state Board of Elections.
In a similar way, the neighboring 19th District - which Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado won in 2018, also by beating a Republican freshman - has see-sawed from having a GOP enrollment edge to a Democratic one in that short period. All told, the 18th and 19th districts each saw net gains of 25,000 Democratic voters since their lines were drawn in 2012.
The new voter statistics reflect a continuing political trend in the Hudson Valley: a gradual fade to blue.
In Orange County, a former Republican stronghold that first tipped the other way in 2008, Democratic voters now outnumber Republicans by about 84,000 to 70,000, a 14,000-voter advantage. A comparable shift in Dutchess County has left it with almost 16,000 more Democratic voters than Republicans. Ulster County Democrats hold a solid edge of 20,000 voters over Republicans.
SUNY New Paltz political scientist Gerald Benjamin said Monday that the shift toward Democrats since 2012 is part of a long-term change in the region, caused by such factors as upstate migration from New York City and accelerated perhaps by President Donald Trump's election in 2016.
“I think it's kind of an irresistible transformation,” Benjamin said.
In addition to the congressional districts, the shifting enrollment edge is evident in two state Senate districts that Democrats flipped in the Hudson Valley last year, particularly the seat James Skoufis won to succeed longtime Republican Sen. Bill Larkin. Skoufis, D-Cornwall, is now seeking re-election in a district with 18,000 more Democratic voters than Republicans. No Republicans have entered the race to challenge him.
One bright spot for Hudson Valley Republicans has been their ability to retain power in local elections in some counties in spite of Democratic enrollment gains. All four countywide officials in Orange, for instance, are Republicans, and Republicans actually gained seats on the 21-member county Legislature in 2017 and hold a super-majority.
Benjamin pointed out that county elections occur in odd-numbered years and tend to elude the national trends that spur Democratic turnout in congressional and presidential elections. Republicans remain strong in rural areas with low populations, but the party hasn't been adding voters and it holds offices in some places strictly through incumbency, he said.
“Republicans are fighting a rear-guard action,” he said.
Maloney is seeking a fifth House term this fall, challenged by Republican Chele Chiavacci Farley. Two organizations that track congressional races - the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia's Center for Politics - both rate the 18th District contest as “likely Democratic.”
The race between Delgado and a still-undetermined Republican for the 19th District was seen as more competitive, with the Center for Politics rating it as “leaning Democratic” and Cook calling it a toss-up. Three Republicans have declared their candidacy. The district takes in all or part of 11 counties, including all of Sullivan and Ulster.