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Sister of Gretchen Whitmer ends campaign for Congress as New York Democrats unify in bid to flip House

Liz Whitmer Gereghty

Liz Whitmer Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, ended her campaign for New York’s 17th Congressional District on Wednesday and endorsed former Rep. Mondaire Jones, sparing Democrats a bruising and expensive primary fight as they try to win back the suburban seat – and a House majority that could run through the Empire State – next year.

“Uniting our party and focusing our resources on taking back the House is critical to fighting back against the radical extremism plaguing our politics,” Gereghty, a former local school board trustee, said in a statement. “In that spirit, I endorse Mondaire Jones’ campaign for Congress.”

The Hudson Valley district, located north of New York City, will be crucial in the fight for control of the House next year. Republicans won a slim five-seat majority in 2022, dealing a blow to President Joe Biden and his legislative agenda, largely on the back of their success in New York. The GOP flipped four seats in the state, including the 17th District won by Republican Mike Lawler.

All four seats are among six in New York that would have backed Biden in 2020, and Democrats are banking on the state returning to historical voting trends next year – and potentially a more favorable congressional map – as they seek to reclaim control of the House, a goal that almost certainly requires unseating Lawler.

Jones represented much of the current district for a single term until earlier this year. After redistricting ahead of the 2022 midterms, neighboring Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, opted to run for the redrawn 17th District. Rather than challenge Maloney, Jones relocated to New York City to run for a new Manhattan- and Brooklyn-based seat but finished third in the Democratic primary. Maloney went on to lose to Lawler in the fall.

“Last night, Liz Whitmer Gereghty called to tell me she’s suspending her campaign. I thanked her for her contributions to our community. I’m honored to have Liz’s endorsement and ready to work together to defeat Mike Lawler, who masquerades as a moderate on television but votes like an extreme MAGA Republican,” Jones said on social media shortly after Gereghty’s announcement.

Gereghty was backed by EMILY’s List, the fundraising powerhouse that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, but Jones had more local support, including the endorsements of the party committees in Westchester and Rockland counties. Jones also received support from his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, led by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the campaign arms of the Congressional Progressive and Black caucuses.

“New York Democrats, and frankly national Democrats who want to flip back the House, are ecstatic,” Democratic strategist Bill Neidhardt, who has worked closely with Jones in the past, told CNN. “The path to the majority runs through New York, so expensive primaries here are destined to hold the entire national party back, especially if they waste the time and resources of proven candidates like Mondaire.”

Lawler, a former state Assembly member, said Gereghty’s departure from the race was emblematic of a Democratic Party that had shifted too far left for the district’s electorate.

“That Liz did not find traction in today’s Democratic Party speaks volumes,” Lawler wrote on social media, “describing Jones as a “radical” who “voters in the Hudson Valley will reject” in the coming election.

Democrats are less likely to fall in line in the 3rd Congressional District on Long Island – another seat that Republicans flipped in 2022 – where indicted Rep. George Santos could soon be kicked out of Congress. Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represented an earlier version of the seat, faces a tense primary with former state Sen. Anna Kaplan and others. However, in case Santos is expelled and a special election is held to succeed him, state law dictates that party leaders in the district would pick the nominees.

Democrats, who hold 15 of the 26 seats in New York’s House delegation, are again seeking to implement more friendly congressional borders next year. A court-appointed special master drew the current map last year after a state judge blocked Democratic-crafted lines as “unconstitutionally drawn with political bias.”

This summer, a state court ordered New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw the map. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench, recently heard oral arguments in the case, which could pave the way for Democrats to potentially flip up to six seats next year.

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