Oct. 14, 2019 — House Appropriations Committee chair, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who was first elected in 1988 and is now 82 years old, announced that she will not seek re-election next year. She joins Reps. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) and Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) as New York members not seeking re-election. Rep. Collins has already resigned his seat.
Her released statement thanked the constituency for her long congressional career but did not cite any particular reason for the decision to leave the House when the 116th Congress adjourns.
Her 17th District, which includes all of Rockland and just over 40 percent of Westchester counties, will become the 25th open seat for this current election cycle. The congresswoman is now the sixth Democrat to either retire or run for another office.
Lowey’s retirement will ignite a pair of interesting political battles. Internally, and assuming the Democrats hold the House majority in the 2020 election, the congresswoman’s leaving potentially ignites a four-way succession contest for Appropriations Committee chair. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven) immediately announced that she will be a candidate for chair once Lowey’s decision to leave the House became public.
In addition to DeLauro, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who ranks sixth in House seniority and second among Democrats, is likely to seek the position as well as Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and David Price (D-NC).
Since it’s been so long for a Westchester County congressional seat to open – Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) represents the county’s other half and was also first elected in 1988 – we can expect a very crowded Democratic primary with many candidates vying to succeed Lowey.
The state senators who represent most of the 17th are David Carlucci (D-Ossining) and Pete Harckham (D-Peekskill). The seat touches 10 Assembly districts, seven of which Democrats represent versus three that Republicans control.
Lowey already had three announced Democratic primary opponents, attorney Mondaire Jones, songwriter Johnny Jabbour, and local activist and former county legislature candidate Lucy Moreno-Cassanova. All are expected to continue their campaigns, but only Jones appears to be a credible contender.
But the major name that could surface, and a name that will draw national attention to the open-seat congressional race, is: Chelsea Clinton. She, of course, is the daughter of President and Mrs. Clinton. It has been rumored for some time that Chelsea would become a candidate here in the event of Rep. Lowey deciding to end her congressional service.
The district is Democratic in nature (Clinton ’16: 59-38 percent; Obama ’12: 57-42 percent), but there is an outside chance that Republicans could make a run here if they recruit a viable candidate.
Lowey averaged 61.3 percent in her 16 victorious congressional elections, but early in her career the victory percentages fell into the mid to low 50s. The district has become more Democratic over the years, particularly as it’s gone through several redistricting reconfigurations. Rep. Lowey’s low re-election percentages were 51.6 in 1992, 53.1 in 1994, 51.2 in 2002, and 54.0 in 2014. She ran unopposed in 2016 and received 88 percent of the vote last November.