National

            All eyes are on the presidential primaries and caucuses as the 2024 election season heats up, with the Nevada Democratic Primary and the non-binding Nevada Republican Primary being held on Tuesday, followed by the state’s official Republican caucuses next Thursday.

But the contentious race for the White House somewhat underscores the complicated political calculus both parties will face in holding their respective chambers of Congress.

            Firstly, former President Donald Trump (R-FL) continues to lead polling against President Joe Biden (D-DE). CNN recently unveiled its preliminary electoral map, which currently rates Trump as not only the favorite to flip Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada, but also to win the election outright. Although prognosticating elections a year out is a highly imperfect and rapidly-changing science, the map has caused Democratic camps to sound alarm bells as early as possible.

            In the U.S. House, Republicans now defend a bare minimum majority. Upon the resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20), the resignation of Congressman Bill Johnson (R, OH-06), and the vacancy created by the expulsion of George Santos (R-Queens), Republicans are left with just 219 seats, with 218 required to form a majority. Uncertainty regarding House map redraws in New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin continue to complicate just how much of a pad Republicans will have going into 2024.

            Currently, twenty-four Democrats and eighteen Republicans are moving on from the lower chamber, with twelve Democrats and five Republicans seeking alternative offices. The lion’s share of competitive districts are those that lie in suburban and working-class areas, districts that will be heavily affected by the top-of-the-ticket energy in the presidential race.

            Democrats have a similar problem in the Senate. With just a 51-seat majority, Democrats face a brutal map. Republicans are defending ten seats that are more than likely to remain aligned with the party, while Democrats are defending twelve.

            However, the math lies in the number of incumbents Democrats will have to defend and the few GOP seats they can realistically target. Democrats have outside chances to knock off Ted Cruz (R-TX) in Texas and Rick Scott (R-FL) in Florida, but the state’s Republican leanings cannot be denied, especially in a year in which the Republican nominee is likely to carry them in the presidential race.

            Republicans, on the other hand, have their math made for them. Requiring just a two-seat net gain – or one seat plus the presidency – the GOP has six top targets with a possible five or six “long-shot” targets depending on how the races play out.

            In West Virginia, the last statewide Democrat Joe Manchin decided to retire instead of giving Democrats their best chance in retaining the seat. Even that would have been a lift for the storied Senator, as he would have required an unprecedented forty points in crossover support to just break even. The retirement makes West Virginia an essential lock for Republicans, but it also eliminates the Democrats’ margin for error. They would need to carry every other seat they hold along with the presidency to retain the Senate with a 50-50 split. In the case of a split Senate, the Vice President, also the President of the Senate, is the tie-breaking vote.

(Official U.S. Senate photo by Rebecca Hammel)
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) (Credit – U.S. Congress)

            Democrats Jon Tester (D-MT) in Montana and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) face similar headwinds. Tester currently boasts a 91% voting record aligned with the president’s agenda, something that is already earning him troubling poll numbers in his red Rocky Mountain State. Although Montana is a red-leaning state with a unique amount of Democratic support, Republicans have used the last several election cycles to reclaim state offices one by one. Tester is the last statewide Democrat in the Treasure State.

           An additional caveat to his re-election chances is the fact that Montana has swung against the incumbent president in every election since 1972. Had a Republican been in the White House this November, Tester might have been afforded a relatively better shot at retaining his seat, but even a shift of just a few percentage points to the right can erase whatever he might have gained in crossover support. 

           The only claim to Tester’s ability to survive even a neutral political environment is his high approval ratings.

            In Ohio, the Senate race comes down to the candidate the GOP picks. If voters in the primary chose an electable candidate and can ride the coattails of Trump’s likely appeal formerly-Democratic working-class voters, it can mean another pickup opportunity for the party. Trump’s booster shot of populism allowed him carry Ohio by a whopping eight points in 2016 and repeat the margin in 2020, cementing Ohio as a red-leaning battleground rather than the quintessential swing state it has been since the 1900s. Ohio Republicans have recently lost winnable races by electing outsider populist candidates over more mainstream conservatives.

            Democrats are also tasked with defending freshman Senator Jacky Rosen in Nevada, knocking off Democrat-turned-Independent Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, and holding the open seat in Michigan.

            With both chambers defined by razor-thin majorities and with no room for error from either party, the stakes could not be higher this coming election.

State

            Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has approved a proposal that could allow migrants to obtain temporary jobs in state government. The initiative is open to anyone in New York who has legal work authorization from the federal government.

            The Civil Service Commission voted to approve the measure on January 18. The Commission is also working with involved agencies to make changes to the positions and job requirements, such as removing proof of a high school diploma and proficiency in English.

            “Hotel owners and restaurant owners coming to me: ‘Can you send some of the migrants up here? We need them.’ I hear this in every corner of the state,” said Hochul at a press conference in Albany. “From our [state] operations to SUNY, I have 10,000 openings. So this is to give options to people but to say we are working intensely to get work authorization — these are all legal people.”

            Hochul is looking to fill 4,000 unfilled state agency jobs that include clerical or administrative roles, tech support, equipment service and repair, and food services.

            “I’m anxious to get this moving quickly, and once they’re approved, we can match people to jobs,” said Hochul. “They don’t need to be reliant on services any longer, which I think is the objective to not have people supported by taxpayers in our shelters,

           New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) is also in favor of the initiative.

           “I would love to get migrants and asylum seekers to help with the lifeguard shortage,” said Adams. “We’ve been successful in getting almost 30,000 people to total applications, including work authorization, asylum, TPS — we want more.”

           As of November 2023, only 3,000 of the tens of thousands of migrants sheltered in the state have been federally approved to work. Meanwhile, the city has struggled to handle the 100,000 migrants they received last year alone.

Local

            The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will review the damage done to Fire Island beaches due to recent storms. The Corps will also put the beaches under consideration for “emergency renourishment.”

            The decision is a result of requests from Congressman Andrew Garbarino’s (R-Bayport) and other local officials to prioritize Long Island beaches for renourishment, due to eroded shorelines, inaccessible bluffs, and homes and boardwalks left dangerously close to the water.

            Garbarino recently testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure lobbying for the inclusion of the Fire Island National Seashore and neighboring hamlets to receive renourishment under the 2024 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

            “I applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to acknowledge the urgency of the situation on Fire Island,” said Congressman Garbarino. “The devastation facing our South Shore beaches following the recent rash of storms is such that we cannot wait years for renourishment to occur under the current renourishment project schedule. I urge them to conduct a swift and thorough review of the existing storm damage so that emergency action can be taken. Each passing storm increases the damage to our shoreline and the longer we leave these problems unchecked, the greater the probability that Long Island will require increased support for infrastructure resiliency projects. I will continue to work with town officials to ensure their needs are being heard throughout this process and I will be moving forward with my proposal to codify language through WRDA that would ensure future storm damage on Long Island will qualify for emergency renourishment.”

           The language in the bill will also include the Villages of Amityville, Babylon, Bellport, Lindenhurst, and Patchogue, as well as the Towns of Brookhaven, Islip, and Oyster Bay.

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Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.