Democrats will win New York special election, CNN projects, temporarily narrowing House GOP’s slim majority

Democratic state Sen. Tim Kennedy will win the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District, CNN projects, further narrowing – at least in the short term – Republicans’ paper-thin majority in the US House.

Kennedy will succeed fellow Democrat Brian Higgins in the Buffalo-based district after his victory Tuesday over Republican nominee Gary Dickson, the West Seneca town supervisor. After Kennedy is sworn in on Capitol Hill, the GOP majority in the House will shrink to just 217-213, meaning Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to spare one Republican on a party-line vote.

However, a trio of special elections over the next two months for vacant Republican seats – including the race to succeed former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California – should help extend the GOP’s advantage in the chamber.

Higgins had represented the Buffalo area in the House since 2005, winning a 10th term in 2022. He resigned in February to head a local performing arts center. He cited frustration with the chamber’s persistent turmoil and obstructionism when he announced his departure from Congress.

“Congress is not the institution that I went to 19 years ago. It’s a very different place today,” Higgins said last fall “We’re spending more time doing less. And the American people aren’t being served.”

Kennedy, who has represented the area in the state Senate for over a decade, will serve out the remainder of Higgins’ term. He will also run in the June primary for the full two-year term that begins in January.

The New York congressional map has undergone an oftentimes chaotic redistricting process, stretching out over some two years and multiple court and state legislative battles. But the 26th District is expected to remain friendly to Democrats – Joe Biden would have carried it by 25 points under the new lines that will be used in November.

The total ad spending on the race finished at around $1 million, with nearly all of it coming from Kennedy’s campaign. His spots touted his efforts to aid working families, support for abortion rights and his work to pass “stronger gun laws” in the state Senate after a White supremacist killed 10 people in a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022.

Kennedy’s win is the second consecutive special election victory for New York Democrats after Tom Suozzi won the race to succeed expelled Republican Rep. George Santos in a more competitive downstate district earlier this year. Once Kennedy is sworn in, the state’s US House delegation will stand at 16 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

CNN’s Ethan Cohen, David Wright and Renée Rigdon contributed to this report.

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