Two districts in New York and New Hampshire that voted for President Donald Trump on Tuesday elected Democrats to state seats, a promising signal that red areas are ready to be flipped as congressional special elections and midterms approach.
In Long Island, Democrat Christine Pellegrino defeated Republican challenger Thomas Gargiulo to win a special bid for the New York State Assembly. She took the seat for District 9, which Trump took by 23 percent in the 2016 election. Pellegrino was previously a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the presidential primary.
The election replaced outgoing Republican Joseph Saladino, who stepped down after he was appointed as Oyster Bay town supervisor. Democrat Brian Benjamin also won in Senate District 30, giving the party a majority in the 63-seat chamber.
In New Hampshire, Democrat Edith DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache in an upset victory for a seat in the state's GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The party said DesMarais was the first Democrat to ever be elected in Wolfeboro, a town that comprises part of District 6, which she will now represent.
The seat was previously held by Republican Harold Parker, who left to join the administration of Governor Chris Sununu.
"Democrats showed that, in 2017 and beyond, we will reject the reckless and irresponsible policies of Donald Trump and Chris Sununu," state Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley said.
The results from both elections raised Democrats' spirits, especially with major special elections on the horizon, including upstart Jon Ossoff in Georgia, who is running against Republican Karen Handel to replace Health Secretary Tom Price, and political novice Rob Quist in Montana, who is seeking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's now-vacant seat against Republican Greg Gianforte.
"Congratulations to Assemblywoman-elect Pellegrino and Senator-elect Benjamin on their victories tonight," said Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC). "DLCC is thrilled by these latest wins, which are just the most recent expressions of Democrats' level of energy and engagement all the way down the ballot as voters reject Trump's Republican Party."
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Of DesMarais' victory, Post added, "This long-time community activist is the vanguard of the talented candidates stepping forward to win Democratic majorities in the New Hampshire legislature....This win is just latest of the ongoing electoral victories to come for down-ballot Democrats as voters reject the Trump administration's corruption and extreme agenda."
New Hampshire House leader Steve Shurtleff added, "Change is going to happen by investing in state capitols, not just in D.C."
Lawmakers and activists expressed their excitement on Twitter.
Another canary in the coal mine for Republicans. https://t.co/SjlxuS0KuJ— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 24, 2017
Wow! Educator & Bernie 2016 delegate Christine Pellegrino won her special election tonight & flipped New York Assembly District 9 blue! pic.twitter.com/XwLYqdRlwc— Our Revolution (@OurRevolution) May 24, 2017
A Bernie delegate just won a state assembly seat in a district Trump won by 23. Time for GOP to panic.https://t.co/VgWirgvrrq— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) May 24, 2017
In Montana at least, Republicans are panicking, according to Politico. Democratic challenger Quist has raised more than $6 million for his campaign, including $1 million in the last week alone "as energized Democratic donors pour online cash into political causes this year," Politico's Elena Schneider and Gabriel Debenedetti wrote.
"I remember talking to people when it first started who said this was a slam dunk, Gianforte's it. And it's not there anymore," said Jim Larson, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party. "It is a lot closer than people ever thought it would be."