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Four takeaways from the New York and Florida primaries

A Democrat who campaigned on abortion rights won in a New York swing district, and more MAGA Republicans may soon be coming to Washington

One of the last big primary nights of the election year helped solidify trends going into November’s midterms, in which both parties will battle for control of Congress.

Two of the biggest states — in population and politics — held their primaries Tuesday, New York and Florida. (Oklahoma also held runoffs.) Here are four takeaways from the night.

1. The Trump caucus will probably be strong in Congress next year

Thanks to Florida Republicans’ aggressive redistricting, the GOP is expected to gain several seats in Congress in this state alone. And most of those will be held by Trump-supporting Republicans, including some of the most far-right congressional candidates anywhere.

See full Florida results

The stark impact of redistricting might be clearer nowhere more than in the Orlando suburbs. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a member of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, currently represents the area. But Republicans redrew her district to heavily favor them, so she is leaving Congress rather than try to win. And she’s likely to be replaced by a far-right Republican, Cory Mills, who won the GOP nomination Tuesday. A veteran, Mills denies the 2020 election results and has bragged in his campaign that he “sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters.” (Though he was arguably the less provocative Republican candidate in the race.)

Outside Tampa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) former secretary of state, Laurel Lee, won the primary for this new congressional district that leans Republican. She oversaw the state’s successful election in 2020 — and subsequent GOP efforts to make voting harder, some elements of which got temporarily knocked down by a federal judge who accused Lee and statewide Republicans of disenfranchising Black voters in particular.

Republicans in Florida are also expecting to take a seat from Democrats outside St. Petersburg. There, Anna Paulina Luna won, with Donald Trump’s endorsement. She’s an Air Force veteran who in a 2020 campaign accused a rival of trying to kill her.

In central Florida, far-right Laura Loomer didn’t win, but she came close to unseating Rep. Daniel Webster (R), who is no slouch when it comes to Trumpism. Loomer has said that Muslims shouldn’t drive Ubers and that some mass shootings or victims were staged, and she came within a few points of unseating a sitting member of Congress.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a vocal Trump supporter, won his primary. He was facing a challenger who campaigned on the federal investigation surrounding sex-trafficking allegations and Gaetz.

2. Democrats get another surprise August win driven by abortion rights

Will abortion or inflation drive more voters to the polls in November? The answer could help predict whether Democrats (who are heavily messaging on lost abortion rights across the nation) or Republicans (talking about stubbornly high inflation under President Biden) do better in the battle for control of Congress and state elections.

For that reason, political observers have been laser-focused on who would win a special election Tuesday in Upstate New York. It’s a rare special election — meaning voters were choosing between a Republican and a Democrat — in a swing district (it went for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020) with urban and rural voters. Both candidates were relentlessly on message for their party’s respective national themes. And in the end, Democrat Pat Ryan won, which some considered an upset over Republican Marc Molinaro. (Others saw the race as a true toss-up.)

Democrats have come closer than expected in special elections in Nebraska and Minnesota on similar campaigns. That plus a surprise abortion rights win this month in Kansas gives the party hope that not all is lost in November.

3. Democrats lose a major name in Congress because of redistricting

Democrats had hoped to use New York to gain as many as four congressional seats in Congress — offsetting states like Florida, where aggressive Republican gerrymandering could do the same for the GOP. But a court stepped in and redrew the maps to be more fair, and Democrats may gain just one congressional seat, or none at all.

The epitome of Democrats’ redistricting problem is in Manhattan, where two Democratic committee chairs in Congress and huge names in New York politics had to face off for one newly redrawn district — Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler won the Democratic nomination for New York’s newly redrawn 12th Congressional District, defeating Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney on Aug. 23. (Video: Reuters)

The race quickly became about identity politics. Maloney leaned hard into her gender and high-profile role as a female leader in Congress. Nadler campaigned on being the last Jewish member of Congress from New York City. A 38-year-old lawyer challenged them both on generational grounds. In the end, voters rather easily decided to choose Nadler — and Maloney lost her job because Democrats’ gerrymandering backfired on them.

“Democrats thought they would be able to count on New York more than we might be able to produce for the party,” Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, said in an interview.

4. Can Florida Democrats win statewide this year?

Democrats haven’t held a Senate seat in Florida in four years; they haven’t held the governor’s mansion there in 24 years. But despite the state trending conservative recently, Democrats have put up two serious candidates to try to take down a pair of the biggest name in Republican politics in November: DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom are up for reelection in November.

For the Senate, Democrats nominated Rep. Val Demings, a rising star in the party. She is leaning heavily on the fact that she’s a former police chief in Orlando and her by-the-bootstraps upbringing as the daughter of a maid and janitor.

Rep. Charlie Crist won the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida on Aug.24, setting him up to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall. (Video: Reuters)

For the governor’s race, Charlie Crist won the nomination against Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner who challenged Crist from the left but never got much buzz. Crist was actually already governor of Florida as a Republican in 2007; he switched parties and is now a member of Congress. As The Post’s Tim Craig reports, Crist will try to campaign as a Biden-esque Democrat, trying to unite the state and keep focused on moderate politics, in contrast to DeSantis’s penchant for igniting culture wars.

As Democrats nationally feel the tide turning ever so slightly in their favor — thanks to the party base’s motivation over the fall of abortion rights and improving inflation — these races are worth watching in November. Though in recent elections, Florida Republicans have almost always managed to win statewide races by larger than expected margins, including the 2020 presidential election.

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