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New York Freshmen Most Vulnerable

Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (left) isn’t facing a competitive race this cycle, but his job will be focusing on protecting vulnerable incumbents such as Rep. Tim Bishop.

Engel always has to watch his political flank as a white man in a majority-minority district, but he avoided any primary opponents in this safe Democratic district, so he will glide to re-election.

17th district
Incumbent: Nita Lowey (D)
12th term (63 percent)
Rating: Likely Democratic

The climate isn’t really right for a Republican in this newly configured district, which would have voted 58 percent for Obama in 2008. It contains 49 percent of Lowey’s current constituents, but that doesn’t mean she’s vulnerable.

The presumptive GOP nominee is Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, who loaned his campaign $1 million in the first quarter. That means there could be expensive fireworks here, but they’ll probably be more light than fire. Still, $1 million isn’t nothing, and if Carvin puts a serious campaign team around him, the race could get interesting.

Lowey ended March with $982,000 in the bank.

18th district
Incumbent: Nan Hayworth (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Rating: Tossup

Watch this race.

Less than seven months out, this is a pure coin-toss contest.

It will pit the freshman Hayworth against either attorney Sean Patrick Maloney or physician Richard Becker, the two strongest Democratic contenders for the nomination. Upstate Democrats and Republicans see Maloney as the stronger of the two.

In redistricting, Hayworth’s district grew slightly more Democratic, and she lost about a quarter of her current constituents. Under the lines for 2012, the 18th would have voted about 52 percent for Obama in 2008 and even more for now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2010.

Hayworth has a big advantage in money. The Democratic contenders will have to spend on the primary, which has started to turn nasty.

But the Congresswoman will likely be disadvantaged by her strong GOP voting record in a district that’s not. According to a 2011 Congressional Quarterly vote study, Hayworth voted with Republicans 90 percent of the time in votes where a majority of one party voted against the majority of the other. And one of those votes was for the controversial budget of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which Democrats will be sure to note in contrast campaign ads.

Hayworth is also seen as imperfect at staying on message, which could be a disadvantage in a tight race.

“It’s going to come down to who can have the best field operation and get out the vote,” an upstate Democratic operative said. “Historically, Democrats do better on the ground.”

Hayworth campaign spokesman Jay Townsend admitted it was a district that wasn’t predisposed to either party.

“This is a swing district. It is going to be a swing district for the next decade,” he said. “Any incumbent can establish the advantages of incumbency here, but it would be difficult for any incumbent here to withstand the tide [of a wave] if you’re on the wrong side of it.”

Still, he said, given the environment, he’d rather be in Hayworth’s shoes.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “this is a referendum on Obama and his leadership. ... The presidential race is what will drive turnout.”

19th district
Incumbent: Chris Gibson (R)
1st term (55 percent)
Rating: Tossup

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