New York Republican Mike Lawler, who scored an upset victory in an otherwise lackluster GOP midterm outing, appeared to join the chorus of conservatives nudging the GOP away from former President Donald Trump.
While refraining from explicitly spurning a Trump 2024 ticket, Lawler, whose new district will include Trump’s Westchester golf retreat, contended that the GOP needs to be forward-looking and shouldn’t dwell too heavily upon the past if it hopes to achieve future political victories going forward, appearing to take a subtle jab at Trump.
“I think the president is going to make a determination as to what he wants to do with respect to running. I would like to see the party move forward. I think any time you are focused on the future, you can’t so much go to the past, and I think people are really excited about the opportunity to address the challenges that we’re facing as a country,” he told CNN.
Grumblings about Trump as the party standard-bearer in 2024 intensified within conservative circles in the wake of a poorer-than-expected showing on election night. Some speculated that Trump had been a drag on the party and bemoaned that he flexed his kingmaker powers to elevate weaker candidates. Others argued abortion was a major factor in the red wave becoming a pink ripple.
Editorials for conservative papers such as the New York Post and Wall Street Journal panned Trump and propped up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who enjoyed a massive victory, as an alternative. While briefly addressing big-picture issues in the GOP, Lawler emphasized that he was his own man.
“I didn’t run on somebody else’s platform. I didn’t run to be a rubber stamp or whenever. I ran on the issues that are facing the American people and facing the people that stayed in New York, and I have offered real solutions,” Lawler added.
Lawler bested incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who had been the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic House campaign arm. Maloney had hopped over from New York’s 18th Congressional District into the 17th District amid redistricting upheaval.
By doing so, he waded into a district held by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), who then opted to run in the 10th District but lost the primary. Ironically, Democrat Pat Ryan prevailed in the 18th District, from which Maloney relocated. Lawler credited redistricting for playing a key role in his breakthrough victory.
“Redistricting process certainly played a big role. I think Democrats have been very greedy in trying to gerrymander New York’s maps, and when, of course, throughout — through a fair map, it really gave us an opportunity to swing this upwards back to Republicans,” he contended.
Lawler also appeared to pump the brakes on some of the GOP plans for retaking the House. He contended that the party should restrain its excesses and not embark on a feverish investigation spree, nor should it cut aid to Ukraine.
“If there is a real reason to look into something. Absolutely. That is the obligation of Congress to do that. There is oversight responsibility, but I don’t want to just go from one crisis to the next,” he said. “I am fully committed to supporting Ukraine.”
Republicans appear likely to gain a small majority in the House after all the votes are tabulated nationwide.