Mike Lawler ‘09 Heads to Congress

Mike Lawler ‘09 won his election to represent NY-17 in Congress.  lawlerforcongress.com/ COURTESY

By Megan LaCreta, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Manhattan College alumni Mike Lawler ‘09 will represent New York in the House of Representatives.

Lawler attended Manhattan College and majored in accounting and finance, graduating in 2009. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2020, representing parts of Rockland County, before setting his sights on the House this year.

Running as a Republican in New York’s 17th District, Lawler faced Democrat Sean Maloney, who previously represented New York’s 18th District in Congress and currently serves as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Victory was an unlikely feat, as Lalwer was given only a 30 in 100 chance of defeating Maloney by FiveThirtyEight leading up to the election. On election day, the Associated Press called the race in Lawler’s favor, with 50.41 percent of the vote to Maloney’s 49.59.

NY-17 was previously won by Democrat Mondaire Jones in 2020. New York’s maps then underwent redistricting, allowing Maloney to run for the seat, and leading Jones to run for (and eventually lose his primary for) NY-10, inviting criticism of Maloney from many who felt that Jones had been pushed out of his home district, according to Politico.

Politico reported on Nov. 9 that Republicans picked up three House seats in New York, with Lawler’s being one of them. Lawler’s win was a bright spot in a largely disappointing election for the Republican party. The “red wave” experts predicted did not come to pass, with Democrats maintaining control of the Senate. However, New York departed from the nationwide trend, as political science professor Jonathan Keller, Ph.D., explained.

“There were mini red waves in [New York and California], even though there was a red ripple nationally,” said Keller. “In New York, it was really a zag while the rest of the country seemed to basically idle or zig … So I think Maloney was a victim of this situation. But it was very unusual for the sitting DCCC chair to lose, that’s an extremely unusual event, it’s been a very long time since that’s happened.”

Lawler managed to overcome the odds in the district by offering a more moderate form of Republican politics, explained Keller. 

The midterm elections showed a wide rejection of former President Donald Trump’s brand of brash conservative politics, with Republican candidates who distanced themselves from Trump faring better than those who followed his lead.

“[Lawler] ran a very good campaign from what I can tell,” Keller said. “He resisted this MAGA impulse. To a large extent he’s not really a particular fan of Trump as far as I understand it. He focuses energy on criminal justice, bail reform, and these more local questions with a conservative position which was detached from Trump and Trumpism, which is pretty smart from my point of view, because moderate voters in district 17 are not going to be into that.”

NPR reported that Lawler has expressed a desire for bipartisan cooperation.

“I’m going to just be myself and go talk to every single member of Congress from AOC all the way to obviously [Republican] Leader [Kevin] McCarthy,” Lawler said.

Lawler will join the new class in the House in January 2023 alongside 220 other Republican lawmakers. New York voters and politics buffs alike will likely have an eye trained on the newest Jasper in Congress.