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Lawler the Feisty Candidate Becomes Lawler the Congressman

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November 9, 2022

By Barrett Seaman–

Decidedly mellower and less combative than he often appeared to be as a candidate, Republican Congressman-elect Mike Lawler stood in front of the Rockland County Courthouse before a crowd of supporters and an array of cameras Wednesday afternoon and pronounced himself “honored and humbled” by his election victory over Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney.

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Describing his phone conversation that morning, in which Maloney conceded the race, as “a very pleasant conversation,” he asked his supporters to give the outgoing incumbent a round of applause—and thanks for his decade of service.

Without notes, he thanked by name more than a dozen people who worked on his campaign or supported him as elected Republican officials in the district. He acknowledged that it had been a rough and tumble campaign—one in which $20 million was spent by both sides attacking the other. He did not underplay the significance of his win. “This is a district Joe Biden won by ten points,” he said, “and we were running against the chair of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which doles out the party’s funds to its candidates).

Expressing a magnanimity more easily voiced in the flush of victory, Lawler said, “I will do everything in my power to represent all of the people of this district—from every community, from every walk of life, whether you voted for me or not, whether you agree with my politics or not. I will do my level best.”

Still, he repeated the charges he made all throughout the campaign: one-party control of Washington, Albany and New York City has resulted in a 41-year record high inflation rate, skyrocketing prices, a porous southern border, crime—and a country in which parents “are labeled as domestic terrorists for daring to ask questions about their children’s education.”

He accepted the growing assumption that his party would be in the majority in the House. “I look forward to being a strong voice in that majority. I’m not going down there to be one of 435 or a rubber stamp.”

When asked whether he would join with those in his party calling for investigations—of the FBI, of Hillary Clinton, of Hunter Biden, Lawler employed a bit of dry humor as a deflection: “As Hillary Clinton’s new congressman [she and Bill live in Chappaqua], I am not looking to immediately commence investigations. If, at the end of the day,” he went on, “there are incidents or information that warrant oversight or investigations, of course; that is a role of the House of Representatives. But we’ve seen what happens with these partisan food fights, and I don’t think it necessarily serves the country well to go from one to the other, back and forth. My position is, when warranted? Absolutely. When political? I’m not looking to do that.”

He would, however, use “the full force and weight of the federal government” as leverage to get newly elected Governor Kathy Hochul to make changes in the state’s cashless bail law.

Bent on curbing government spending, which he blamed on both parties, Lawler nonetheless promised to protect and stabilize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And he will work to get the SALT cap lifted—a position New York candidates of both parties embraced.

If taken at his word, the new representative of District 17 will be more of a traditional Republican than many of the party’s current crop of hardliners. “This district that I was just elected to has 70,000 more Democrats than Republicans,” he cited as a motive for moderation. His model as a congressman? Peter King, the former representative from Long Island, a respected authority on the budget as well as on matters of intelligence, who retired before the 2020 election, many believe because he disapproved of the direction Donald Trump was taking the party.

Lawler said without hesitation that he will support Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House. It remains to be seen how he will fit in with the party of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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