New York and Florida will likely be the difference for Republican control of the House of Representatives after the 2022 midterm elections. A strong performance at the head of the ticket from Ron DeSantis of Florida and Lee Zeldin of New York sent a number of congressional races red. No small part of both states’ results were the result of waves of residents packing up and moving from New York to Florida in recent years. In the Sunshine State, these domestic migration trends contributed to Republican successes. In the Empire State, they may have been enough for Democrat Kathy Hochul to cling to the governor’s mansion despite a rigorous campaign by Republican Zeldin.
In many ways, Zeldin’s 2022 campaign mirrored George Pataki’s stunning 1994 victory, which ousted three-time governor Mario Cuomo. Zeldin’s strength was demonstrated in familiar places for the GOP, both in rural Upstate and in the suburbs of Long Island. It also marked a major milestone, making New York City sharp about 15 percent redder than it was in 2020. Still, Zeldin lost 5.8 percent at the end of the count — or about 327,000 out of 5.7 million ballots cast. With the Republican wave of 1994 at his back, Pataki won by about the same number of raw votes, or about 3.3 percent. The outflow of Empire Staters over the past decade may have kept Hochul in power for another four years while bolstering Florida Gov. DeSantis’ overwhelming victory.
Between New York’s extraordinarily high taxes, crippling business regulations, inclement weather, skyrocketing crime in formerly safe areas, and draconian COVID lockdowns, resident outflow has increased significantly in recent years. Since 2010, New York has lost almost 2 million residents and leads all 50 states in terms of emigration. Manhattan, in particular, led all boroughs in the country in population loss during the pandemic. The census figures since the beginning of COVID are partial, but the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles figures give us at least a partial picture of those coming to Florida from New York. From January to September 2022, nearly 42,000 people switched their driver’s license between these two states.
Earlier figures showed that 33,000 New Yorkers relocated to Florida in the year after the pandemic began. All told, more than 100,000 residents are likely to have swapped Gotham for Miami during COVID. This wave of pandemic movers coincided with a major wave in the years leading up to the virus. 2020 census figures showed that Florida gained 326,555 net residents from New York over the past decade. Does this number look familiar to you? It’s no stretch to assume that many who have fled New York’s tax burden, strict lockdowns and rising crime were more conservative than not.
Florida has experienced rapid economic and population growth over the past decade — and from 2010 to 2019, 2.36 million people moved there from other states. From 2020 to 2021 another 220,000 moved in. Florida has no state income tax, a desirable climate and has been a leader against COVID lockdowns under DeSantis.
It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how many former New Yorkers voted Republican after arriving in Florida. However, it’s likely that a majority of these mostly older, disproportionately white upstarts voted for DeSantis on Nov. 8, bolstering his whopping 19.4 percent win over former Gov. Charlie Crist. Those who had moved to the state before the pandemic began were twice as likely to register Republicans as Democrats.
Additionally, DeSantis created the most effective voter registration campaign in the 2022 cycle and contributed to Republican gains among those born in or moved to Florida. For the first time in state history, Republicans outnumber Democrats. If a sizeable majority of New Yorkers who came to Florida in the last decade still lived in their former state and voted for Zeldin there, the results of the gubernatorial election might have been different.
Broadly speaking, large numbers of voters who have fled states like New York, Illinois, and California have turned their former states bluer by eroding the conservative populace in those places. New York is finally out of reach for the state’s GOP; The combination of conservative flight from the Empire State and the natural death-to-birth ratio in red parts of the state could be the final straw. No Republican has won the race for governor there in 20 years, and even with a natural like Zeldin, the party couldn’t quite make it this year.
In less GOP-friendly years, New York’s Democrats are likely to see electoral success, even if their policies push the state into economic stagnation. And all the while, Florida will continue its unprecedented economic and demographic growth. If Republicans want a model to emulate, Ron DeSantis and Florida wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book “how do i tax you A field guide to the Great American Rip-Off.‘ Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.