ITHACA, N.Y. — Nate Shinagawa, the Democratic candidate in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, says his campaign accomplished a lot despite being unable to unseat the Republican incumbent in Tuesday’s election.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Rep. Tom Reed had 126,191 votes (52.1 percent) to Shinagawa’s 116,189 (47.9 percent). The newly redrawn district covers the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region.
The Berkeley-born Shinagawa moved to upstate New York to attend Cornell University and now lives in Ithaca. A six-year member of the Tompkins County Legislature and an administrator at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., he would have been one of the youngest members of Congress, having just turned 29 on Sept. 28, and the first of Japanese, Korean and Chinese descent.
He said he was “running a progressive, assertive, grassroots campaign to shatter the gridlock in Washington and make government work again for everyday Americans.”
His endorsers included Stan Lundine, former New York congressman and lieutenant governor, who said, “In Nate Shinagawa, we in the Southern Tier have an important opportunity to elect an individual to Congress who has a proven track record of working cooperatively with colleagues in both parties to make fair decisions for the people he represents.”
On Election Day, Shinagawa told his supporters, “I sincerely appreciate your hard work, enthusiasm and support over the past nine months. The odds were against at the start, but we proved ourselves every step of the way.”
As the election results on Tuesday night indicated a narrow loss, he said, “Despite being outspent 3 to 1, we turned this race into one of the most competitive in the country with the tally so far at 51-48. While we’ve decided to concede, you proved that the future of New York’s 23rd District will be watched from years to come.”
On Wednesday morning, Shinagawa posted on Facebook, “It’s such a strange feeling being the defeated candidate, but answering press calls, texts and phone messages with the same question, ‘How did you do it?’ Yes, the Cook Report and just about every pundit said this was a ‘safe Republican’ seat. Our 48-51 loss … shows the 23rd district is truly a toss-up and will be for years to come.
“I’m going to take a moment to think about the future. In the meantime though, I’m so happy to know our country re-elected President Obama and elected wonderful leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono and so many others. Now — let’s move this country forward!”
Warren won the Senate race in Massachusetts, Duckworth won a congressional seat in Illinois, and Hirono won the Senate race in Hawaii.
The next day, Shinagawa wrote, “Wow. I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude from the over 1,000 people who have sent me emails, texts and messages about the close campaign. Thank you all! I’d like to tell a quick story.
“Moments before I conceded the race, I called my grandfather. We talked about how, when he was just 10 years old, he and his family were put in the Japanese American internment camps and deemed traitors just because of their ethnicity. To both of us, it’s so amazing and such a positive American story, that just two generations later this same country gave his grandson a chance at nearly defeating an incumbent congressman.
“That’s the beauty of America, we’re always fighting for a ‘more perfect union.’ We live in a wonderful country and we have a lot of work to do to keep it moving in the right direction.”
One of Shinagawa’s biggest supporters is his father, Larry, who teaches Asian American studies at University of Maryland. He wrote, “Am so proud of my son … In spite of the odds … running in a primarily red district, battling a sitting incumbent, and an opponent who refused to debate him on most occasions, Nate almost won.
“In his home of Tompkins County, he received 70 percent of the vote. In Tom Reed’s hometown, he received far more votes than the incumbent. On every debate, Nate clearly won … People are willing to listen, but one thing learned is that the message has to be heard.
“Nate and our family has learned a lot — stay tuned to what Nate will do in the future. Rest assured, he will put his greatest effort because he knows he will do it for all the right reasons.”