Labeling the "burned over district" progressive seems something of a misnomer. Those "progressive" movements you mention grew out of the second great awakening, an evangelical revival of the early 19th century. These reforms included not just abolition and suffrage, but temprence (later prohibition), anti-gambling movements, anti-prostitution movements, etc. What united these movements was their desire to eradicate sin from the world to prepare for the millenium. This area was part of the Yankee diaspora spreading out from New England. Its politics has been pretty much determined by its socio-cultural make up of fundamentalist protestants. The appellation "burned over district" comes from the many revivals that swept across this area before the Civil War.
Before the Civil War, the burned over district was a Whig stronghold. Upstate New Yorkers favored the Whigs for both the economic and social activism. They viewed politics as a way to impose their views of morality and correct religion on society. One of the biggest issues in pre-Civil War politics was how to handle the rising tide of Catholicism. New York Whigs generally opposed parochial schooling and insisted on using the King James Version of the bible in public schools. Catholics, naturally, opposed these measures and gravitated to the Democratic party with its more libertarian attitudes. (These same libertarian attitudes, i.e. states rights, were what attracted Southerners to the Democratic Party.)
New York politics pretty much captures the main political dynamic in the U.S. for the last 150 years: native, protestant, Anglos vs immigrant, non-protestant, non-Anglos. In New York, this plays out as upstate New York (with the exception of Buffalo, which had a large immigrant population) versus the city with its teeming hordes of "non-white" immigrants.
What I would find surprising is not that upstate New York is conservative and Republican, but that it might actually flip to the Democrats. Indeed, I wonder how sustainable that might be even were it to happen this election cycle. The City versus Upstate seems likely to remain and enduring feature of New York politics for a long time to come.
Are party labels even attached to candidates in federal elections in Virginia? I know for our off year elections there are no party labels. I talked to a Republican poll worker during the last Presidential primary and he indicated that the Republican party had intentionally made so that there was no party affiliation listed. The Republicans had also got rid of staight ticket voting, forcing the voter to vote for each candidate rather than simply for a party. The idea, obviously, was to make life more difficult for working and poor Virginians who don't follow politics closely and who would normally be tempted to just punch the Democratic lever and be done with it.