BUFFALO, N.Y. –- Today's tight race in New York's 26th Congressional District has become a referendum on the Republican plan to transform Medicare.
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The western New York district is among the most conservative in the state.
Nevertheless, the latest poll shows Democrat Kathy Hochul with a slight lead over Republican Jane Corwin in the race to succeed Republican Chris Lee. Lee resigned in February after shirtless photos surfaced that he'd sent to a woman on Craigslist.
Corwin was the early favorite but has seen her lead shrink after expressing support for a proposal to recast the government's health plan for seniors as a voucher program.
Siena Poll Director Steve Greenberg says voters cite jobs, Medicare and the deficit as top issues.
The poll shows Tea Party candidate Jack Davis a distant third.
Davis' candidacy has further complicated matters for Republicans in a district that has many Tea Party supporters. Local GOP leaders tried to make hay of an eyebrow-raising encounter between Davis and a videographer Davis appeared to shove after the videographer taunted him for refusing to appear in a debate with Hochul and Corwin. The GOP tried to use the video to paint Davis as a bully.
But it backfired when the videographer turned out to be Corwin's chief of staff.
Jonathan Chait at The New Republic writes:
The race has centered almost entirely around the exact theme that Democrats plan to employ in the next election cycle. All this suggests the party has gotten deep traction on the issue, and that the public can react against the policies of the House GOP. The political landscape that produced the Republican sweep of 2010 is gone. Just what replaces it remains to be seen.
The race has drawn attention and more than $2 million from both national parties and several independent groups. Both Ryan and New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie have endorsed Corwin, while former President Bill Clinton recorded a phone call for Hochul and New York's popular Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo released an ad supporting her.
For live election results, click here.
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal:
As Bloomberg's Greg Giroux points out via Twitter, the Hochul victory resulted in part from a Democratic turnout advantage compared to prior elections:
Erie Co, where Hochul is ahead 53-39% & 5,400 votes, cast 37-38% of all #ny26 votes. In '08 prez, '10Gov & '10Sen it was 33-34%
We can add one more: Erie County was also 33.6 percent of the votes cast in the 2006 congressional elections, a surge year for Democrats.
Similarly, Niagara County, which favored Hochul by eight points (47 percent to 39 percent) saw its percentage of the total votes cast rise by a full point (to 17.6 percent from 16.6 percent in the last three U.S. House elections).
“What went wrong? Representative Peter King (R-NY) told the New York Times. “We definitely have to determine the extent to which the Medicare issue hurt us.”
There are no official exit polls for the election, but reports are coming in that Medicare was indeed a big issue for votes. As the NYT reports:
“I have almost always voted the party line,” said Gloria Bolender, a Republican from Clarence who is caring for her 80-year-old mother. “This is the second time in my life I’ve voted against my party.”
Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, “The privatization of Medicare scares me.”
“I won’t dispute their contention that Medicare helped them. The polling shows it did,” a Republican operative tells Time. “We have to find a way to handle that better.”
DCCC chair Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY):
"Today, the Republican plan to end Medicare cost Republicans .4 million and a seat in Congress. And this is only the first seat."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
“There are two reasons we won tonight. Kathy Hochul is a great candidate and a Western New Yorker through and through. And New Yorkers of all political persuasions do not want to destroy Medicare. This election was a strong referendum on both.”
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate:
"The shocking election results tonight show it is the beginning of the end for Paul Ryan's immoral budget. The New York vote turned on an immoral plan to end Medicare and Medicaid hatched on Wall Street and in Washington by someone who is supposed to be representing Wisconsin. Its rejection tonight shows how vulnerable every single Republican in Wisconsin is, but especially Paul Ryan himself, for siding against Wisconsin's working families."
The president makes no mention of Medicare -- but he does mention deficit reduction:
I want to extend my congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory in New York's 26th Congressional District. Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) released the following statement regarding the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District:
"Republican Jane Corwin ran a hard-fought campaign against two well-funded Democrats, including one masquerading under the Tea Party name. Obviously, each side would rather win a special election than lose, but to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky. History shows one important fact: the results of competitive special elections from Hawaii to New York are poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes. If special elections were an early warning system, they sure failed to alert the Democrats of the political tsunami that flooded their ranks in 2010."
"I wholeheartedly congratulate Congresswoman-Elect Hochul and her grassroots supporters for their hard work and dedication despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin. Tonight’s election result is not just a victory for Congresswoman-Elect Kathy Hochul, it’s a victory for the residents of Western New York and for Americans who believe that our elected leaders should fight to protect Medicare and ensure that our government works for our seniors, working families and young people. Kathy’s Republican opponent, and those who spent a small fortune on her behalf in a solidly Republican district, found out the hard way that their extreme plans to abolish Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in health care, education, innovation and job creation are wrongheaded and unpopular even in a district that should have been a cakewalk for the Republican candidate."Just a few months ago, former Republican Congressman Lee won the 26th district with 74 percent of the vote –- but since that time Republicans have voted to end Medicare and place a whole host of additional burdens on seniors, young people and working families while preserving tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and big oil and they have been on the wrong side of public sentiment every since.
"Tonight’s result has far-reaching consequences beyond New York. It demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical. With this election in the rear-view mirror, it is my hope that Republicans will accept the message being sent by voters in this race, in the polls and at town hall meetings across the country and work with Democrats to get our fiscal house in order while protecting Medicare and other initiatives vital to our economic recovery."
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal:
The reason for Kathy Hochul's victory tonight is evident in the county-by-county results reported so far. Her share of the vote is ahead of what then-Democrat Davis received in 2006 everywhere in the District except Niagara County, and there Hochul is only two points lower, but gaining.
Hochul's vote share is slightly behind what Kristen Gillibrand received in her Senate race in 2010, so Hochul is likely to receive somewhere between 45 and 50 percent of the vote when all precincts are counted. That total will be enough to win, given that Tea Party-line candidate Jack Davis is getting 8 percent of the vote District-wide.
|@ FixAaron : Corwin trails by 5 and Davis is getting 8 percent. If those numbers remain so close, it's hard to attribute Corwin's loss solely to Davis.|
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:
The table below shows the Associated Press vote count by County as of about 9:38 p.m. eastern time. All of the reported precincts so are from four counties, including the two most Democratic, Erie and Niagara.
We should not assume that precincts within any county are created equal -- they are not -- but for what it's worth, Hochul's 55% of the vote so far in Erie County is slightly better than what then-Democrat Davis received in 2006 (52% when he received 45% district-wide) and what Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate candidacy received in the County in 2010 (53%).
Hochul's number are also better than those received by Davis in 2006 in the other counties reporting so far except for Democratic Niagara, where they are slightly worse.
From the U.S. House editor of the Cook Political Report:
|@ Redistrict : I've seen enough, Hochul looks like she's pulled this off #NY26|
|@ BuffaloRising : BREAKING: #NY26 Based on internal turnout data, Corwin campaign sources are all but resigned to Hochul victory.|
With nearly 45% of precincts reporting, Hochul is leading Corwin 48%-42%
|@ jamiedupree : SEE SAW IN NIAGARA - Hochul back up by 13 votes in Niagara County - GOP won with over 70% here in November 2010|
With a whopping 3% of precincts reporting, the results so far:Kathy Hochul (46%) Jane Corwin (42%)
Jack Davis (12%)
Via National Journal:
Monroe County has released their final turnout estimate. At 8 p.m., there was an estimated 23% turnout in the GOP-leaning Rochester suburbs - a crucial one for Corwin's campaign and a good sign for them turnout was high.
Polls are now closed. We'll be adding results as they come in. In the meantime, Eddie Vale tweets:
Protect Your Care Statement on NY-26
“Although the polls have now closed, because of the court order obtained by the Corwin campaign there may not be a winner certified tonight but there already was a clear loser – anyone who supports the Republican budget that ends Medicare. The only reason this race in a red district, that John McCain won, was even competitive was because of the rejection – especially by seniors – of the Republican budget that ends Medicare.
“This is not just our take, it is demonstrated by Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty refusing to clearly say if they will support a plan that even Newt Gingrich called ‘radical’ and ‘right-wing social engineering.’ It is why a growing number of Republican Senators will be voting against it this week.
“The message the people in NY-26 sent tonight was loud and clear – hands off our Medicare.”
It's not a referendum on Medicare, Republicans are saying, as their hold on the district slips away.
“On a national level, clearly there is a lot of people looking at this," Corwin said today. "A lot of people saying it is a referendum on the House Republicans. I think this is more about philosophies. About understanding the conservative philosophy. And how people are looking for fiscal responsibility in Washington. And, I believe the people of the 26th District want someone to represent them who is fiscally responsible. And I feel pretty positive it will be me tonight."
As Think Progress points out, Eric Cantor has also pushed back against the idea of Medicare as central to the election:
At a weekly briefing yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was asked whether Corwin’s defeat would be a blow against the Ryan Medicare plan. "No. Not at all.” “I know this town loves to take signals from individual races," he said, but “this is a race about the fact that it’s a three-way race."
And yet Paul Ryan himself raised money for Corwin, appealing to supporters in an email: "As the New York Times has pointed out, my budget plan is at the center of the campaign: ‘After leveling a barrage of attacks against the proposal put forth by Mr. Ryan, the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul, has tightened the race considerably…;"
National Journal has an update on the turnout as of late this afternoon:
Erie County turnout has already been strong in the Democratic-leaning area - even before the heavy post-work voting hours began.
Election officials said at 4:30 p.m. turnout was estimated to be between 18 and 20 percent. The district's largest county, it's a must-win area for Hochul and a place where she needs to build up a lead to offset Corwin's advantage in the GOP-leaning areas of the district.
Monroe County, which includes Rochester, reported 17 percent turnout as of 5:00 p.m. The county anticipated providing another update this evening. Corwin needs strong turnout here in the conservative county
The AP reports on how the role of a controversial plan to reform Medicare has factored into the race:
Beyond the polling and the rhetoric, Democrats seized on a special election for a House seat in New York to test-market their attacks.
The Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, aired ads that said she wants to reduce government spending, but Republican rival Jane Corwin favors Medicare cuts "to pay for more tax cuts for multimillionaires." The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an outside group, the House Majority PAC, aired ads making a similar charge.
Corwin counterattacked, accusing Hochul of wanting to cut Social Security as well as Medicare.
Fearing defeat, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent more than 0,000 on campaign activities. It aired an ad reminiscent of commercials that aired in 2010, and linked Hochul to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
In addition, American Crossroads, a GOP-aligned group, has spent nearly 0,000, much of it attacking Jack Davis, the third candidate in the race. A one-time Democrat, he is running as a tea party advocate.
Addressing what she would have done differently over the course of her campaign, according to the New York Times, Corwin said, “I probably would have addressed the Medicare message coming out of my opponent quicker.”
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:
Voters in New York's 26th congressional district are casting their votes today in a special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R), who resigned earlier this year after he was caught sending topless photos of himself to a woman on Craigslist. Opinion polls in this traditionally Republican district have shown a surprisingly close race, with Democrat Kathy Hochul edging ahead of Republican Jane Corwin at the end of the campaign. Former Democratic candidate and businessman Jack Davis, who is running on the Tea Party line on the special election ballot, ran third in the final round of polls.
The polls will close at 9:00 p.m. eastern time Tuesday night. Here is some background on the district and tips on what to look for as the results roll in...
Click here to continue reading.
The Buffalo News reports that Corwin was granted a court order from a New York state Supreme Court justice barring the certification of the winner of tonight's special election.
Under the judge's 11-page order, attorneys for Corwin have until Wednesday to serve copies of the court order on the election boards of Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties, their sheriff's departments, the state Board of Elections and her three opponents.Pending court proceedings before Buscaglia on Thursday at the earliest, the judge also impounded all voting equipment and enjoined the canvass of paper ballots "except as directed by this court" and "temporarily enjoined and restrained from certifying" the winner pending that court hearing.
Click here to read more on the court order, a copy of which was obtained by the Buffalo News.