Democrats scored a huge upset with Kathy Hochul in a special election to represent the New York’s 26th congressional district on Tuesday, defeating Republican Jane Corwin. Hochul is the Erie County clerk and declared victory in this conservative upstate district with 84 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul held a commanding 48 percent to 42 percent lead over Corwin. Tea party candidate Jack Davis received 8 percent.
The election was held to fill the seat vacated in February by Republican Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he met on Craigslist were published on the Internet. Lee hurt Jane Corwin in a western New York special election in the race but it wasn’t the only factor that emerged. This race was a political testing ground for the ambitious GOP blueprint to reform Medicare. The results proved the national unpopularity of the GOP proposal, given the district’s long history of supporting Republican candidates.
Republicans attempted to downplay the importance of the contest, calling it a three-way brawl that says little about the broader national landscape and the electorate’s reception to the budget. The race follows a troubling trend for Republicans, who fell short in two 2009 upstate New York special elections in historically GOP-friendly districts. By the time polls opened on Tuesday, Corwin and GOP-allied outside groups combined to spend $3 million on TV ads. Hochul and Democratic-aligned groups spent around $2 million
The Medicare attack had particular sway in this district since it his heavily populated with seniors. Seniors are among those most likely to vote in a special election. A Siena Research Institute survey released over the weekend found Hochul winning the support of 74 percent of those who cited Medicare as the most critical issue in the race. Hochul was addressing a crowd around 200 supporters at a United Auto Workers union hall Tuesday evening, Hochul took the stage to raucous cheers of “Kathy,” and said she received a “gracious” concession call from Corwin.
In her speech, Hochul hit hardest on the centerpiece of her campaign: protecting entitlements. As the “Medicare” chants continued, Hochul smiled, and said, “Yes, we are all future seniors. That’s for sure! It’s the future seniors they’re going after, and we didn’t like that. Did we?” “We can balance the budget the right way and not on the backs of our seniors,” she said.
She left the stage to the song, “Taking Care of Business.”
A bi-weekly columnist for icedjamb.com, Scott Ferrante is a 2012 MBA student at Wilkes University concentration in Financial Accounting.