UPDATE: Democrat Kathy Hochul has won the seat, and Republican Jane Corwin has conceded. It wasn’t even all that close. The numbers I’m seeing put the margin at 47/42, with a third party candidate drawing 9 percent.
The Republican would have had to take almost every one of Davis’s votes to win. Politics doesn’t work like that, as the Siena poll cited below reports. It shows Jack Davis, the third-party candidate who had run previously as a Democrat, drawing roughly equal support from both parties. He was drawing 10 percent of district Democrats and 13 percent of district Republicans.
Bottom line: In a district where the GOP won with 76 percent of the vote in 2010, in a district represented by just three Democrats since the 1850s, the Republicans lost.
Many of you may remember Chris Lee. He was the Republican congressman from upstate New York — excuse me, the married Republican congressman from upstate New York — who was caught trolling for dates on Craigslist, claiming to be single.
Lee initially tried to deny the charge, claiming someone else had hacked into his computer account. But once a woman produced a photo of a shirtless. preening Lee, the gig was up and he was forced to resign.
In politics, it’s hard to recover from certain mistakes.
That lesson may be taught again today in a very different way in New York’s 26th Congressional District, which Lee represented. Voters go to the polls today to elect a replacement, and since Lee won election with 76 percent of the vote last November, it ought to be an easy Republican victory. (Since 1857, the district has elected just three Democrats.)
But that’s where the mistake comes in.
A month ago, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a plan to convert Medicare to a privatized voucher system that over time would cover less and less of the cost of health insurance for senior citizens. By 2030, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, the voucher would cover just 32 percent of the cost of health insurance for a new retiree, with the senior citizen forced to cover the rest.
That proposed change has proved wildly unpopular with the American people. The fact that the same budget proposal would also cut taxes significantly on the wealthy has only added insult to the very real injury. And all that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Jane Corwin, the GOP candidate for Lee’s seat
Corwin has publicly endorsed RyanCare, saying she would have voted for the proposal. Her main opponent, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, then turned that commitment into the main issue of the campaign, and as a result has a real chance of winning tonight. A new Siena College poll gives her a slight lead, just outside the margin of error.
If you look at the crosstabs of that poll, you find that the district breaks down 41/35 percent in favor of Republicans. But 59 percent of the voters polled are 55 years old or older.
A Democratic victory in that district would certainly “concentrate some minds” among Washington Republicans, forcing them to look back in regret at their own decision to embrace RyanCare so enthusiastically.
Like Lee’s decision to pose for his beefcake shot, it seemed like such a good idea at the time.
– Jay Bookman