Don't Believe Everything You Hear About NY-26
Democrats and liberals are crowing about the upset victory of Democrat Kathleen Hochul in the special election to fill the vacancy in New York's 26th Congressional District, a gerrymandered Republican district in Western New York. Pundits are attempting to extrapolate all sorts of things from the election result, like Obama's 2012 reelection chances and voter sentiment about Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's proposed budget.
Don't be fooled. Most of the commentary about the election comes from national talking heads who have no idea what the candidates or the campaign were actually like.
The backstory to the election starts with former Republican State Assemblyman Mike Cole, who won election in 2006 only to be censured in 2007 for drinking and spending a night in the apartment of an Albany legislative intern. Cole claimed he never had sex with the girl, and that he slept on the floor of her apartment only to avoid irresponsibly driving home after drinking. In any case, the Cole scandal enabled Jane Corwin, a political unknown from a wealthy family, to defeat Cole in the Republican primary in 2008 and win his seat in the general election.
This year, Corwin once again ran for office by trying to fill the shoes of a disgraced Republican office holder, Congressman Chris Lee, who resigned after sending semi-nude pictures of himself to a woman on Craigslist. But Corwin's only political experience was her two years as an Upstate member of the Republican minority in the State Assembly, which is dominated by Downstate Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin. Few political positions are as worthless as being a Republican in the New York State Assembly, and Corwin had absolutely no record of achievement upon which to campaign.
Consequently, Corwin campaigned as little more than a standard-issue Republican party apparatchik, which in reality is exactly what she is. By contrast, her opponent, Democrat Kathleen Hochul, had a record of solid, competent, largely non-partisan performance as Erie County Clerk, a position with a fair amount of responsibility and constituent service.
On a personal level, Corwin appeared to be an unsmiling, tight-lipped, "cold fish," while Hochul presented a harmless, disarming, happy-go-lucky persona with a folksy if not downright goofy grin. Both candidates ran demagogic ads accusing the other of trying to cut Medicare and entitlements in a district with an aging population. Corwin made the mistake of trying to depict Hochul as a Nancy Pelosi lackey, which simply wasn't true, and the error was compounded when Corwin's chief of staff clumsily tried to goad the nearly 80-year-old third-party candidate Jack Davis into physically attacking him, a stunt that failed miserably.
Davis, the wild card in the campaign, is a wealthy businessman and lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat who campaigned against the 1992 NAFTA agreement and Chinese competition. Despite complaining that he couldn't compete against China, Davis still has enough cash to have been able to spend millions of his own on losing Congressional campaigns in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2011. Davis got 9% of the vote Tuesday, peeling off enough of the protectionist paleo-conservative vote to make the difference between Hochul's 47% and Corwin's 43%.
The bottom line is this: none of this matters much for 2012, the national Democratic Party, Barack Obama, Paul Ryan's budget, or anything else. The fact remains that New York is a heavily Democratic, liberal state that has been steadily losing population and thus congressional seats due to overtaxation and oppressive government. The state will lose two congressional seats in 2012 (it already lost two in 2000) and NY-26 will almost certainly be one of them. Anyone who assigns any greater significance to the special election this week is simply mistaken or gaming the results for propaganda purposes.