Let’s hear it for the “Emily’s List” candidate: Kathy Hochul wins NY-26

Kirsten Gillibrand campaigning for Kathy Hochul at a rally this past Saturday.

With over 60% reporting and Hochul holding onto her lead, lots of people calling it for Hochul:

@fivethirtyeight: Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) has called it for Hochul. Good as done. #ny26

Another great tweet:

@thepeoplesview: First Republican electoral casualty of Paul Ryan’s Kill-Medicare plan: Kathy Hochul wins in NY-26! Hee!

As I noted in my post earlier tonight, in a move signaling how weak the GOP is, their candidate Jane Corwin obtained a court order blocking a certification of the winner tonight… it looks like we’ll have to wait until Thursday or so, but let the celebrating begin… here’s hoping this is a huge blow to DC and the Austerity crowd.

It was after all Kirsten Gillibrand, and not DC Dems, who saw the opening in NY-26 and campaigned hard for Kathy Hochul…via the Hill:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of New York House candidate Kathy Hochul.

Washington Democrats have been keeping their distance from Hochul, the party’s nominee in the May 24 special election for former Rep. Chris Lee’s (R-N.Y.) seat. Meanwhile, Republicans leaders including Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) and Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) have lent their backing to the GOP nominee, Jane Corwin.

Gillibrand, a former upstate congresswoman, sent a fundraising pitch on Hochul’s behalf and teamed with the pro-choice group EMILY’s List to urge activists to lend their support.

“Kathy is an extraordinary candidate,” Gillibrand said Tuesday during a Web forum hosted by EMILY’s List. “I know she can win this race.”

This just reminds me of all the attacks on Coakley and Emily’s List during the Scott Brown race… as I said then, “In Defense of the Emily’s List Candidate”:

Emily’s List produced a winning primary candidate (they backed the candidate who won the popular vote in the 2008 primaries too for that matter). It’s the Obama Era of the Democratic party that has created bad electoral conditions for Democratic nominees and made it difficult for liberals to stand on principle. (Even the socialist in the U.S. Senate voted for Obama’s health insurance scam. Way to discredit the right-wing canard that Obama’s terrible policies are synonymous with socialism.)

The one surefire way to avoid becoming the target of local backlash against Obama is to run against Obama’s policies–and in today’s environment where the activist left is split up along deep fault lines (“submit to party unity or else you’re a certain class of politician, voter, or woman”), Democratic nominees do not have the benefit of a ready-made independent fundraising network to take on the Obama machine during a general election yet. Of course they could try to build one, but either way it is an uphill battle and there is no easy path to victory whatever they choose.

This race was somewhat different in that Hochul could run against the GOP’s toxic Ryancare rather than against Obamacare, but when you hear all the spin tonight and the Dem machine taking credit for Hochul’s win, remember that it was Kirsten Gillibrand and Emily’s List who shored up Kathy Hochul, not Washington Dems, who were too afraid to get behind Hochul.

The “Emily’s List” candidate won in the very red district of NY-26!

Congrats to Kathy, and Kirsten for president!

Hochul’s win tonight also makes Eric Cantor’s and Jonah Goldberg’s push for Paul Ryan to run for president (not to mention Charles Krathammer’s “Draft Paul Ryan” noises from a month ago) all the more ridiculous and embarrassing for the GOP.

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Go, Kathy Hochul, Go! (NY-26 Special Election Open Thread)

Democratic candidate for the 26th District Congressional seat, Kathy Hochul speaks while holding a pair of boxing gloves during a news conference in Clarence, N.Y., Monday, May 9, 2011. David Duprey / AP Photo

UPDATE, via Buffalo News, with 57% of precincts reporting, Kathy Hochul leads Jane Corwin by 4 points:

Hochul , Kathy 47%
Corwin , Jane 43%
Davis , Jack 8%
Murphy , Ian 1%

***

Tonight’s the big day for NY-26. Election returns are supposed to start showing up here after the polls close tonight. Democrat Kathy Hochul has got the technical edge in some very close polling, which is amazing for this very red district, and the following reporting from Wapo’s Behind the Numbers earlier today seems to point to good news on how the internals are shaking out for her as well:

N.Y.-26 Special Election – Tuesday’s Special Election in New York’s 26th Congressional District finds a very tight race in available polling. Democrat Kathy Hochul has a numerical lead of 42 percent to 38 percent for Republican Jane Corwin and 12 percent for tea party candidate Jack Davis in data from Siena College Research Institute. Those results are well within the poll’s margin of error completed Friday.

Despite the very close numbers, some of the internals are revealing. Hochul secures more of her base voters, winning 76 percent among Democrats, while Corwin only secures 66 percent of her base Republican voters. Independents tilt to Hochul by 44 to 36 percent. Again, those results among independents are within the error margins.

Many pundits have pointed to this race as an early test of Republican attempts to tackle Medicare as a part of budget reform. In the Siena poll, Medicare was not singled out as the most important issue in the vote. Fully 21 percent call it most important, about the same level as the federal budget (19 percent) and jobs (20 percent). Medicare does rise to the top for Democrats, but less so for Republicans and independents.

This afternoon, the NYT Caucus reported heavy turnout and had this to say, in terms of what that means for Hochul and Corwin:

Turnout appeared fairly strong for the special election in western New York State’s 26th Congressional district on Tuesday, officials said. But it was not immediately clear which of the candidates, if any, would benefit from the high degree of voters’ interest in the race.

[…]

But what that high interest will translate into, in terms of votes, is hard to discern. If turnout is strong across the board, Ms. Corwin would likely stand to benefit, since Republicans have a large registration advantage in the district. Ms. Hochul, for her part, would be in a particularly strong position if voters in Erie County, where she is county clerk, turn out in high numbers.

In a move indicating just how vulnerable the GOP is, Jane Corwin has obtained a court order barring certification of a winner tonight… via Buffalo News:

Jane L. Corwin this afternoon obtained a court order from State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia barring a certification of a winner in the special 26th Congressional District race pending a show-cause hearing before him later this week.

The Buffalo News obtained a copy of the show-cause order Buscaglia signed this morning based on a petition the Republican candidate filed Monday.

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 offices, the state Board of Elections and her three opponents.

The Atlantic Wire has a good overview of the race and what various pundits are saying — Get Ready to Spin the Results of New York-26:

Voters in New York’s 26th congressional district are voting Tuesday to pick a replacement for Chris Lee, who resigned after the whole Internet saw him with his top off. The special election is now seen as a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to phase out Medicare because even though the district is conservative, Democrat Kathy Hochul is ahead in the polls. As the national significance debated, the parties are mounting big get-out-the-vote operations–Republican Jane Corwin’s campaign had 500 volunteers knocking on doors over the weekend–150 of them bussed up from Washington, the Niagara Gazette‘s Eric DuVall reports. Hochul says the Democratic Party is running a “full field program” with hundreds of volunteers contacting thousands of voters.

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt writes that both parties are playing the “expectations game”–Republicans saying this race means nothing because third party candidate Jack Davis is siphoning votes from Corwin (pictured above, voting), and Democrats insisting they shouldn’t even be competitive in such a red district. (Conservatives started spinning the race even before polls put Hochul ahead, Dave Weigel notes.) And this strategy can be seen in browsing political blogs: liberal sites are giving a lot of coverage to the race Tuesday, while few conservative sites are bothering with it (the opposite was true in Wisconsin’s special election earlier this year, once missing votes were found handing the race to the conservative candidate.) The New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait says the race might be an outlier, but it’s still significant. It has “centered almost entirely around the exact theme that Democrats plan to employ in the next election cycle,” Chait writes. “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.”

NBC’s First Read says that special elections aren’t a good guide to how the parties will fare in fall elections–but still, the power of Medicare shouldn’t be understated. A “GOP loss in NY-26–a district John McCain won in 2008, 52%-46%–would be a wake-up call for Republicans on Medicare, forcing their House members and even presidential candidates to re-evaluate how they approach the issue.”

Bill Clinton and Chris Chrisitie hit the phones for their respective party candidates… via Talking Points Memo:

“Now, I’m sure you’ve received many phone calls about this election already, nut please just give me a few seconds of your time as the election draws near,” Christie says in the call, according to The Buffalo News. “I’m calling to ask you for your support for Jane Corwin for Congress as you go to the polls Tuesday, May 24th. I ran for governor of New Jersey because like you, I wanted to see REAL change. Jane Corwin is a fighter who knows how to get things done. We’re in critical times for our country, and Washington needs stand-up leaders who will fight to control spending and change business as usual.”

Rallying Democrats, former President and current New York State resident Bill Clinton has recorded a call as well. Clinton’s script focuses tightly on the Medicare angle that Democrats have been pushing in the district, an approach they credit with their current lead in the polls.

“You can count on Kathy to say no to partisan politics that would end Medicare as we know it to pay for more tax cuts for multi-millionaires,” he says. “That’s just one reason I hope you’ll join me in supporting Kathy Hochul for Congress in the Special Election tomorrow, May 24th.”

ABC News on why NY-26 matters:

First, “If Hochul wins, even in a three-way race, it will be great news for Democrats, who will use the victory not only to talk about Medicare, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget and their own momentum, but also to recruit candidates around the country and raise funds,” the Rothenberg Political Report stated in a recent analysis. “And Democrats will have a right to brag, given the district’s fundamentals and the cash that Corwin and Republican groups have poured into the race.”

Second, the N.Y.-26 election would help both sides determine whether national dollars by party organizations and interest groups really make a difference.

Third, the race is important nationally because it has exposed the divisiveness and relative lack of coordination within the Tea Party movement. The biggest Tea Party group in the area, TEA New York, has endorsed Corwin, but not all Tea Party activisits are on board, which sends a warning sign to Washington that they will not back candidates based on party affiliation alone.

All eyes are obviously going to be on the exit polling and what it says about Ryancare.

Also from the link:

Hochul, the Erie County clerk, is widely expected to pull a victory in what would be a stunning defeat for Corwin, a state assemblywoman. The last Democrat to be elected from the district left office eight years ago, and only three Democrats have won in this area in the past century. New York’s 26th was only one of four districts in the state that voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Hochul, however, has been cautious about declaring victory too quickly.

“We don’t have the enrollment advantage, but I’m going to keep fighting till the very last minute,” she said at a restaurant in Amherst.

NY Magazine has a primer on how to interpret the tonight’s returns… if Hochul wins, here’s pretty much what to expect from the Dems and points to consider about the validity of their claims:

Democrats point to this surprising result as the first definitive proof of the powerful opposition to Ryan’s Medicare-reform plan. The plan is clearly as toxic as a stroll through Fukushima, as they’ve been saying all along, and it will likely lead to an Obama victory in November of 2012.

It’s true that voters who care most about Medicare are strongly in Hochul’s camp, according to polling. But the causality here isn’t quite so clear-cut, as Nate Silver explains:

What’s tricky about this is that it isn’t straightforward to determine whether voters are prepared to vote for Ms. Hochul because of the Medicare issue — or rather, whether they were going to vote for her for some other reason, but emphasize Medicare to pollsters because she has also.

There are also other factors to consider — the candidates themselves, their reputations and personalities, for example. So though Medicare will play a role in the outcome, it will be difficult to tell how large that role will be.

And even assuming that opposition to Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is a decisive factor, how much can that foretell about November 2012? The Medicare plan may be a central issue at the moment, but will it remain prominent in the political discussion fifteen months from now? What if an agreement on reforming Medicare has been reached by then? What if the presidential election, or unforeseeable events, cause other issues to overshadow the debate over Medicare entirely? It’s a long time until 2012.

And points to consider about the GOP spin if Hochul wins:

Republicans will insist that they would have won if not for the presence of Jack Davis, the eccentric businessman pulling in around 12 or 13 percent of the vote on the Tea Party line, and therefore the results are meaningless, and everyone should forget that this ever happened. The truth though, is that if Hochul wins, it’s a victory regardless of Davis. Davis may be running on the “Tea Party” line this year, but he ran as a Democrat for the same seat in 2004, 2006, and 2008, and his “ideology is too inconsistent to be readily categorized,” as the Washington Post put it. In a recent Siena poll, he draws about the same amount of support from Republicans as he does from Democrats. In other words, if Hochul wins, it won’t be because Davis split the conservative vote.

On the other hand, if Corwin pulls it out, here’s how NY mag breaks down what to expect from the spinmeisters and how to gauge what they are saying:

The Democratic Spin:

Democrats will insist that, because this is usually such a Republican-friendly district, they overperformed despite losing. And that may be true, depending on the margin of victory, because this district has been represented by a Republican for 40 of the last 50 years, including the last eight, and John McCain carried it by 6 percent over Barack Obama in 2008. Using that result as a benchmark, it’s fair to say that if Hochul loses by a few points to Corwin, the Democrats still beat expectations, and can plausibly claim a sort of moral victory, if not a tangible one. But if Hochul loses by six or more points, there’s no way Democrats can spin this in their favor.

The Republican Counter-Spin:

Republicans will claim that a win by any margin, regardless of the “Beltway expectations game,” proves that the Democrats’ “Mediscaring” strategy has failed miserably and that Ryan’s Medicare plan isn’t as toxic as the Democrats and the liberal media would like everyone to believe. In fact, as this was essentially the first referendum on the GOP’s Medicare plan, Democrats in Congress should now heed this mandate and enact the plan into law.

The polls will close at 9 p.m. Eastern. Again, the numbers are supposed to start streaming here once voting has ended.

I’ll leave you with this teaser from Huffpo’s Mark Blumenthal and his take on how to watch the numbers as they roll in:

Click to view larger. image via Huffpo/NationalAtlas.gov

Judging vote composition is tricky when results are incomplete, but the percentage contributed by Erie and Niagara Counties is worth watching. If Democrats are having an exceptionally good night, the share of the vote from Erie and Niagara might be a point or two higher than the last few elections. If the vote share from those counties winds up being a point or two lower, then Republicans may post even stronger numbers than in 2010.

This is an open thread.