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.

Saturday: Sailboats at Sunset

Escaping Dystopia 2011...

Morning, news junkies.

Chris Hedges ushered in 2011 by calling it a brave new dystopia. For a brief moment in time, the Egyptian and Wisconsin protests provided a glimmer of “there’s something happening here,” but then we were returned to our regularly scheduled dystopic nightmare. I don’t know about you, but lately I’m finding that the actual headlines these days sound more satirical than the ones in the Onion. They leave me either wanting to lolsob…or just sob. So, on that note…

Above, to the right… from National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel:

This photo of sailboats at sunset has us yearning for the sea, which makes it an Editors’ Pick for week one of our 2011 Traveler Photo Contest in the category of Outdoor Scenes. The photographer Ken Michael Jon Taarup writes, “Boracay has never ceased to amaze many people from all over the world. With its white crystal sand, pristine blue waters, and beautiful sunsets, this place still tops the list of the most visited and beautiful resorts in the Philippines.”

That’s so you have something calming to visualize while you read my Saturday picks.

Alright, grab your morning cuppa if you haven’t already, and read on.

Let’s just get the biggest distraction out of the way first…

Tornado aftermath: Pictures say a 1000 words

“Depressing women’s history news of the week”

Being pro-choice means understanding that self-determination for women regarding sex, sexuality, reproduction and motherhood is a fundamental precursor to womens’ ability to achieve their own educational, economic and familial aspirations, a fundamental precursor to the health and well-being of individuals and families, and a core condition of the long-term stability and health of society. It therefore also means understanding the profound connections for women–supported by more than ample evidence–between economic and educational status and unfettered access to comprehensive sexual health education, contraception, family planning services, and abortion care.

The War on Unions… now brought to you by Dems in MA?

The bill will take a month before coming to the state Senate, but the overwhelming vote in the House, and [Gov.] Patrick’s kinder, gentler rights-stripping plan, make it look like something’s going to happen in Massachusetts. Time to get out in the streets in another blue state.

“I’ve played at hundreds of protests and demonstrations, and this was really unique,” he said. “It was every segment of society. It was radical students and cops on the same side, and I’d never seen that before.”


  • The otherwise serious and reliable Laura Rozen overreacted a bit to Hillary taking a few days of Easter R&R time off with her family. There’s a reason Hill was dubbed the “Energizer Secretary.” The woman works non-stop. She has a personal life that she’s entitled to attend to and/or just recharge every few years or so.

Click to view HQ. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When Bushies fight… Get out your popcorn

First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But I don’t know what Don was trying to say, and it really doesn’t matter. Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.

As always, Black Agenda Report tells it like it is…

  • This is an instant classic! Please read and disseminate. Bruce A. Dixon’s Top Ten Answers To Excuses For Obama’s Betrayals and Failures. Note Number 9 — it’s for all the Obamaphiles who won’t accept that Obama is the third Bush-Cheney term. And, to quote a snippet from Numero Uno (Re: “It’s our fault the Obama presidency hasn’t kept its commitments. We need to ‘make him do it.’”):

You cannot make a US president do what he fundamentally doesn’t want to. Michelle Obama is nice to look at, but she is no Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt used to publicly bask in the hatred of wealthy banksters. Barack Obama’s dream is mostly not to piss off rich people.

  • For more on the atrocities of Bush-Cheney III, give BAR’s April 25th podcast a listen. In the first segment BAR’s Glen Ford interviews Labor Notes editor Mark Brenner, who sees no growth and no jobs on the horizon and says:

“Absolute disaster for working folks. If we follow the Ryan plan or if we follow the Obama plan, none of it spells good news for the rest of us.”

  • In another segment, Clarence Thomas, former Local 10 union secretary-treasury, says what one needs to understand is that this is not simply an attack on public sector workers, it is also an attack on public services.” Thomas says the goal is to put labor back where it was before the New Deal, noting that it is a corporate and rightwing agenda in which “the Democratic party is complicit.”

The ongoing crackdown on dissidents: Syria, China

In response to the brutality of the crackdown, President Barack Obama signed an executive order today instituting sanctions against the Syrian intelligence agency and two of Assad’s brothers, a White House official confirmed. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council voted in Geneva today to condemn the Syrian crackdown.

“The [Executive Order] is a watershed,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Envoy. “This is the first time an Assad has been designated by the [U.S. government], and the first time the USG has issued an EO on human rights in Syria. Until a few months ago Human Rights was a distant fifth on our list of issues with Syria. Now it’s emerged as the center of our policy.”

Ms. Cheng was arrested on what was supposed to have been her wedding day last fall for sending a single sarcastic Twitter message that included the words “charge, angry youth.” The government, lacking a sense of humor, sentenced her to a year in labor camp.

Timeout: Art break

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