Dec. 23, 2015 — New York Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld/Utica/Binghamton) announced Monday that he will not seek a fourth term next year, thus creating the 32nd open seat of the 2016 election cycle.
Hanna was already fielding a primary challenge from conservative assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, the same opponent who held him to an uncomfortable 53.5-46.5 percent victory margin in 2014. Tenney was able to outpoll the congressman in three of the district’s eight counties (four whole; four partial).
In order to keep her state Assembly seat two years ago, Tenney did not advance to the general election on the Conservative Party ballot line, even though she became their nominee. Since Rep. Hanna was otherwise unopposed, many believed Tenney could have unseated him in a head-to-head contest, but her political risk proved too great.
Though Hanna generally votes the Republican Party line, he strays on some major social issues to the point that only 11 other Republicans vote opposite the party position more often than he. Thus, the incumbent was perceived as being vulnerable in the upcoming primary election.
Among Republicans reported to be considering the race, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. could prove himself as a top opponent for Tenney. Democrats will likely contest for this seat, at least in the person of former Oneida County Legislator David Gordon who had previously announced his intention to secure the Democratic nomination. Another potential Democrat, likely stronger than Gordon, is state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, also reported as seriously considering whether to enter the contest now that Hanna is departing.
The Upstate 22nd District seat stretches from the Pennsylvania border shooting due north through the central Empire State region all the way to the Utica/Oneida County area. It is a generally Republican district even though voters here split evenly their votes for President in the two Obama elections. The eventual Republican nominee will marginally be considered the early favorite to hold the seat.
In a move that surprised no one, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) announced that he is suspending his presidential campaign. Graham had fared poorly from the start of his national effort, failing to make the big debate stage and rarely posting above the one percent threshold in almost every key state-based survey.
At the heart of his decision was his political standing back in his home state of South Carolina, considering yesterday was the last day a candidate could withdraw and not appear on the state’s Feb. 20 primary ballot.
Not inspiring supporters anywhere, even the two latest South Carolina polls were casting a downward tidal wave. Both the neighboring Augusta (GA) Chronicle newspaper poll and another from Fox News, each taken between the 5th and 16th of December, found Graham to be attracting only two percent support in the Palmetto State. Clearly, continuing at these low levels particularly when approaching the South Carolina vote, the nation’s third primary, could have brought him unnecessary consequences to Graham, possibly weakening him for his next re-election battle in 2020.
A more surprising turn of events occurred in former Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH-8) open seat. The now vacant western Ohio district, headed for a special primary election on March 15, finds Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (R), the man many expected the Boehner operation to support, ending his congressional campaign. He cited family pressures as his reason for stopping what could have become a promising effort.
Butler County is the largest voting entity in the district and, among the 17 Republican candidates vying for the safe federal seat, Reynolds was considered one of the top contenders. Now, state Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Hanover) could be the lone Butler County candidate, which could make him the new front-runner. State Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) will likely be Derickson’s chief opponent, but anything can happen within such a large field of candidates.