Tag Archives: Bill Owens

Upset City in NY’s 9th CD?

The special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) congressional vacancy in New York City will be held tomorrow and the latest poll from the Siena College Research Institute (Aug. 6-8; 886 likely NY-9 special election voters) suggests a possible Republican upset in this heavily Democratic district.

According to the Siena survey, Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, leads Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin 50-44 percent. This is on the heels of a Magellan Strategies study (Sept. 1; 2,055 likely NY-9 voters via automated telephone calls) giving Turner a 45-40 percent advantage. Furthermore, within the last 10 days, McLaughlin Associates showed the race to be tied at 42 percent, prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to counter with their own Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 voters), which posted Weprin to a 47-39 percent lead. The high error factor (4.9 percent) for a poll with a large congressional district sample suggests that the GSG results may be from the “educated” ballot test, meaning that people were given further information about the candidates after the respondents made their initial candidate preference selection.

An upset in a New York irregular election would be nothing new. In the past two years, three special elections have been held in the state, each producing a winner different from the early projected favorite. The one special election where the favored candidate won, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-29), was held concurrently with the 2010 general election. The others, all in Republican seats, elected Reps. Scott Murphy (D-NY-20), who was subsequently defeated in the succeeding regular election, Bill Owens (D-NY-23), and Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26).

As in all special elections, turnout will be the determining factor. With a superior Democratic Party operation in the city, Weprin certainly has a chance to win regardless of the late polling results. If the Democrats are motivated to turn out, then Weprin can survive. If they are not inclined to do so in sufficient numbers, then we could see a GOP upset.

Should Turner win this seat, the Republicans will likely sweep the two congressional special elections being held tomorrow. The other, in Nevada’s 2nd district, will likely elect Republican Mark Amodei. Winning the New York seat, however, will almost assuredly have national ramifications and won’t make any Democrat, including President Obama, feel overly secure.
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Democrats Convert Seat in New York’s 26th

Democratic/Working Families Party nominee Kathy Hochul, who began as little more than a sacrificial lamb in what should be a relatively safe Republican district, won the special election last night to succeed former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Mr. Lee resigned the seat earlier in the year to avoid publicizing an impending personal scandal. Ms. Hochul, the Erie County clerk, defeated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin who held the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party ballot lines, along with Independent Jack Davis. Hochul’s margin was 47-43-9% against Corwin and Davis, respectively.

Turnout appeared to be low, especially in comparison to the previous upstate specials that broke 35 percent in voter participation. Approximately 115,000 people cast ballots, not counting what are likely several thousand yet-to-be-tabulated absentee votes. The turnout rate was hovering around 28 percent.

The two most recent pollsters called the race accurately. The closing surveys, one from Siena College and the other Public Policy Polling, showed Hochul holding four- and six-point leads, respectively, during the weekend directly preceding the election. The final margin, as revealed above, was four points.

The result allows the Democrats to extend their strong performances in special elections and adds to the commensurate Republican woes, particularly in multi-candidate upstate New York contests. The Hochul victory represents the third such favorable Democratic result in the last four New York special elections, even though the Republicans were favored at the beginning of each race.

The focal point of the campaign became Independent Jack Davis who labeled himself with the word “Tea.” New York election law allows qualifying Independents to describe themselves in a similar manner to party designation labels for the major candidates. Davis, however, was not a Tea Party member. He previously ran for Congress three times as a liberal Democrat. The Davis candidacy sparked confusion and controversy, thus causing Republican nominee Corwin to make unforced errors that ultimately cost her the seat. At one point, Davis was polling within just a few points of Hochul and Corwin, topping out at 23 percent. Then, both the Democrats and Republicans unloaded on Davis, ultimately costing him two-thirds of his potential support.

Aligned with the Conservative and Independence parties in a seat drawn for the GOP, this special election should have gone the Republicans’ way. Again, as had been the case in what proved to be a disastrous 23rd district contest (Rep. Bill Owens) two different times for Republicans, a minor party candidate cut against the GOP nominee and cost them the seat.

Total spending among the contenders broke $7 million, but the three candidates themselves contributed over $5 million of that total. Davis is a multi-millionaire who has traditionally self-funded his campaigns. He spent more than $2.6 million for this special election. Corwin dumped a similar amount into her campaign.

Outside entity spending was interesting. According to the latest OpenSecrets.org analysis, $1.99 million, in addition to the candidates’ cumulative total, was injected by independent organizations. A great deal of those expenditures, better than $755,000 worth, were targeted in opposition to Davis. More than $541,000 went against Hochul, and an additional $471,000 targeted Corwin. Both major party candidates also received positive independent expenditures, but those totaled less than $150,000 apiece.

The count in the House is now 241 Republicans and 193 Democrats with one vacancy. The open California 36th district will be filled on July 12th. Democrat Janice Hahn is a heavy favorite in that campaign. The New York delegation will now head into redistricting, where the state loses two seats in reapportionment, with 22 Democrats and seven Republicans.

Democrats will attempt to frame this election as a referendum on Medicare, as they continually attacked Corwin for saying she would support the controversial Ryan budget plan. The Republican never effectively countered the attack. The bigger issue, however, was the repeated Corwin mistakes that once again allowed a New York Republican seat to slip through the GOP’s fingers. In a special election, when turnout is always down and sometimes not reflective of a district’s voting patterns, the candidate running the more competent campaign generally wins. Clearly, Ms. Hochul was the superior campaigner in NY-26 during this battle.
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Democrats Announce First Frontline Group

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made public their first list of 15 Frontline candidates, those they believe will need the most help to win re-election in 2012. Redistricting, however, will have much to say about the fortune of these members and many others.

The list begins with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), still recovering from the senseless and tragic shooting that put her life in grave danger. Remember, however, that she won by just 1.5 percentage points over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly in November, which puts Giffords’ re-election status as unclear. Some even still mention her as a potential Senate candidate. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: Giffords’ 8th district will change. The Arizona Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing new seats, and it is quite possible the members will craft a compromise to give Giffords a safe Tucson-based seat, should she be able to run, while the new Arizona congressional district would then become more Republican. Too much uncertainty exists to make an accurate contemporary prediction.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is in a similar political situation to that of Giffords. A new statewide redistricting commission will also draw the California districts. Right now, without the state even having its census block numbers yet, it is virtually impossible to gauge how McNerney will fare as population changes in the Bay Area appear significant. Another in an unknown situation is Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), where the Hawkeye State is the only one in the country not to allow political considerations, or even the incumbent’s residence, to affect how the map is drawn.

The two New Yorkers listed, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) and Bill Owens (D-NY-23) are also both in temporary limbo as is almost everyone in the Empire State. Slated now to lose two seats to apportionment, it remains to be seen what legislative compromise, or court action, will eliminate which seats. It is unlikely that Bishop can be collapsed because he occupies the far eastern end of Long Island, and being in a corner is always a plus when enduring redistricting.

The members currently viewed as vulnerable who are more than likely to benefit from redistricting are Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11). Since Minnesota did not lose a seat in apportionment and they have split government, expect an incumbent-oriented map. Therefore, Walz’s seat should improve for him. With Republicans having an 8-3 advantage in Virginia, expect the Democratic districts, like Connolly’s 11th, to get stronger.

Though there is a slight unknown factor for Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) because of their state government’s also being under split control, it is probable that both get equivalent or better districts than they respectively represent today.

The remaining six Frontline members all have serious redistricting problems, as Republicans hold the pen in their states:

  • Both Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) are likely to face very adverse constituencies under the new North Carolina map.
  • Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) is expected to be paired with veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) because Michigan loses a seat. Under this scenario the new Peters-Levin district would be heavily Democratic, but the two would be forced to duel each other in a primary battle.
  • A similar situation could occur in Pennsylvania where Reps. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) and Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) could find themselves fighting for one district. Like Michigan, Pennsylvania will lose one seat.
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3), another razor-thin election survivor, could find himself as the odd-man-out in Missouri’s delegation reduction. His district and that of neighboring Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) are the two least populated in the state. Clay is likely to survive because the Republican legislature and Democratic Governor are unlikely to collapse an African-American district and will want to protect St. Louis city as the dominant population center in one seat.
  • Finally, with Utah gaining a seat, will the Republican legislature and governor concede a seat to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), or draw a pie-shaped map emanating from Salt Lake City? The latter option would give the GOP good odds to defeat Matheson and win all four districts. But, it’s too early to tell what might happen.

With redistricting having such a major factor upon virtually all states, it is very difficult to accurately determine political vulnerability until the new maps are set. Thus, the Frontline member group composition will likely change drastically between now and Election Day 2012.
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Republicans Nominate Corwin in NY-26

The local Republican chairmen from the seven upstate New York counties comprising the 26th congressional district, as expected, officially chose Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to be their nominee for the upcoming special election that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) eventually will call. The seat is vacant due to the scandal-tainted resignation of former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Democrats have yet to name their consensus candidate.

Under New York election law, the governor has rather wide latitude to schedule special elections, but the vote must occur between 30 and 40 days once the call is made. The time lapse between resignation and scheduling allows the parties to choose their nominees via party caucus rather than a primary vote. Because of this situation only the seven county chairman from each party have any say in the nomination process for this particular election.

Upstate New York is no stranger to recent special congressional elections. Since the 2008 general election, two specials have been held and a third was made concurrent with the regular 2010 election. In early 2009, Democrat Scott Murphy won a 50.1-49.6% victory over Republican Jim Tedisco in the 20th district. Kirsten Gillibrand had vacated the seat to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Murphy then went on to lose the 2010 general election to current Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY-20) by a rather large 53-44% count.

In late 2009, Democrat Bill Owens, in a race that attracted a great deal of national attention, upset Conservative Doug Hoffman after GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava dropped out of the special race the weekend before the final vote and endorsed her major party opponent. Hoffman, running again on the Conservative Party line in the regular election, siphoned away enough votes to allow Owens to slip past Republican Matt Doheny to win a full term in NY-23. The seat was originally vacated because President Obama appointed GOP Rep. John McHugh as Army Secretary. When Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY-29) resigned in scandal, then-Gov. David Paterson simply refused to hold the special election early because it was clear his party was going to lose the seat. Last November, Corning Mayor Tom Reed easily converted the seat for the GOP.

Now, with Rep. Lee abruptly resigning due to a new scandal, yet another special election will be conducted. The seat should remain safely in Republican hands since the 26th district is one of the few New York congressional districts with a solid GOP history. John McCain defeated Pres. Obama here 52-46%, making the 26th only the fourth of 29 NY seats to so choose the Republican. Former Pres. George W. Bush racked up 55-43% and 51-44% margins here in 2004 and 2000 respectively. Ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) had a close 52-48% call in 2006, but the seat has never fallen to the Democrats. Rep. Lee won 46-34% in 2008, and then posted a huge 68-24% landslide this past November.

With numbers like that, Assemblywoman Corwin should normally be regarded as the big favorite in a special election, but such may not be the case. Once again, a minor party candidate could conceivably tip the balance of power to the eventual Democratic nominee if enough conservative voters fail to support Corwin.

The chances of this happening are less than in the NY-23 melee of last year. Corwin claims the New York State Conservative Party has rated her the second-most conservative member in the Assembly, and she has won the party line in both of her legislative elections. Therefore, it is unlikely that the NYCP will abandon her now, which is the key to the Republicans winning. Under New York election law, candidates can gain votes from multiple party ballot lines.

Though certain Tea Party groups expressed displeasure with the Corwin selection, it will be difficult for them to qualify a candidate for the special election ballot because none of the Tea Party organizations are officially recognized New York political parties. Since the Green Party gubernatorial candidate did attract more than 50,000 votes in the last general election, however, they will qualify for an official ballot line now and in 2012. This could cause trouble for some future Democratic nominees if they are not sufficiently liberal on environmental issues.

Once the Democrats have a nominee, Gov. Cuomo will call the election and Ms. Corwin will likely win. At that point, she will immediately be forced to worry about redistricting, as the state loses two seats in apportionment and it is unclear which four of the existing 29 members will be paired against each other.

Our rating of the early NY-26 special election is “Likely Republican.”
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What’s Next in New York and Arizona?

The surprise resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY-26) will soon set off yet another special congressional election in New York. The 26th district, stretching from the Buffalo suburbs to the outlying Rochester area, is strongly Republican. With a new, short-term incumbent, however, the district stands a chance of being collapsed in the 2012 redistricting plan, since the state loses two congressional seats in reapportionment. Therefore, redistricting is certainly a factor for the potential candidates assessing their special election chances and prospects for a long tenure in the House. Republicans will have the advantage in this short-term contest.

Previously, when then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY-20) was appointed to the Senate, a special election was held to choose a replacement for the House seat. Democrat Scott Murphy prevailed, but current Rep. Chris Gibson (R) subsequently defeated him in November. Rep. John McHugh’s (R-NY-23) appointment as Army Secretary led to a divisive special election allowing Democrat Bill Owens to slip through a three-way contest to capture the normally Republican seat. Owens went on to win a full term last November in similar fashion.

The major political parties will caucus and select a nominee; thus, there will be no primary election. Early reports suggest that Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is already beginning to assemble a campaign operation. Among Democrats, Erie County legislator Kathy Konst has the potential of quickly becoming a consensus candidate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has a wide time frame in which to schedule the vote but once he does, the election will be held just 30-40 days from his official call.

In Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term sets the state’s political apparatus in motion. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) previously indicated interest in making a statewide bid should Kyl retire. The five-term Representative is a nationally known budget hawk, and has a strong following in the state. He has over $627,000 in the bank according to his year-end financial statement. The only other veteran Republican congressman in the Arizona delegation, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is more likely to remain in the House.

For the Democrats, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ-8) name is already surfacing, but the congresswoman, recovering from a senseless assassination attempt, is not currently in a position to run a grueling statewide campaign. Had it not been for the tragic Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six others, Rep. Giffords would very likely have joined the field of Senate candidates and been among the favorites to capture not only the Democratic nomination, but possibly the seat itself. Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is also being mentioned as a person having interest in running. But recent polling indicates that her stint in Washington has cost her dearly among her former constituents.

Turning to other potential Senate candidates, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) is saying he might have interest in such a race. Former Attorney General Grant Woods, known as a liberal Republican, is another mentioned as a potential candidate. Ex-Democratic Party state chairman and 2006 Senatorial nominee Jim Pederson will also find his name prominently on a list of potential office seekers. Former state Treasurer Dean Martin (R), who briefly challenged Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary, is another GOP possibility.

This race will be hard-fought, as the state is rife with controversial issues and the voting base becomes ever more marginal and competitive. Republicans will start out with an advantage, but this race will be one to watch throughout the 2012 election cycle.
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