Tag Archives: Siena College

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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Who Knows in New York’s 26th?

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York’s 26th district and the latest Siena College poll (May 18-20; 639 likely New York-26 voters) tells us that either Democrat Kathy Hochul or Republican Jane Corwin can win. Independent Jack Davis, who has become the focal point of the controversial campaign, has fallen out of contention. The seat came open upon the resignation of Rep. Christopher Lee (R) in order to avoid impending public scandal. Siena College, located just north of Albany, NY, has a history of conducting political polls, particularly in New York State.

According to the data, Hochul leads 32-28-12 percent over Corwin and Davis, respectively. This represents quite a change, particularly for the Independent, from Siena’s last poll. In late April (April 26-27), Corwin held a 36-31 percent lead over Hochul, with Davis polling at 23 percent. The new results show Hochul holding strong with the Democratic base (gaining one point overall) and Corwin dropping eight percentage points, while Davis loses half of his support. In April, 90 percent of the respondents had decided upon a candidate but in this latest survey only 72 percent did so, meaning a full 18% of the two groups making up the pair of diverse sampling universes drifted into the undecided column. Because of the conflicting and confusing messages coming from the candidates during the past month, such a result is not surprising.

This campaign has been one of the oddest in recent memory because both Hochul and Corwin employed virtually the same strategy in dealing with Davis. Both feature him in their negative ads, always portraying him as being in the same camp with their major party opponent. The idea was to align Davis with their most serious competitor in order to steer ideological partisans from both parties toward the Independent, in addition to solidifying their own bases. Thus, voters were seeing double-barreled negative messages about Davis over his seemingly paradoxical philosophical association with each candidate.

Jack Davis, 78, is a multi-millionaire businessman who has run for Congress three times before, all as a Democrat. Previously campaigning from the ideological left, Davis adopted the “Tea” label in his Independent special election bid and is trying to cast himself as being a conservative budget hawk. He attacks both parties as entities that have lost the American people’s confidence. Davis, through his 2006 legal challenge, negated the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that allowed political opponents to raise triple the individual contribution limit if another candidate spent more than $350,000 of his or her own money. The Supreme Court cemented the ruling in 2008.

This special election should have been easily in Assemblywoman Corwin’s column. It is a marginally safe Republican seat and with her earning the Conservative and Independence Party endorsements, the race appeared to be the upstate legislator’s to lose. But a series of gaffes, including having her Assembly chief of staff accost Davis on camera about the latter lacking the “courage” to debate, derailed her campaign. The stunt badly backfired and the Corwin campaign, despite a sizable funding advantage, came unglued and lost the upper hand. Hochul has consistently maintained the Democratic base support and run the more competent campaign. In a close three-way race, these two factors could be enough to steal victory.

The Siena poll shows that both Hochul and Corwin are keeping their party bases, but the former is performing better. The Erie County Clerk gets 76 percent of Democrats compared to 66 percent of Republicans for Corwin. Independents are breaking toward Hochul by a 44-36 percent rate.

Predicting special elections and low turnout voting is extremely difficult, so this poll basically suggests that either Hochul or Corwin can win tomorrow. Turnout is likely to be high, in special election terms, if the two 2009 upstate NY elections are any indication. Both the 20th and 23rd districts turned out just over 161,000 voters when the people filled those respective vacancies. These numbers represent about 35 percent of the registered voters in those particular districts.

The recent New York special congressional elections have been debacles for the Republicans and tomorrow’s election could follow that same pattern. Whichever party can best get their voters to the polls will win. Tomorrow night tells the tale.
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Special Election Tightens in NY’s 26th

The Republicans have had a poor run in upstate New York special elections during the past election cycle, and the new one being held later this month (May 24th) has just returned closer-than-expected results in the first public poll. Siena College (April 26-27; 484 likely NY-26 special election voters), located north of Albany, NY, and which conducts political polling on a regular basis, shows Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin with only a 5-point lead over Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul (36-31% percent. But, the bigger story is the performance of Independent Jack Davis who captures 23 percent. Davis is running under the misleading party label that he simply lists as “Tea.”

Jack Davis is a wealthy businessman who has run for Congress three times as a Democrat. He started campaigning in 2004 when he held incumbent Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY-26) to a 49-39 percent win. He tried again in 2006 and scored his best performance, coming within four points of Reynolds, 48-52 percent, and hastening the congressman’s decision not to seek re-election in 2008. With a contested Democratic Party fight for the open seat primary, Davis lost badly in a multi-candidate race to attorney Alice Kryzan, who subsequently failed in the general election as businessman Christopher Lee won the seat.

It may be Davis’ victory in the courtroom that best defines his political career, however. The frequent candidate challenged the so-called “millionaires’ amendment” in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, and was victorious in removing the provision from the federal statute. The millionaires’ amendment allowed a candidate to raise contributions in amounts triple the federal individual limits if a congressional race opponent spent $350,000 of his or her own money. Davis, a multi-millionaire who has spent a total of $7.43 million in personal funds over his three campaigns, argued that such an amendment is unconstitutional. The courts agreed.

Now in a special election after Rep. Lee resigned to avoid making public a personal scandal and knowing that he would never be chosen by Democratic Party leaders as their nominee, Davis entered the race via petition signature as an Independent. In New York, an Independent can describe themselves with a label on the ballot, and Davis chose the word “Tea.” Obviously, this was done to make him an attractive option to Tea Party voters, a group that could make a difference in a special election for this district. His move is disingenuous, however, since Davis has run from the left in his previous campaigns.

Vowing to avoid the divisiveness that cost the party dearly in the previous special elections, the Republicans and Conservatives both endorsed Assemblywoman Corwin even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) officially scheduled the special election. But now Davis is apparently causing another dicey three-way race.

Can Jack Davis confuse enough voters with his “Tea” label to bring Jane Corwin down? While his better-than-expected showing in the first poll is certainly a nuisance to, and will undoubtedly cause a strategy shift for Corwin, enough time remains to dispel his candidacy and unite the right-of-center base. Assemblywoman Corwin is still in the driver’s seat for the May 24th special election and she remains the favorite to hold this seat in the Republican column.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.