Can GOP Hold Boehlert's District?

As I accurately predicted Wednesday and again last night, Upstate New York Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R.) announced his retirement today, putting into play the Republican-leaning 24th District.

Democrats are salivating at the opportunity to capture the seat. Four Democrats are in the race, but Mike Arcuri, district attorney in my native Oneida County, should easily capture his party’s nomination.

Republicans, meanwhile, are rallying around state Sen. Ray Meier, long considered Boehlert’s likely successor. Meier has been airing TV commercials in the Utica, N.Y., market to promote his lobbying reform legislation. Clearly, those commercials serve another purpose: to build name exposure. (Hat tip to my dad.)

Meier will announce his decision Monday, but it’s already quite clear he’s in the race. His potential GOP rivals—state Sen. James Seward, Oneida County Executive Joe Griffo and high-ranking UN official Catherine Bertini—are making no noise. Seward, in fact, has already ruled out a run for higher office.

Growing up in a suburb of Utica, I know the district well, and clearly it is GOP territory. But voters there are also discontent, and those who wouldn’t take it out on Boehlert might do so on another Republican.

It’s too early to say how a Meier-Arcuri race would turn out, but at least some political handicappers are not so sure a Republican will hold the seat.

  • Congressional Quarterly: With Boehlert retiring from a relatively competitive district that presently has no dominant front-runner, is changing its rating of the New York 24 race to No Clear Favorite from Safe Republican.
  • Utica-based pollster John Zogby: “This position in our district is like the papacy. We rarely elect new congressmen. Lifetime politicians have been waiting in the wings for years, and what happens is it shuffles the deck.”
  • Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report: “If this were a normal election year, you would give Republicans a bit of an edge. But between the reality of a bleak national political environment for Republicans and a weak Republican slate at the top of the ticket in New York, you wonder if Republican voters will be motivated to go the polls.”

Elizabeth Cooper at the Utica Observer-Dispatch has done some excellent reporting on Boehlert leading up to today’s announcement. She’s all over the story today. Check out for a complete report.