'Tea Party' Ringer May Spoil N.Y. House Race for GOP

With days to go before voters in New York’s 26th District fill the vacancy in their U.S. House seat, guessing is rising among Republicans and Democrats and in the press that the outcome of the contest could be for Democrats what Scott Brown’s win in the Massachusetts Senate race in 2010 was for the Republicans.

Making the contest a referendum on ObamaCare and drawing support from conservatives throughout the nation, Brown made headlines worldwide by putting the Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy (and before him, brother Jack) into Republican hands.

In the Buffalo-area 26th District, Democrat Kathy Hochul is trying to make the special election on Tuesday a referendum on the Republican alternative budget championed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.).  Should Hochul emerge triumphant in a district that has been in Republican hands for the last 41 years (18 of those with the late Rep. Jack Kemp), it seems a safe bet to say the liberal media will spin the results into a voter repudiation of the Ryan budget.

The latest Siena College poll shows Erie County Clerk Hochul trailing Republican State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin by a margin of only 36% to 31%, with a whopping 23% going to dubious “Tea Party” nominee Jack Davis.  A Public Policy Polling survey shows Hochul leading Corwin by 35% to 31%, with 24% going to Davis.

In TV broadsides for the past few weeks, Hochul has been hammering Corwin for her endorsement of the Ryan budget, which the Democratic nominee declares “would essentially end Medicare.”  Hochul’s campaign kitty is fueled by national appeals from groups such as the New York Working Families Party, an offspring of ACORN, whose ballot line Hochul carries along with that of the Democratic Party. 

Alerting liberals nationwide that “[t]his race can and should be a referendum on the Ryan budget,” the Working Families mailings urge, “[T]he Republicans expect to win this race, but if we can upset their apple cart, it would be a huge deal across the nation.” 

But just a minute.  Should  Hochul defeat Corwin, it will be less because of issue stands and more because of the presence of a third candidate: multimillionaire Davis, who is carrying the banner of the Tea Party but is in fact a Democrat who was the Democratic nominee in the 26th District in ’06. 

Because of the name Tea Party and the use of his personal wealth to be a presence in the race, Davis is a factor.  Several genuine Tea Party groups in the Buffalo area have denounced Davis and weighed in for Corwin (who also carries the lines of the smaller Independence and Conservative parties on the Empire State ballot). 

“This race is not necessarily about Medicare,” said David Pietrusza, a scholar and author who knows New York inside and out.  “In all likelihood, this would not be considered a referendum on the Ryan budget or anything else if it weren’t for Davis—the Republican would win hands-down.”

The Siena College poll shows a full 23% of GOP voters in the district supporting renegade Democrat Davis.

In the twilight days of the campaign, Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is being featured in robocalls to voters by the Corwin camp and the GOP nominee herself has pumped an extra $1.6 million of her own wealth into the race.  TV spots crafted by the National Republican Congressional Committee show Hochul and Davis as “Pelosi puppets” on a string.  (The spots have gotten mixed reviews, with Pietrusza dubbing them “frankly cringe-worthy, in my opinion).

In a few days, we’ll hear the “spin” on how this race turns out—and perhaps, how a sure thing for Republicans evolved into what is very likely to be a cliffhanger.


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