On Tuesday, for the third time in as many years, a U.S. House seat from New York State with a long Republican history fell to the Democrats in a nationally watched special election. With near-final results in, State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin lost to Democrat Kathy Hochul by a margin of 47% to 43% in the Buffalo-area 26th District, which had been in Republican hands since it was first won by Jack Kemp back in 1970.
On the day after Hochul’s win, Democrats nationwide were proclaiming the race as a voter repudiation of the Ryan budget plan and its reform of Medicare—surely a sign of future “Mediscare” campaigns against Republicans in 2012. But the two other contests, Democratic pickups of historically Republican seats in the Empire State—New York-20 and New York-23 in 2009—were proclaimed as victories for the Obama administration and Democratic plans for health care reform.
But the results of those two special elections in no way foretold the outcome of the midterm elections in 2010, arguably the best GOP showing in 16 years, and in Barack Obama’s words after the results, “a shellacking,”
The races in 2009—that in the 20th District to fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Kristen Gillibrand after she was appointed to the Senate and that in the 23rd to replace Republican Rep. John McHugh, who was appointed secretary of the Army—were both very close and not decided until late in the evening. Were it not for Republican campaigns that reporters later agreed were both run ineptly, they could just as easily have gone Republican.
So it was in New York-26 last night. Were it not for the presence of so-called “Tea Party” candidate Jack Davis (who drew about 9% of the vote) or a Corwin campaign that is increasingly being faulted by national conservative and GOP operatives, the results might have been different.
“The only thing the political consultants advising the Corwin campaign seemed to be able to do smartly was cash their big checks,” said former Rep. Fred Eckert (R.-N.Y.), leader of the state Ronald Reagan forces in 1976 and a onetime town supervisor of Greece, N.Y., (within the 26th District). “It’s too bad there is no such thing as malpractice for political consultants, or Jane Corwin could press charges and the whole dumb gang of them would have to pay fines and serve time.”
Eckert was referring to the failure of the Corwin campaign to bring up what he called “hot-button” topics, such as Hochul’s strong pro-abortion stance, including support for the controversial late-term abortion. In addition, he noted the Democrat’s support for same-sex marriage. Corwin described herself as pro-choice but against any federal funding and late-term abortion. She was also foursquare in favor of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Eckert noted that “this district has a strong Roman Catholic population and Hochul is a Roman Catholic. Had the Republicans defined where she stands on those two issues, it might have made a difference.”
John Faso, former state Assembly GOP leader and 2006 nominee for governor, told HUMAN EVENTS that renegade candidate Davis’ “early protectionist stand and message that both parties back agreements that ship jobs overseas resonated with many Republicans in the district. There is a lot of economic distress in western New York. The Republican campaign should have done something early on to deal with him and remind voters he was a former Democratic nominee for the seat.
Chris Chocola, head of Club for Growth, agreed. Rather than articulate “a strong free-market message,” Chocola wrote, the Corwin campaign ran a TV ad in which she said she would “oppose trade agreements that just aren’t fair.”
There are obviously many reasons why close races are lost, national circumstances notwithstanding. People who know Jane Corwin, such as Mike Long, chairman of the New York Conservative Party, praise her as a bright legislator, and in fact, “the second-most conservative legislator in Albany,” according to the Conservative Party. But in terms of running a House race, Corwin’s campaign team clearly made stumbles that could have been avoided—and now, it is Republicans nationwide who have to deal with the outcome.