The special election to replace the topless ex-Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) is proving far more competitive than the district’s Republican-leaning makeup would suggest, with Democrat Kathy Hochul leading Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis in the most recent poll.
Democrats are using the race as a testing ground for attacks on the GOP’s budget, with Hochul positioning her campaign almost entirely as a referendum on Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize and cut Medicare.
“Anyone who says this is not a national debate is kidding themselves,” a spokeswoman for Hochul, Fabien Levy, told TPM. “You can tell just by the numbers: this is a Republican-leaning district…yet we’re up now because people are rejecting Corwin’s support for a budget that decimates Medicare.”
Republicans are taking the threat seriously — Speaker Boehner headed to the district Monday for a fundraiser to help shore up Corwin’s campaign, which has already been far better financed than Hochul. He and Corwin have both tried to keep the conversation towards cutting spending and creating jobs.”Washington Democrats hope to steal this election so they can move their agenda of higher taxes and more spending,” Boehner said at the event. “The president wants to raise taxes. Why? So they can continue to spend. It’s time to say no, and we’re going to continue to say no to higher taxes and more spending in Washington.”
The results of the race could prove complicated in analyzing, however, due to the presence of independent candidate Jack Davis, who is running on the Tea Party line and is competitive in the polls. Using his own private wealth to jumpstart his campaign, Davis, who has run in the past as a Democrat, is pushing an aggressively isolationist platform focused on foreign policy and trade featuring attacks at both parties. He also is a vocal opponent of Ryan’s Medicare plan. His strong position in the polls with Republicans and independents has forced Corwin to run ads attacking both her opponents while Hochul’s campaign hopes Davis can draw enough Republican votes to put them over the edge.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.