House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) campaigned today in upstate New York. He was there to try to resuscitate a Republican campaign for Congress that, until recently, was thought to be a certain GOP victory.
Democrats thought so too. They had every intention of writing off this special election, which is being held to fill the seat of Rep. Chris Lee (R), the “Craigslist Congressman” who resigned earlier this year after posting shirtless pictures of himself online.
New York’s 26th Congressional District is heavily Republican, comprised of Buffalo and Rochester suburbs. Even in the great Democratic sweep of 2006, the seat remained safely in GOP hands (albeit by a close margin).
Two things changed, First, three-time candidate Jack Davis, known locally as “Crazy Jack Davis,” got into the race. He’s running on what amounts to a Tea Party platform, dividing the Republican vote. He’s wealthy and spending freely on his own campaign. Second, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which promised a “transformation” of Medicare, was made public. The combination of those two things put the race back in play.
The GOP candidate, NY state assemblywoman Jane Corwin no longer enjoys a comfortable lead. Indeed, recent polling suggests the race is tied. Corwin’s opponent, Democrat Kathy Hochul, has seized on voter unease over the Ryan budget proposal, attacking it as a threat to the elderly. Her message has struck a chord in the senior-heavy district.
Boehner’s visit underscores the national importance of the race, which political professionals are following closely. With independent candidate Davis continuing to poll in the 20 per cent range, Democrat Hochul needs only to win a plurality to win the race outright.
The key to Republican victory is for the GOP to convince the district’s electorate that a vote for “Crazy Jack Davis” is wasted and might produce a Democratic victory. Thus Rep. Boehner’s ride to the rescue. Thus renewed nation GOP financial support for candidate Corwin. Thus new GOP attack ads that label Jack Davis a Democrat (which he once was).
Generally speaking, the closer it gets to Election Day, the faster independent candidacies like those of Jack Davis fade away. Republicans are hopeful that by May 24, which is when the balloting takes place, support for Davis’s candidacy will have collapsed.
To date, Davis’s support has been fairly steady. If it holds, the Democrats will likely win the seat.