What Earth-Shattering Lessons Can/Should/Will We Draw from NY-26 Special Election?


By all that's holy, let's quickly but definitively hone in of the enduring lesson of the special election in New York's 26th congressional election, won by Democrat Kathy Hochul in a heavily Republican area.

Hochul beat GOP candidate Jane Corwin, pulling about 48 percent of the vote. Corwin got 42 percent and a fake Tea Party candidate Jack Davis (he was actually to the left of the Dem) pulled about 8 percent.

The one clear lesson is the one least mentioned: If your party vacates a seat because the conservative, married incumbent was caught trolling on chicks via Craigslist, you've got a real problem on your hands. You'd have thought that lesson was learned via the Mark Foley scandal, when maf54's seat turned Dem after the Republican incumbent resigned after cyberstalking congressional pages.

That first truth is the one the commentariat will be least interested in. They've already declared that the Hochul victory was all about "Mediscare" tactics and a clear repudiation of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the evil/valiant GOP plan to destroy/save Medicare and kill/protect seniors. There's no question that the politics of Medicare reform is a thorny one. Everyone knows the system is a fiscal train wreck that threatens to bankrupt the government. Those of us who follow reports issued by Democrats such as Christina Romer and the Obama administration also know that "nearly 30 percent of Medicare's costs could be saved without adverse health consequences." Which is to say that the program is massively inefficient at delivering health care along with being massively expensive. Actually getting to a real conversation about how to fix the program (I would favor scrapping it altogether and replacing it with something like Medicaid for poor seniors who cannot afford to pay for their own health care) as opposed to demonizing anybody who ever says anything about it is gonna take like forever. And just to be clear, Republicans and Democrats do this constantly. But that conversation will happen and I hope it starts now and proceeds through the 2012 election and beyond. If we don't fix Medicare, the government's rotten bottom line and all attendant problems will only get worse.

A final point about NY 26: The election suggests that what Matt Welch likes to call "non-governing minorities" are alive and well and coming to a race near you. Note that the election was three-way and that the third place finisher more than covered the spread. What comes through is the reality that with the rise of independent voters whose loyalty must be earned in each race and with each policy, a lot of stuff is up for grabs. Which is a good thing if you don't consider yourself a D or an R.

NEXT: Drug Czar's Office Backs Out of Another Congressional Softball Game with Drug Law Reformers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That first link, “won by Democrat Kathy Hochul”, is broken.

    1. …just like America’s broken infrastructure!

      1. We’re broken too!

      2. oh no you didn’t! :0P

  2. No big deal at all. The dems won a couple of special House elections last year also before they got the living snot kicked out of them in November.

  3. Hey, Nick? Please dispense with the “everyone knows” locution followed by any statement about Medicare. The lefties I know honestly, earnestly believe that higher taxes on the rich can fix Medicare’s cost increases.

    1. I can see their argument that higher taxes on the rich might pay for the cost increases, but how in the world would higher taxes on the rich FIX Medicare’s cost increases?

    2. That is what Hochul said in her victory speech. That the budget can be balanced by making the wealthy pay their fair share and ending corporate welfare. I think she honestly believes it.

    3. Hochul said she refused to “decimate” Medicare.

      “How about ending big handouts for Big Oil?” Hochul rallied supporters during her victory speech at a union hall outside Buffalo. “How about making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share?”


      1. John, calculating the rich’s fair share is easy!

        A) Do we, the government, have enough money to increase spending on everything next year? If No, then:

        B) Are Taxes at 100% on those considered “rich”(defined at the moment as those making above 250k, but with downward revisement always possible)? If Yes, then:

        C) Have we taxed corporations, cigarettes, etc. at 100%? If Yes then:

        D) Have we cut defense spending/corporate benefits to nil? If Yes then:

        E) Shut up you grandma killer! There is no way that steps A through D can fail!

        1. The combined wealth of every billionaire in the country is something like 1.3 trillion. So we could confiscate all the wealth of every billionaire in America and not even balance the budget for this year.

          It really scares me how stupid people like Hochul are.

          1. John, I think you skipped step E. Are you sure you confiscated all assets, of both corporations and the rich? I bet you left some, somewhere!!!

            1. He said billionaire. This obviously leaves out large swaths of assets belonging to the people that are currently held by the wealthy capitalist pig-dogs making over 250k per year.

              1. Rifle their pockets!

        2. You can actually tax cigarettes at well over 100%.

          1. 60% of the cost of Guinness is from the Irish tax on alcohol.

            /useless fact

      2. JadeBamboo Wed 25 May 2011 2:00 PM

        This is how I explain it to the kids I work with: You have 100 people, they equal the population of America, You have 100 bananas, they equal the wealth in America. 10 of those people get 71 bananas, 10 of those people get 13 bananas, 40 of those people get 15 bananas, and 40 people get 1 banana to splint amongst themselves. Who do you think should share their bananas?


        1. And the bananas, since they are delivered by the tooth fairy, never run out. As i said above, these people scare me.

          1. You’ve got it backwards. There will never be more than 100 bananas, so the only way for those 40 on the bottom to get more is to take them. They can’t make more bananas on their own.

            1. I’m not sharing a single banana with those Jezebel twats unless they start living up to their historical label. Call me ladies we can set something up…..I don’t take long when properly….err…motivated!

        2. Scariest part:

          This is how I explain it to the kids I work with:

        3. If you read further down that thread…


        4. That shit is bananas.

  4. On the one hand I wrote this off when i heard a Democrat ran as a shame tea party candidate and split the vote. On the other hand, I realized that we are basically doomed if 8% of the population is too stupid to understand they are voting for a sham candidate.

    1. You have to give the democratic party and the left credit: they are pretty much unlimited in their capacity for dirty tricks and stealing elections. It’s about the only thing in life these lowlife scumbags truly excel at.

      1. This will be the blue print for the 2012 election. They have to no Obama has no prayer of getting 50% against even the weakest Republican candidate. So, you watch. There will a a third party candidate emerge in the summer of 2012 for the sole purpose of spliting the vote and getting him relected.

        1. I bet Ralph Nader runs again though, so that may balance things out.

          1. That assumes enough liberals have the integrity to vote for him. But I am not sure they do. Obama is a cult to these people.

            1. There will be subtle suggestions that voting for Obama the first time was for posers, and if you’re really not racist you would vote for him again.

        2. I can’t believe you wouldn’t want Super O Team to win in 2012? Scuttle the whole system by 2014 and pick up the pieces after.

          You don’t really think that Magic Undies can beat him….do you?

          1. You know there is some wisdom to that. I could see a 2012 Obama victory being like the 72 Nixon one. A victory that leads to a spectacular second term meltdown.

            1. I could see a 2012 Obama victory being like the 72 Nixon one. A victory that leads to a spectacular second term meltdown.

              Oh it will be far worse than that! Our long national nightmare is just beginning.

              1. Sad but possibly true.

            2. Is Biden in this analogy Agnew or Ford?

    2. On the other hand, I realized that we are basically doomed if 8% of the population is too stupid to understand they are voting for a sham candidate.

      Only if they can keep pulling the same stunt over and over and get away with it. Doing it the first time just pisses people off and makes them wary.

    3. If the fake TP guy was to the left of the dem on the issues, then wouldn’t he have pulled votes away from D, and thus if he hadn’t been running, D would have beaten R by an even wider margin?

      Or is the implication that the fake TPer lied about his positions during the campaign?

      1. He lied. He was a Democrat who ran for the specific purpose of spliting the vote.

        1. aka, “stalking horse”

        2. Gotcha. I honestly hadn’t paid attention to any of this, so I didn’t know the sordid details. Did the guy suddenly reveal himself as being liberal the day of the election or something?

  5. 2 lessons. first, the teaparty screwed the gop in NY 23 & now 26. BOTH seats in solid red districts r now team blue. 2d, townhall temper tantrums are a bitch bitches

    1. Keeping Scarfazi out of the House was a service She just would have made a living as a resident concern troll and been used by liberals to beat conservatives with the “even one of your own thinks you are crazy” trope. Good riddence.

    2. I think most Tea Party voters would be OK with the results in NY 23 and 26, if it results in a “pour encourager les autres” moment for future GOP candidates thinking about ignoring those voters.

      It’s not like losing this one special election means Democrats take over the House.

      You have no electoral clout if candidates think they can screw you over and still get your vote.

      1. I think this an important point. In fact, I/we make it in our book!

      2. You also have no electoral clout if candidates know they can’t get your vote no matter what.

  6. You know who else liked threeways?

    Bill Clinton.

  7. I think the lesson that ought to be learned is not that Medicare reform is political poison, but rather that a GOP candidate who doesn’t take into account the concerns of Tea Partiers is likely to get beat.

    Yes, the Tea Party candidate was a sham, and yes, voters can be stupid, but if the candidate was someone who acted like Rand Paul and who showed up at all the Tea Party events and talked to those voters, there wouldn’t have been all those disaffected voters getting tricked (once) by a lefty stunt.

  8. I think the Dems may have blown their wad on the fake Tea Party candidate on this one. Now that we’ve seen the dirty trick, it will be that much harder to get away with it in 2012.

  9. Paul Ryan is going to have to rename it the “You Old Farts Will Be Long Dead Before Any Of This Happens Plan”.

  10. Somehow, the new GOP generation deluded itself into thinking it could launch a frontal attack on the American Welfare State that was decoupled from ancient,racially-invidious stereotypes of a lazy, fecund, and criminal underclass.


    The first rule of politics is the all-important distinction between “us” and “them.” Grandma and Grandpa in a Medicaid nursing home are one of us, while single moms on food stamps are part of “them.” Denigrate and assault the latter to your heart’s content, but trifle with the former at your peril.

    If the GOP is going to stay in the confidence game, it is going to have to rethink its flim-flam techniques at a very basic level. Perhaps the most amusing failed trick in the Ryan approach was the pitch to exclude those 55 and over from the austerity, which would only serve to heighten the austerity on the under-55 group. Query: once this open-faced sh!t sandwich was actually served
    up piping-hot on a plate to the under-55 group, how long would they support maintaining the exclusion for the over-55 group?


    As a general matter, a successful divide-and-conquer strategy requires one to refrain from carrying around a giant black-and-white placard that says “DIVIDE AND CONQUER.”

    1. Holy crap Danny this is surprising lucid…from you I mean!


    2. FEED ME!

  11. It looks like this election proved the staying power of the purist, anti establishment section of the tea party than a real rise of “independent” voters.

    The 8 percent of tea partiers who voted for Jack Davis either really believed that he was a tea party candidate or refused to support the duopoly.

    Reason writers often treat conservatives and tea parties as distant allies, but the only third party movement right now is coming from there.

    1. The GOP, conservatives, and the TEA party are soi-disant allies to libertarians. Words, words, words and very little action.

      1. In fairness the Tea Party hasn’t exactly had the chance to run anything. And they did get Rand Paul elected. He seems to be at least trying and not just on economic issues.

        1. I will give it up for Rand. It’s weird to have put some in office who is making me proud of my vote.

          I will go easier on the TEA Party than I will traditional cons and GOPers. TP is an ungainly mish-mash driven by anger and disgust* more than a meeting of minds over shared principles. So it’s still feeling it’s way.

          The TEA Party is more a girl than I haven’t decided is going to get pretty enough to date; the GOP is that bitch Lucy, whose jerked the football away way, way too many times for me to give a shit.

          *Not that I have a problem with that. Anger and disgust are what I feel and they are certainly valid.

          1. The Tea Party is more the homely girl that no one likes. The GOP and the DNC are the cool hot girls who will go out with you when they need a date, but never put out and fuck around on you the first time they get a chance. The homely girl may have her issues, but eventually you realize the nasty populat girls aren’t worth the trouble.

  12. I wondered if anyone besides 17 year old chicks took pics of themselves in the bathroom. Now I know.

    1. Don’t you mean 18 year-old girls?

      1. Nope…17 year olds do it too!

  13. What comes through is the reality that with the rise of independent voters whose loyalty must be earned in each race and with each policy, a lot of stuff is up for grabs. Which is a good thing if you don’t consider yourself a D or an R.

    Sure, Nick. (rolls eyes)

    They’ve already declared that the Hochul victory was all about “Mediscare” tactics

    It was. Mediscare works. We know it worked in this case because in spite of the creepy-sex-scandal negatives coming in, the Republican candidate started with a very strong lead, which evaporated due to her opponent’s persistent mediscare strategy.

    Maybe the better approach is say “We must save Medicare!” and point out that to do so, a LOT of other stuff has to be jettisoned. The other special interests need some skin in the game when it comes to discussing Medicare. Then we’ll see what happens.

    1. Or, you could, y’know, point out that Meidcare is bankrupt by 2024, and probably earlier than that.

      1. The fatal flaw in your logic there, Au, is that 2024 is more than 30 minutes into the future, which means it is not a factor which the average voter will include in his / her calculation.

        1. Republicans are right to offer Medicare reform but they will pay for it. Fact is, there’s a big swath of this country that thinks the deficit isn’t an issue (or can be easily solved) at all. And when the economic writer for the paper of record is in that camp: no progress can be made.

          Good politics for the Dems, but deeply irresponsible if they’re wrong (and they almost surely are).

  14. Anyway, politicians are just like you and me. They really are.

  15. I wondered if anyone besides 17 year old chicks took pics of themselves in the bathroom. Now I know.

    Yeah but most 17 year old chicks have better “guns”…between this and Obamas delicate wrists it’s no wonder America has lost standing in the world.

  16. Everyone knows the system is a fiscal train wreck that threatens to bankrupt the government.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is true; the “everybody knows” part, natch.

    I think there are a lot of people, inside and outside the Beltway, who think we can perpetually spin good intentions into gold.

    1. That and they think that they can get a better deal for themselves when the crisis does hit. They know it is going to happen. But they know it won’t happen right now. So they figure they will keep holding out for a better and better deal. The worse things get the more likely they are to get the kind of perminant high taxes they want. Also the worse things are, the easier it will be to steal the money once it is collected.

  17. during her victory speech at a union hall outside Buffalo.

    I hate that bitch.

  18. The lesson I see to be learned here is one some of us have been trying to teach since the Carter administration: we need preferential voting, so that having two candidates on the same “wing” can accomplish something other than throwing the election to the one candidate on the opposite wing.

  19. many hard-core Republicans, religious people, and right-wingers tend to be hypocrates.

    The Priest will stand up there on Sunday and talk a bunch of bla-bla-bla against homos and then you find out he’s jerking off with the alterboys.

    Larry Craig is very much against gay marriage but has no problem playing dick-doctor in public mens room.

    GWB was grateful that his minor Cocaine charge was wiped-out and made it his business to eliminate that program for 1st-time offenders once he reached office.

    THAT’s why I completely discredit these people.

    1. Public school employees commit more sexual abuse against children than priests do.

      Who gives a shit about Larry Craig? Seriously. When that broke I didn’t even know who he was. Why do you care? Do you hate gays? Don’t be so judgmental, it’s just sex.

      Obama of course has ended the war on drugs, right? Because otherwise he’d be a hypocrite.

      Oh wait, you’re a brain dead TEAM BLUE partisan. So this was a wasted effort.

  20. Would it surprise you if I told you Jack Davis listed his favorite book as Atlas Shrugged.

    The book, he says, informs a good part of his anti-free trade message.

    If you’re going to understand the Jack Davis role in this campaign, you need to understand why Davis appealed to at least 25 percent of the voters in the district.

    The fact of the matter is, free trade as defined by NAFTA et al. is exceptionally unpopular in the district.

    Jane Corwin tried to run away from the issue, being backed by free trade special interests.

    In the early Siena poll, Jack Davis — already well known in the district — would have pulled 25 percent even if he ran on the “Rent is Too Damn High” party line. His line wasn’t a factor (which is one reason the GOP was dumb to attack him on that point).

    That said, Dave Weigel, former Reason writer, did a solid profile of Davis for Slate. The theme: Davis was the only real Tea Party candidate in the race. If you believe being Tea Party is to be anti-party establishment, that fits Davis to the T.

    Davis left the GOP in 2003 after Dick Cheney had him kicked out of a fundraiser for trying to talk about his anti-free trade position.

    In the first Siena poll, Corwin had a five point lead over Hochul with Davis doing about 25 percent. In the next poll, Hochul surged and Davis fell like a stone.

    So where did those Davis supporters go? Obviously to Hochul. Why? Because Corwin said she backed “fair trade” and Hochul spoke out against NAFTA.

    Medicare gave Hochul momentum, put her within striking distance of Corwin. The Davis drop switched a lot of anti-NAFTA votes to Hochul.

    So why did Davis lose all those voters? I’ll tell you. It wasn’t Rove’s attack ads. It wasn’t the Michael Millia ambush video. It was Davis backing out a debate sponsored by WGRZ and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. I’ve spoken to many voters who said they were disappointed in Davis and questioned how he would stand up to Boehner and Pelosi if he couldn’t stand up to Corwin and Hochul (Davis said he wouldn’t appear on stage with liars).

    The other key factors:

    Corwin was an unappealing candidate to this district. She came across as somebody better suited to a yacht in Newport than on a farm field in Elba. Her fake blonde hair led to some early mistrust.

    Corwin’s padded resume turned people off. Nobody believed she started creating jobs when she was eight years old. Unfortunately, she had a great bio and a great story to tell. The message should have been, “this country gave my father a great opportunity to build a successful business and has provided well forme and my brothers and I want to make sure other families have the same opportunity.” Instead of, “I’m a successful business woman,” which is transparently utter bull shit.

    The big campaign mistake was going negative right out of the gate. Nobody outside of Corwin’s district knew who she was, so her first message to the district was, “I’m a bitch who doesn’t like Kathy Hochul,” rather than, I’m a woman who cares about the quality of life in WNY. Also, outside of Erie County, Hochul was unknown, so Corwin’s ads were a great way to raise her name ID on the GOP’s dime.

    As Karl Rove pointed out in a WSJ piece today, the ambush video backfired miserably. This isn’t a district that takes well to young punks attacking senior citizens. Rove has polling data to confirm the response. But Corwin could have handled the situation better. If she had come out quickly with a response along the lines of, “This is not the kind of political attack I want my name associated with. I’ve suspended the people involved from my campaign and I’ll deal with my chief of staff appropriately after the election,” the issue would have gone away overnight. Instead, she tried to duck it make it go away, and no self-respecting journalist would allow that (my attempt to get her to more forthrightly address the issue was picked up by a Buffalo TV station).

    In conclusion, to make this race all about Medicare or Jack Davis misses all of the nuance.

  21. The motto for upcoming elections that involve more than the D and the R should be:

    It’s not gay if it’s a three-way. If there’s a honey in the middle, there’s some leeway.

  22. An additional thought. I’ve said previously that Medicare put Hochul in striking distance.

    On further reflection, one factor not previously considered was Hochul’s extreme popularity in Erie County. She won her previous election to the County Clerk’s office with 80 percent of the vote. That could be why she polled ahead of registration in the first Siena poll.

    1. Howard Owens, read the Urban Elephants GOP blog to see why Hochul pulled so far ahead in the last three weeks. Its very clear and there is plenty of linked evidence to show it with a reasonable level of certainty.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.