(David Mansdoerfer) – Let me be upfront and clear on this, yesterdays win by Democrat Kathy Hochul in the special election for New York congressional seat number 26 is not a referendum on Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan or the GOP as a whole.
Special elections rarely mean anything unless it involves a statewide race. Reasons for this include lower voter turnout (there were roughly only 100,000 votes cast in this election as opposed to the 205,000 votes cast in the 2010 election) and shorter election campaigns.
Looking at the race in NY 26, there are four different factors that caused this seat to change hands.
1. The whole reason there is a special election was because Republican Congressman Chris Lee couldn’t keep his shirt on. While this might not have overtly affected Republican Jane Corwin’s campaign, it doesn’t help when the previous incumbent from your party is running around like a playboy.
2. Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis split the vote. Looking at the current tallies, Democrat Kathy Hochul has a lead of roughly 4,700 votes over Republican Jane Corwin. The wild card, Jack Davis, tallied nearly 9,500 votes. These votes, which it is pretty safe to assume came from the center right – right end of the political spectrum, would have easily put Jane Corwin over the top and changed the outcome of this race.
3. People don’t like closed-door candidates. In New York, the Republican Party chooses candidates for special elections behind closed doors. This, in turn, leads to people being skeptical about the person being chosen. This drives voters away and, more importantly, alienates non-traditional Republicans, like people who classify themselves as Tea Party members, by not giving them a choice in the process.
4. Jane Corwin’s campaign was poorly run. She was taken to task by her Democrat counterpart. Her campaign was not built on public policy but on rhetoric. She ran a very conservative campaign and ended up being complacent believing that voter registration was enough for her to carry the day.
These are the four reasons that Democrat Kath Hochul won the special election in NY 26. While this might be a minor setback, it is not a referendum on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan or the GOP as a whole.
Instead, what this should teach us is – If Republicans and the Tea Party don’t get along, especially if the Tea Party is left out in the cold during the selection process, we will end up splitting the vote and the party of big government will be the one who gains.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)