Democrat Kathy Hochul wins House seat in New York special election
May 24th, 2011
10:19 PM ET
12 years ago

Democrat Kathy Hochul wins House seat in New York special election

(CNN) - Democrat Kathy Hochul swept to victory Tuesday night in a closely watched Congressional election in New York state, which turned into a proxy battle on a House Republican proposal on Medicare.

The race in New York's 26th Congressional district was to fill the seat of former Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who resigned over pictures and e-mails of him trying to find a date on Craigslist.

The seat had been considered safe for Republicans, who had held the district for more than four decades.

Democrats claimed the victory "had far reaching consequences around the country" over Medicare, while a top Republican warned trying to "predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky."

With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul has 48 percent of the vote, Republican Jane Corwin 42 percent, self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate Jack Davis nine percent, and Green Party candidate Ian Murphy one percent.

The crowd chanted "Medicare, Medicare" during Hochul's victory speech in Buffalo, after the issue became the center of the once-little talked about race.

Hochul and Corwin attacked each other over it, with both campaigns, parties and outside groups flooding the airwaves with television commercials. Many of the ads spotlighted the political battle over House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to drastically cut federal spending by reforming Medicare.

Hochul told supporters in her speech voters "looked beyond party labels ... for a message they believed in."

The Eric County clerk vowed to help balance the budget "the right way, not on backs of our seniors."

During the campaign, she highlighted the national fight, telling CNN before the election, "Corwin has 100% embraced the Paul Ryan budget. Even when Republicans in Washington walk away from it, she's been asked again and again, and she continues to support it."

Corwin called Hochul's message "scare tactics," and had argued, "she's trying to put out the idea that I'm trying to end Medicare. There's nothing further from the truth, I'm working to protect Medicare.

Minutes after the results were announced, both parties sought to paint far different implications of the race.

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, "Tonight's result has far-reaching consequences beyond New York."

Schultz said "it demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical."

She said that she hopes the GOP will listen to voters.

"With this election in the rear-view mirror, it is my hope that Republicans will accept the message being sent by voters in this race, in the polls and at town hall meetings across the country and work with Democrats to get our fiscal house in order while protecting Medicare and other initiatives vital to our economic recovery," she said.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel said, "We served notice to the Republicans that we will fight them anywhere in America when it comes to defending and strengthening Medicare."

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said the race does not have national implications.

"Obviously, each side would rather win a special election than lose," he said. "But to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky. History shows one important fact: the results of competitive special elections from Hawaii to New York are poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes. If special elections were an early warning system, they sure failed to alert the Democrats of the political tsunami that flooded their ranks in 2010."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued the presence of a third party candidate was a factor in the race.

"Corwin ran a strong campaign in spite of facing a Democrat and a Democrat posed as a Tea Party candidate, both of whom sought to distract from the central issues in the minds of voters: restoring our economy and creating jobs," he said in a statement. "If we have learned anything from these results, it is that Democrats will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo in Washington, which is propelling our country towards bankruptcy."

Looking to the race for the seat next fall, Priebus said, "there is no question Kathy Hochul will have a tough time holding onto this seat in 2012 with Barack Obama and his failed economic leadership weighing heavily on the minds of western New York voters when they return to the polls."

Both parties have brought in some of their big guns to stump for their party's candidates.

House Speaker John Boehner and Cantor made recent trips to the district to campaign for Corwin.

For the Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, one of the Senate Democratic leaders, went to the district recently to campaign for Hochul, as did the state's other Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Kate Bolduan and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report

Filed under: House of Representatives • New York • NY-26
soundoff (192 Responses)
  1. Rolan

    How long did the GOP figure they could hammer away at the interest of the common people for the interest of Big Business before a backlash? The fact that low income Republicans have been voting against their interets for the sake of racism(due to the passage of the Civil Rights Amendment) amazes me. Ever since the poor white souitherner has been exploited and taken for granted by the interest of the business lobby in DC and reminded constantly that their "rights" (to discriminate, I guess) has been eroded. Is it morning in America yet?

    May 25, 2011 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  2. elizabeth

    Kathy Hochul you ran a strong campaign to protect medicare. I hope GOP learn their lesson to respect the elderly

    May 25, 2011 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  3. Dennis B.

    Republicans can have no credibility supporting the Ryan Medicare plan unless they can prove that the insurance industry would be ready to insure an 85 year old person with numerous existing medical conditions at a price that this person could afford.

    May 25, 2011 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  4. Geoffrey

    This is a great step. When people realize what we have lost for Republican tax cuts, that 30% of the deficit is compounding interest for those cuts, they will realize that the Republican platform is corrupt and not necessary. People will realize that those tax cuts which we all bare the costs for are so much more beneficial to the rich multi-millionaires than they are to the rest of us they will realize that the Republican party has ripped us off for ten years. 50% of the deficit is the Iraq war, the first in US history that was done with borrowed money and no additional tax subscription.

    May 25, 2011 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  5. walter S. Adams

    Buyers' remorse? In November the GOP was "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs." After a few victory laps, the GOP pulled off the biggest bait and switch ever, making fools of the electorate. Relegislate abortion, defend marriage, protect millionaires, abolish collective bargaining, hand out unfathomable tax breaks to giant oil corporations, dismantle the most popular and necessary entitlement program, and threaten to destroy America's international credit rating, but what has the GOP done for me lately? The special election results in NY should be a warning signal to the GOP that the elctorate did not give Republicans a mandate to destroy the middle class and the economy for the sake of a disproven trickle-down theory and devisive social issues.

    May 25, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  6. American

    Congratulations, Congresswoman Hochul. The correct representative won the election.

    Americans are now seeing Rep. Paul Ryan's disastrous scheme for what it is to privatize Medicare against our seniors. Politicians Huntsman, Romney, Bachmann, et al., who support this nonsense should not be elected to public service for our country.

    May 25, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  7. AEK

    Do you think that now we can encourage the Republican controlled House of Representatives to maybe, just maybe, put their experiments in social engineering aside for a while and get on with the business of putting Americans back to work? You know, like what they said at the time of the last election was the #1 priority! For a party that rails against government on the backs of the people, they have passed more government regulations in the past 18 months than has been passed in the last tens years. Believe what they actually do people, not what they tell you they are going to do! They want government off the backs of their big business sponsors, they could care less about the rest of us.

    May 25, 2011 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  8. All American

    The Emperor is naked and needs new clothes. Such is the plight of the GOP=Government of Powerful. All-Americans believe that a "pay-as-you-go" society is not ethical in a democracy such as ours; especially for seniors on fixed incomes. The people have spoken.

    May 25, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  9. Joe

    This is what happens when you don't listen to the voters. The republicans kept harping about jobs but instead pushed thier hardcore anti abortion and privatising of medi care and giving tax breaks to the rich. They lied to the people and used scare tactics to win the last election now they are running like scared little rabits.

    May 25, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  10. GonzoinHouston

    Lest anyone get too sure of themselves, there were two distinct factors in this race; Medicare and the Tea Party candidate. Maybe the GOP could have won if either of these had not been present, but there was no way to win against both. And THAT is the lesson of this race.

    In 2010 it was the Koch brothers that secretly funded the TP's. In 2012 it could very well be the democrats that fund them.

    May 25, 2011 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  11. twmcn

    If the Republican Candidate had won – Mr. Sessions and the GOP would have said that her victory was a vindication of the Ryan plan to "reform" spending
    Instead, the GOP – who have a "tiger by the tail" are in full spin control
    It is to laugh!

    May 25, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  12. Frank

    The downfall of the radical GOP agenda has begun. Even if the Senate Republicans vote no if they at anytime supported the "Throw momma and grandma off the train" Ryan budget, they will lose in the 2012 election. Much like what they did in 2010 to the Democrat's with the exception of the lies and rhetoric about the HCL. Justice has been done for those that lie to the people of the United States.

    May 25, 2011 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  13. Clwyd

    Republicans are showing the American voter what they have done to their party and what they want to do to America and Americans. We don't want to be your victims after being bought by insurance companies, corporations, big business, big Wall Street and big oil. Ryan and your party are a disgrace and we will turn back the mess you created for 8 years and that you want to return too with Ryan and the nuts on the right! You are animals and the voters will continue to tell you that with their votes!

    May 25, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. ATL Guy

    2012 can't come fast enough. I'm so tired of these Republicans already.

    May 25, 2011 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  15. RLA

    Sorry this is a result of lies that really mean that the Democrats would rather win an election than do the hard work of actually reducing the debt. The country as a nation we know may be something else in a very few years if the electorate does not wake up! Do we want these kind of people running our government?

    May 25, 2011 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    And all the Democrats have to do is take a page from the NRP and run against the Republicans plans and lack of record. Of course, by threatening to get Medicare, the Republicans are going after their most loyal constituents. While it will not be a cake walk for a Democratic sweep, people like Congressmen Boehner, Cantor and Ryan may want to start checking out some of the smaller offices at the Legislative Office building.

    May 25, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  17. SFC Retired

    Forty years as a "RED" district. That shows no implications for a national trend. Go ahead Repug's just keep doing what you are doing and the Dem's will reap the benifits in 2012.

    May 25, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
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