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. OneMoreTime

    "Jane Corwin has 100% embraced the Paul Ryan budget". Oops.

    May 24, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  2. LCSWquilter

    Can you imagine how much more money the Republicans are going to put into attack ads against Democratic candidates in upcoming elections? If they can't win fairly, they will try something underhanded. Guaranteed. Heaven help us!

    May 24, 2011 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Looks like the Ryan Plan is the Republicans waterloo. All they got to do yet is let the US default on our debt and they will be toast. The Rich got their tax break, where are the JOBS! They have brought up zero job bills in the house, not one. If the President is for something they are against it. They do nothing but complain and have no ideas but tax breaks for the rich and cut programs the American people need and deserve. The day of reckoning is here.

    May 24, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  4. Seattle Sue


    May 24, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  5. DJ

    WOW! Finally some voters with intelligence. Way to go, District 26! Now if the rest of the nation will just follow your lead.

    May 24, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  6. BrianInMesa

    Get ready – I think it just the tip of the iceberg that the GOP (Titanic) is sailing into.

    May 24, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  7. george

    This is a big win for the middle class and people in need. For too long, I simply don't understand why people making less than 50,000 a year will ever vote republican.

    May 24, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    If republicans try this kind of power grab and "social engineering game" with only one house of congress, IMAGINE HOW MUCH THEY WOULD DESTROY IF THEY EVER AGAIN GET HOUSE AND SENATE AND (GOD FORBID) THE PRESIDENCY. We would be controlled by a board of directors appointed by the republicans.

    Fascism comes in wearing a flag and carrying a cross. Don't ever forget.

    May 24, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  9. Jake

    This is what the GOP gets for its egregious overstepping with Ryan's plan.

    May 24, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  10. lolz

    hahaha foxnews won't even make this a story lolz

    May 24, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  11. krippendorf

    The media, prompted by the GOP, has tried to paint Ryan as some kind of brilliant hero. His plan doesn't make a dent in the budget, it just shifts money from the hands of poor seniors into the hands of high-earners and the insurance industry. If the GOP really wanted to cut the deficit, it would push to eliminate Bush-era tax cuts and two wars, which account for the two largest chunks of the projected deficit (with lost revenue from the economic downturn accounting for another quarter). Turns out NY-26 voters are smarter than 99% of Beltway journalists.

    May 24, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  12. Kevin

    Ut oh. It appears nobody wants their Medicare changed out for corporate tax favors.

    May 24, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  13. Paul NYC

    The Republican Medicare "plan" is simply a gift to the insurance industry and nothing more. I don't know how the GOP thought that it would be a winning message.

    May 24, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  14. NobodySpecial

    And the downfall of the Tea Party begins . . . .

    May 24, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  15. Patrick from Minnesota

    First of many come next year!

    May 24, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  16. Marla

    Let us hope that this is just the beginning!
    Vote Democrat in 2012! Let's give our president a super-majority in both houses so that he can really accomplish his goals in his second term.

    May 24, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  17. dave

    Oh man. People found out what the republicans were all about, and they are not having it.

    May 24, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  18. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    Hurray! This is great news for us Democrats, bad news for the Repubs. I'm glad that I contributed to Hochul's campaign, even though I live in Colorado. The Repubs are finding out that their policies are not so popular after all. My husband and I are now Medicare recipients, and we will do all that we can to assure the continuation of that wonderful program.

    May 24, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  19. john in cal

    Looks like Americans are beginning to come to their senses and see the real agenda of the Republican party-break the middle class.

    May 24, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  20. D Grant

    The house of LIES are falling down. Goodbye to THIS republican party!

    May 24, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  21. teabagged

    The victory of a Democrat in New York's District 26 is a loud and clear message to the Republicans. The American people have been pushed too hard be the wealthy that the republicans represent. Now the American people are going to push back; and we shall see who wins.

    May 24, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  22. socal frank

    An election that couldn't be bought by the Koch Brothers. Go figure. Maybe there's still hope for this country.

    May 24, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  23. Joe

    good job in NYC!!!! congrats goes back to Dems!! just wait and see when they will take over the Senet and the house again come 2012!!

    May 24, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  24. Annette Holliday

    Whoa!!! I am too happy...

    May 24, 2011 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    I would not consider a 3 person race a proxy battle for the medicare reform plan. Funny how CNN left out the 3rd candidate part.

    May 24, 2011 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
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