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. Mark S.

    Shape of things to come, baggers and Repugs. Get used to it. Paul Ryan is going to turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving to the Left. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Sorry. A little gloating is called for.

    May 24, 2011 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  2. Hershell Littlejohn

    I'm a progressive, but when Congressmen and Women start messing with social programs they are doomed rather Democrat or Republican. We work our whole lives for those benefits and the government takes it out our checks. Leave it alone.

    May 24, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  3. okey md

    good news to democrats.whatch out republicant you all are going down come 2012

    May 24, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  4. Steve in Denver

    In the words of the former occupant in regards to November, 2012, BRING IT ON!

    May 24, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  5. david stodden

    When will the republicons get a clue?

    May 24, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  6. Lillian

    Way to go Democrats :)! You make me smile! Glad I make a monthly donation!

    May 24, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  7. Iowa Chris

    Yes we can!

    May 24, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. John/kc

    Just goes to show you that there are many republicans that don't want to see Medicare eliminated. This is a sign of things to come. All the republicans that voted for the Ryan plan to eliminate Medicare are lame ducks. I for one will not forget the vote to kill Medicare while giving millionaires, oil companies and big business countless tax cuts while putting it to the average working stiff just getting by. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, this means you.

    May 24, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  9. coloradoDem

    Its just starting repugs bbbbaaaaaahhhhaaaaaaa

    May 24, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  10. Damien

    I guess the GOP ads that said "Corwin – she looks better topless than Chris Lee" didn't work.

    May 24, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  11. ABM

    As a registered Republican I am very happy to see this vote. It is a message that the GOP agenda is not geared toward the people and this will be a message that they must re-focus on helping working class people instead of sticking it to us in favor of the rich and corporations.

    Congrats Kathy Hochul! Please do not mess up or wimper to the stonewall obstructionists.

    May 24, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  12. Swilliam

    As a former upstate NY resident it is encouraging that people appeared to vote with their own minds and not based on what people told them to do. Hope this begins a trend.

    May 24, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. viguy007

    Keep it simple stupid, defend Medicare and S.S. and the Democrats will not lose. Americans do not like the concept of big government, but in actuality they love it.

    May 24, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  14. Mark

    Had the tea party candidate Jack Davis not run, Jane Corwin (R) would have been the victor.

    May 24, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  15. Thomas

    I feel like Hochul wouldn't have won without the conservative vote being split.

    May 24, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  16. Larry

    Hey Reps, turn out the lights, the party's over.

    May 24, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  17. Get house back in 2012

    Good beginning. Get these rethugs out of office in 2012.

    May 24, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  18. Homie Hogleg

    Even fiscal conservatives,
    like myself, don't think the Ryan plan is a winner. I have spent almost 30 years paying in, and under the Ryan plan I would miss out on something I have paid for.

    May 24, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  19. Mark

    Hochul did not run a particularly efficient pistol permit office in Erie County as it's clerk; though persuing some minor improvements, I expect her record of inefficiencies and failures to follow her to Washington where she'll fit in quite nicely with her Democratic colleagues. I will say though, she's not the only one getting the heck out of NY...

    May 24, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  20. Adnan


    May 24, 2011 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  21. Swilliam

    For once a sensible outcome. I hope this starts a trend.

    May 24, 2011 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  22. fred

    Its easy to see why dems win they have ideas repub only have the race card or country first my misqute

    May 24, 2011 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  23. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    Love it.

    May 24, 2011 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. jimboe

    Good. the republicans commercials were annoying and focused on pelosi who had nothing to do with anything.

    May 24, 2011 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Hands off my government run health care. DO YOU HEAR ME!

    May 24, 2011 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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