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. Christopher

    You promised JOBS JOBS JOB! and instead went after planned parenthood, NPR and gay marriage. You voted to keep 20,000,000,000(billion!) dollars in tax breaks to the oil companies while we pay 5 dollars for a gallon of gas and offset those tax breaks by trying to do away with Medicare. Just because you can go on Fox and lie doesn't mean that the rest of the country doesn't know it.

    May 25, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  2. The Unsub

    a sign of things to come?

    May 25, 2011 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. powlenn@yahoo

    Even far right-winged nut case seem to agree we all need health-care!

    May 25, 2011 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. RAMBLE3144

    CNN is happy.

    May 25, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  5. Gordon Bingham

    Welcome to the Canadian electorate system, where a fringe party takes the vote away and allows a minority Government representation.

    May 25, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  6. Republican Robber Baron

    How's that Ryan coupon plan working-out for you GOP? Ryan said it is about "leadership" and not paying attention to public opinion. Good luck with that.

    May 25, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  7. NRA Dem

    Could this be something we could see in the next elections?...Maybe some republicans need to slow their roles and rethink their ideas.

    May 25, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Not fooled

    Congratulations to Kathy Hochul and to all who voted for her. Stand strong for Medicare. Do not waver.

    May 25, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  9. Lenny Pincus

    You mean the vast majority of Americans thinks the Republican Plan to voucherize Medicare is ridiculous? Even redder than red congressional districts? How odd.

    May 25, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  10. GOP = Greed Over People

    NY-26 has not had but 3 Dems since 1800's until tonight.

    I think the GOP has found a rallying cry for 2012, "Join us in destroying Medicare for those 54 and younger"!

    And Cantor want this Paul clown to run for President?

    I am available for working as political stratigist for the GOP, while I do not like any of you, I would certainly not give you advice obviously meant to send the party over a cliff in 2012!

    But wait, you do have those lemmings named tea baggers who will willing lead the GOP over that cliff for "purification" purposes, so I may have to reconsider my offer, you guys may be a lost cause.

    May 25, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  11. Papasan

    Every Republican member of Congress signed on the dotted line, drank the kool-aid and voted for the Ryan budget plan. May everyone of them have a restless, tossing and turning, sleep-deprived night they so richly deserve.

    May 25, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  12. Monzell

    I knew demand would win I'm 54 don't let them steal what I paid for. its not right. cut Ur health care u don't need it reb

    May 25, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  13. jimmy kyriakoutsakos

    The republican tide is turning again. I believe it is a sign of things to come...more democratic gains next election in 2012 and another step closer to obamas reelection. Thank god!

    May 25, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  14. miraj


    May 25, 2011 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  15. Stan

    We need to send all these arrogant Republicans packing.

    May 25, 2011 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  16. Peter Q Wolfe

    It is my honest conviction that we need to care for the less fortunant in our society.This includes the elderly on medicare just reforms are needed in the system like SS reform to have mean testing on all programs and to stop fraud from occurin in the system. We needto lift the age of retirement to life expectency and to cut military spending to 40% or so. We need to raise taxes on te ultra wealthy like my x-brother-in-law who don't pay taxes in their construction jobs and for them hiring illegal or suspected illegal aliens at thier jobs. We also need to have more competition along state lines, reduce law suits tort reform, inport more medical doctors, inport more pharmecedicals, more preventive halth care for younger americans, prioritize health care to mainly nurses and to have much more nonprofit volunteering to happen in th community. This is a huge task but the Baby Boomers will die out and this twenty or so years clump will be over with soon. We as a fina note need to control costs in the systme as listed above for a sustainable systm in the U.S for the elderly and as a future middle class tax payer that is an America that I believe in.

    May 25, 2011 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  17. joseph bartley

    Enough is enough ! finally a push back for radical repbulican ideas of privatezation of medicare ! a line has been drawn in the sand ! were not taking any more of your useless ideas ! next stop stop oil subsidies and tax credit for big oil and gas !

    May 25, 2011 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  18. Monzell

    Great dems will take all 3 chambers in 2012 then we can fix all the broken policy by the gop thank the real god not the one gop said was taken the world on 21st

    May 25, 2011 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  19. Adam

    We all know the deficit is a problem and needs to be addressed, but you can't go around demanding sacrifices from the middle and working class' while at the same time giving even more breaks to the people that have everything and then expect that there won't be any push back. Glad to see the people of NY-26 aren't buying this reverse Robin Hood economics (stealing from the poor to give to the rich).

    May 25, 2011 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  20. jay

    Its nice to see that voters have coomon sense. But the actual implications of this are rather minimal. The true bell weather will be this fall as the country lines up for the primaries and the real fundraising begins.

    May 25, 2011 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  21. j denton

    congrats congresswoman Hocul

    May 25, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  22. Mavent

    Utter repudiation of the Ryan Plan by every single Republican Presidential Candidate in 5... 4... 3... 2...

    May 25, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  23. Darth Vadik, CA

    awwww, poor Republicans...

    ...5 months in power and already losing seats...

    Talk about a HUGE buyers remorse, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    May 25, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  24. Peter T

    While I welcome the defeat of the tax-cutting Ryan plan, the consequence could be that nothing will be done on Medicare, because each party who tries looses.

    May 25, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  25. Sue

    Even Obama supporters should be able to figure out...........if the Tea Party candidate was not in the race, the Republican would have won!!

    May 25, 2011 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
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