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. Mindie in Indie

    So there you go. People have had enough of this Tea Party, GOP nonsense. It's very clear now that the Republicans are only in it to help big business and the wealthy. The Republicans have asked struggling Americans to make sacrifices in order to get this country back on it's feet and we all have, but all the while trying to slide in more tax cuts for the rich and corporate – this is a redistribution of wealth. The GOP counted wrong when they figured America would reject Democrats over Republicans because of the media and their constant flaming – the struggling American is smarter than that.

    May 25, 2011 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  2. ChiTownArkie

    The GOP cannot figure out that the American public is on to them. They believe that the majority of the country is too stupid to realize that the Ryan plan is not an attempt to "fix" Medicare but instead will in fact kill it deader than a door nail. What I truly don't get is that the GOP have family. Children if not even grandchildren. Cousins, aunts, uncles etc that won't be getting the golden health care plan for eternity that the members of Congress get. They are screwing their own families for the betterment of those who are already richer than 99% of us along with large corporations. It's hard for me to believe that even those that hate Obama and his policies will promote and vote for these a-holes that are patting them on the back while looking for the soft spot to stick the knife in.

    May 25, 2011 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  3. Kenny

    "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued the presence of a third party candidate was a factor in the race."
    So what else is new? Does this guy not realize that the presence of a BULL around a cow that is ready to mate will likely result in the birth of a calf? Republicans simply do not get the message. I listened as Rep. Paul Ryan claimed that the attempt to change Medicare into a Premiun Assistance Plan is the will of the "Majority". He said the Polls that indicated 80% of Americans do not want Medicare to be done away with are wrong and that the Majority of Americans want this Premium Assistance Program (Voucher Plan) Republicans voted on in the House. Republicans just don't get it. They didn't get the message either but they will in a few months. 1 down and 24 to go..

    May 25, 2011 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  4. Mindie in Indie

    '.....weighing heavily on the minds of western New York voters ....."

    It appears that Western New Yorkers minds' have been made up.

    May 25, 2011 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  5. Charles W. Skinner

    Of COURSE the Democrat is going to say "This is about Medicare and Paul Ryan's attempt to end it." It's Scare Tactics 101. This race means ABSOLUTELY nothing in terms of political punditry. Getting the people in Rural Western New York to show up for ANY election is tough. Getting them to show up for a "special" election outside of even the normal times is almost impossible. I'm willing to bet the turnout was abysmal. Throw in the fact that there was a DARK HORSE LIBERAL running under the false-flag of the TEA Party, and that's the margin of victory (had this been a clean match-up, without the false TEA Party DEMOCRAT, it's likely that Corwin would have actually WON).

    May 25, 2011 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  6. Joel

    republicans are out of touch... republicans are self absorbed in their own out dated, twisted idiology that is only concerned with power & control...its an arrogance... after years of misleading Americans on shallow policy... its all coming around!

    May 25, 2011 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  7. Jess C

    Fantastic.....a sign of things to come!

    May 25, 2011 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  8. Texas Doc

    This is just the beginning. America is hip to the fact that the GOP is a party of losers and awful ideas. Ryan's budget is just the tiop of the iceberg. Wow 7 months and every body hates you again. Great job! You have the Tea PArty to thank for your current popularity. Long may they continue to help y'all

    May 25, 2011 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  9. Leon Long

    See, Republicans. When you spend all of 2010 promising to "focus on jobs in 2011", then spend all your time on abortion and Medicare, you lose in a disrict that you've held for 40 years. The head of the RNC says Obama will negetively affect Hochul in 2012... You mean as negetively as Bohner, and Cantor, affected Corwyn in 2011?

    May 25, 2011 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  10. Parker

    "Corwin ran a strong campaign in spite of facing a Democrat and a Democrat posed as a Tea Party candidate"

    What's the point of painting the Tea Party candidate as being essentially a Democrat? Wouldn't that weaken your stance that the result wasn't a mandate since that would gives the Dems far more votes?

    May 25, 2011 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  11. Patty

    YIPPI!! We need 24 demo seats to kick out repugs!!!

    May 25, 2011 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  12. Jeff

    So, the Repuclicans want to kill Medicaire at the time when the Baby Boomers, this HUGE demographic, are about to collect on all the years that they have paid in on the system. Hmmm. Yeah, Right. Any questions? You guys are toast. Game.Set.Match.

    May 25, 2011 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  13. I was fooled by Republican's in 2010 , I will never vote for the lying weasels again !

    Finally people are waking up to the lies that we were fed by the republicans last election ! I expect this trend to continue because they have proven to be the same old greedy pigs that they were prior to 2008 ! The Democrats are getting my vote from now on !

    May 25, 2011 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  14. Anonymous

    I think it is great that the Democrats have managed to lie through their teeth to the American people on the state of Medicare and that the American people are buying their lies. Now when the Medicare system goes broke then we all know who to blame the American people for being so incredibly stupid. They will still manage with he help of the LIBERAL media to blame the GOP the ones that were honest and tried to fix it.

    May 25, 2011 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  15. nacilbuper

    congratulations representative, hochul. well played!

    May 25, 2011 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  16. David

    Does this mean that ms Houchul is going strait to the House of Rep.'s and submit a bill to restore the huge billions of dollars cut that Obama and her democrat cohorts cut from Medicaid? Did she ever rail against that during her election campaign? .....Didn't think so.

    May 25, 2011 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  17. Jack

    When will the republicans get real and start drafting legislation to help citizens that make less than a million dollars a year. They are so unabashedly anti- American. They were as a party against Social Security and voted against it in the 30's when the Roosevelt and Democrats introduced it and passed it in 1933. They were against MediCare and Civil Rights legislation during the Johnson administration 1964-68 and now the onslaught to dismantle Medicare again through the madness of Paul Ryan and his cronies. Anything for regular people they are against...unless it's controlling a woman's choice to give birth or not, or as Eric Cantor insisted; before emergency help for citizens in need because of acts of God and nature, offsets to be able to provide assistance, insisting that the oil companies need subsidies in the light of all-time billion dollar quarterly records revenue. Yeah they are all about America...if you're white and rich. (or want to be white and rich) What a sad state of affairs. No wonder they can't find a leader. They are lost and misguided as well as hatefull and anti-American willing to bring down the country to show up the President.

    May 25, 2011 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  18. Bito

    Its about time people start waking up and realize that the repubicans are not for the people, they are for the wealthy and their political ambitions, I cant beleive there are still people that vote the party line, instead of the real issues.

    May 25, 2011 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  19. Nan Yang

    "While a top Republican warned trying to "predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky."
    Oh, like Scott Brown?

    May 25, 2011 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  20. Daniel-Mississippi

    First win of the 2012 election season. Third rail politics. You can't break contract with the American people even if there are some who would pull up the ladder behind them and even adversely affect their own children.

    May 25, 2011 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  21. majestic

    and that's how it's done, Republicans! You present radical changes that affect the John Doe's of this country and you WILL pay the price! This is one seat RED seat that has turned BLUE. !!!!! Obama in 2012 !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 25, 2011 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  22. sickofitinca

    I find it interesting that they give the percentage of the winner and not the other democrat(posing as a tea party member) and the republican. It is pretty much as what propelled Clinton to the Presidency; Ross Perot was in the race and took votes from George H.W. Bush. Had Ross stayed at home, Bush would have won. Wasserman-Shultz is so far to the Progressive left, she makes Lenin look like a choir boy.

    May 25, 2011 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  23. Discernment

    1 DOWN – – 24 MORE TO GO

    Prior to Kathy Hochul's win in district NY-26, the Democrats needed to win 25 Congressional seats to regain the House.

    With Hochuls win, the Democrats have only 24 more seats to go.

    Those 24 seats will be easy because the Democrats are showing leadership, like saving the American auto industry and related jobs; as the Republicans find more ways to rob the middle-class so they can hand it over to the oil companies and the rich.

    May 25, 2011 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  24. K3Citizen

    Ouch.. that had to hurt someone's pride. Both Boehner and Cantor personally went to generate votes but failed to do that job. They also blamed the tea party for splitting the vote, well duh! What do you think is going on inside the republican party itself? From the very beginning, the tea party poisoned the minds of the naive and now those lies are coming back to haunt them. Unless Obama changes parties, no republican can defeat him.

    May 25, 2011 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  25. G Rankin

    The Tea Party split the vote for the Republicans, which will no doubt happen again and again. Thank you, TP'ers... you're the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since GWB.

    May 25, 2011 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
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