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. DanteX


    The Conservatives attempted to "buy" this Congressional Seat will millions of dollars from outside special interests groups and thankfully the Voters of New York's 26th Congressional District did NOT fall for the lies of the Republican Party.

    May 25, 2011 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  2. Mike

    Great comedy Sessions! A Democrat posing as a Tea Bagger?! You should write for Leno!

    May 25, 2011 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  3. CTEd

    When Scott Brown won in Democratic Mass... it was a referendum on the Health Care bill... and we should "heed the voters" who clearly were sending a message. Now that the shoe is on the other foot. republicans are saying it's no big deal, there is no message from the voters on the Ryan budget....... hypocrites.

    May 25, 2011 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  4. tigerakabj

    Democrats this is the message for 2012: Vote Medicare, win everywhere!

    This was a strong-GOP seat (won by Chris Lee by 17 points last November) that now a Democrat won by 6 points. The GOP didn't just overreach, they jumped off the cliff with a 2 ton anvil Wile E. Coyote style. This is what spending too long in the Fox Noise bubble gets you - a party that believes their own lies and has finally jumped the shark (as if the Bush years weren't enough) with the American people.

    "The GOP just voted to abolish Medicare and Medicaid while transferring that money to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Any questions?" I suggest the Democrats use this Hochu's perfect line over and over through next year if they want the House back and a 60-seat majority in the House.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 25, 2011 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  5. Isidore Tamo

    The voters have made their point: do not kill Medicare. Unfortunately, the republicans are not listening. Let's vote them all out of office this year.

    May 25, 2011 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  6. gary davis

    thsi will be the begining of the end of the republicans Obama 2012 . and then Michele Obama & Dr. Jill Biden 2016 and beyond

    May 25, 2011 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  7. Brian

    I'm happy for the voters in that area, It's not how I would have wanted the race to end up (I'm a "re-thug now I guess) But I don't believe that the outcome of this has the pulse of America. I wish the best for the new congresswoman, she's going into a room with some vicious people. I only hope that she doesn't buy into special interest groups and thay sort. Too often we see people who really do want what's best for American, and they lose that sight to the prospect of money. In closing I'd just like to say "HERMAN CAIN 2012!!!" WOO! 🙂

    May 25, 2011 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  8. Big Al

    I'm a 68 years old New Yorker. I can't live without Medicare and Social Security. I would vote to protect Medicare.

    May 25, 2011 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  9. keylargo

    GOP, will cry this doesn't mean anything, while secretly re-tooling their platforms. Paul Ryan has now replaced OBL as the biggest villain!

    May 25, 2011 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  10. Bluemax

    What the RNC Chairperson (Priebus) is really saying is that the Tea Party is no longer recognized as GOP members and are a bunch of election night spoilers.

    May 25, 2011 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  11. chris

    A lot of money was spent on this special election, especially by the Republican candidate and her backers. Congratulations Kathy Hochul.

    May 25, 2011 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  12. jdoe

    Don't let a for-profit enterprise decide whether you should get health care or not, especially when their profit depends on you NOT getting health care. Too many documented cases of people who have bought insurance and have been denied care on some technicality, or have their coverage dropped after they get sick. This can happen to anyone, even those who play by the rule and are supposed to be covered.

    May 25, 2011 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  13. cliff

    "Failed Economic policies"? Um, that's why the Tarp fund earned back every dime and made about 40 billion? That's why we are gaining jobs at a faster rate than any time since 2003? Sorry, those tired old arguments failed in NY this election, Hogul will keep her seat fine. Why? Because the Paul Ryan plan will STILL be on the table in 2012. LOL That and Paul Ryan are the best things to ever happen to the Democrats. He didn't just stir up a hornets nest, he beat on it with a big stick. LOL.. And did this Repub in NY honestly think she was trying to save Medicare????? Paul Ryans plan specifically states that Medicare is to be eliminated ten years after his voucher implementation. I READ his Republicans are going to lose huge!

    May 25, 2011 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  14. cliff

    And I meant Hochul. My Apologies Kathy.

    May 25, 2011 04:18 am at 4:18 am |
  15. BD70

    Republicans can say what they want in defense of losing a seat that has been theirs for so long. Bottom line is...take heed and leave medicare alone.

    May 25, 2011 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  16. Chris

    So when Brown won his seat in a special election, the Republicans were all crowing about how it was a referendum on Health Care Refom and a mandate from the American people and a complete rejection of the Democrats' agenda. So the Democrats should just shut up and sit down from now on and do whatever the GOP tells them to do.

    Now that the situation is reveresed do the Republicans accept that the election was a referendum on Medicare reform and a mandate from the American people and a complete rejection of the Republicans' agenda. So the GOP should just shut up and sit down from now on and do whatever the Dems tells them to do?

    May 25, 2011 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  17. GOP RIP

    You time is up GOP. "Let them eat cake!" failed before and it's failing again. Hopefully with the same results.

    May 25, 2011 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  18. Havildar

    Excellent Win for Democrats with message for 2012.

    May 25, 2011 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  19. irene

    I can't wait for 2012 when America fights back after being deceived by the GOP in 2010. This is just a sample of what is in store in 18 months when Obama wins his second term handily and the Dems take back the House.

    May 25, 2011 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  20. Not Republican and Never Will Be

    Newt Gingrich was right – radical right-wing social engineering isn't what the people want.

    May 25, 2011 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  21. TEE

    Teapublicans, their blind ambition will be their waterloo !

    May 25, 2011 05:46 am at 5:46 am |

    Wingnuts want to ignore the Medicare anvil on their heads. Delusional thinking put them in this position, out of touch with America and deperate for a 2012 nominee.

    May 25, 2011 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  23. Marie MD

    Yes, thank you mitchell, grandma, and others, were empowered and voted your girl out of the reddest district ever in NY.
    How's that medicary/medicaidy thingy workin' for ya? Constipated man cantor wants to make sure his rich friends continue to get more money while the "empowered grandma" dies a slow death with no medical insurance. Way to go!!
    To add insulta to injury the tea bagger got in the way of possible party of hell no votes.
    The same thing is gonig to happen to brown in MA. He was going to vote for the ruan "empowering" mess until he realized that he should have said no. Flip/flop/flip/flop. 🙂

    May 25, 2011 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  24. HPNIII

    Glad to see the American people are waking up to the Trojan Horse for the rich republican party.

    May 25, 2011 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  25. lgny

    The Ryan Medicare plan is badly flawed, yet the Republicans blindly pushed it ahead instead of correcting it.

    The "voucher" system is controversial and has important implications for how future elderly pay for health care, but the Ryan plan significantly under-funds the vouchers thereby assuring that they cover progressively less each year. By 20 – 40 years from now, Medicare would be irrelevant. That's what they call "saving" Medicare.

    May 25, 2011 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
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