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. Cliff Vegas

    I think that Pete Sessions and the rest of the GOP leadership are being rather "naive and risky" in their public statements about this Democratic win. Their rationalizations do not hide the surprise and worry that GOP party members must have as they very deliberately and earnestly ponder the deeper implications. I anticipate a course change.

    May 25, 2011 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  2. ndbltwy

    Tax cuts for millionaires, medicare cuts for seniors, only the GOP could beleive thats what the voters voted for in 2010.

    May 25, 2011 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  3. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on America!

    Gotta love the delusional GOBPbaggers trying to justify what is sure to be just the first in a long, long list of losses. For instance, claiming it is "risky" to read too much into the results is projection on the part of the Greedy Old Pigs. More than 70% of the nation oppose their attempt to destroy Medicare. What is risky is for those extreme rightwing cultists in the party to ignore this fact; Second, notice how the whiners like Sessions want to blame the other candidates running. Yet look at the numbers and Hochul had 49%. With the Green Party candidate out she's up to 50%. With Davis out it's pretty certain Hochul would have picked up one extra vote to put her over the top. Of course, the GOBPbaggers and teatards never were good with math.

    May 25, 2011 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  4. TomInRochNY

    It was an ugly race. I'm just glad it's over. Too bad it'll repeat itself, only bigger, in a few months.

    May 25, 2011 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  5. Criticalthinker

    So the Republicans are saying the Brown MA win was a referendum on the ACA, yet at same time the Republicans are saying the Hochul win was not a referendum on Medicare?

    May 25, 2011 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  6. jill

    Too bad the elderly didnt think the GOP were evil when they wanted to cut medcaid for the low wage earners now when it affects them they show concern be ashamed grandma and grandpa

    May 25, 2011 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  7. clarke

    Good job Kathy and Good luck to you.

    May 25, 2011 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  8. Tom Clay

    Yes, We Can...!

    May 25, 2011 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  9. John in Colorado

    The Paul Ryan plan to privatize Medicare and to turn over billions to the Health Insurance companies will be an absolute disaster for the GOP in the 2012 election. Not only will their Party's presidential nominee, be defeated, helped to defeat by Sarah Palin (who will either strong arm herself to the GOP nomination or will bolt the Party and run as a Tea Party candidate splitting the Conservative vote as in this congressional race) but they will lose control of the house and suffer losses in the Senate as well. They will deserve the "thumping" they will get. Their notion to solve the country's fiscal problems on the backs of Seniors, the middle and working class is so blatant and obvious, they have overreached and gotten caught.

    May 25, 2011 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  10. DA

    Hummm interesting Pete Sessions contends this does not have a National impact, however prior to the mid-term of last year, in some of the various special elections that were going on through out the country, the GOP were touting those victories as major impact for the mid-term. Now, mind you those sentiments did pan out in a major readjustment in the House, so to say that this will not be the same for the Democrats come next year might be a little naïve or just plan dumb!!

    May 25, 2011 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  11. The Other Truth

    Clear as crystal, people are sick of robbing from the poor and giving to the rich!

    May 25, 2011 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  12. CHUCK

    Even after losing the special the GOP is still in denial. House Chairman Paul Ryan's budget is going to cost the GOP dearly in 2012. Maybe if Chairman Ryan and some of the GOP House members were facing the prospect of losing their health benefits then maybe they would a little rational.

    May 25, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  13. Davilion

    Republicans and Paul Ryan budget plan efforts to go after Medicare,Medicaid,food programs,and social services in a politically expedient way will create more problems for them in the up – coming election in 2012.

    May 25, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  14. danielson

    Odd that Pete Sessions would openly present a conundrum–If the Tea Party candidate was a Democrat-in-sheep's-clothing, shouldn't that mean Democratic votes would be split even further in the red district? This should have been a walk for the Republican...and Sessions logic actually supports, rather than refutes, this fact.

    May 25, 2011 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  15. Paul

    Thank God and the civilized people for this victory.

    May 25, 2011 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  16. John

    Maybe The Republican will Listen to what the American People are saying and wants. Not what John Boehner say what the 2% of what the people want that he keep taking about. Because every time he say he doing what the American people want, he been full of Crap. But the Republican Party and the nut cases call TEA PARTY don't listen really what the American people wants. It all about them self and not the American people. Better wise up ,because your time Is running out.

    May 25, 2011 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  17. mcjeffster

    Yabba Dabba Doo !

    May 25, 2011 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  18. Henry

    I have the feeling that people are finally seeing that they must vote for their own interests. Putting these Republican zealots into office in 2011 just showed what can happen. These people are driven by ideology. They are the extreme of the extreme masquerading as fiscal conservatives. Gay rights, defunding of schools, defunding of Planned Parenthood, defunding of health care, cutting Medicare, cutting Medicaid, unlimited guns. If you think you are excempt from these trolls, think again. They will come for you at some time; they surely will. The thing they all have in common is that they call themselves "Christians". I don't know Jesus but I think he would be shocked at how his "followers" act.

    Time to correct our 2010 mistake.

    May 25, 2011 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  19. Freedom 2012

    GOP 2012! The democrats failed policies are bad for America!

    May 25, 2011 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  20. smc

    We need to vote OUT all of these House Republicans who voted to end Medicare to pay for another 10% tax cut for the wealthiest.

    May 25, 2011 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  21. SilverHair

    Actually, too many republicans are listening to Fox news to form their political views.

    May 25, 2011 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  22. Mike

    Clearly this is not a proxy vote for medicare since there was a tea party candidate that got 9% of the vote. This article is completely misleading.

    May 25, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  23. diridi

    When you talk about Healthcare, Medicare cuts, Social Security cuts of Paul Ryan's idiotic plan supported by Eric Cantor another idiot, you the net result like this....GOP thugs, you know now....Good luck....Obama2012!!!!
    Energy, Energy, and Energy....Manufacturing, Manufacturing, Manufacturing...Strict Immigration, and focus on Education, Education, and Education.....Nation, you wake up....

    May 25, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  24. LCSWquilter

    Republicans are trying their old tactic of creating a narrative for naive voters to believe, but it's not working this time. People don't want vouchers to replace Medicare, no matter what the Republicans say.

    May 25, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  25. JJP

    This is so ironic. Just yesterday i was thinking the same thing. I have been and always have been a republican but with the new Ryan plan I was getting more irritated and saying to my self that I would leave the reb party if this contiues. Wake up!!! I am so sick of the tea party and right wing republicans.

    May 25, 2011 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
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