New York 26th District
The destination of the Erie Canal, the great state engineering project that made New York the Empire State, is Lake Erie. The final 100 miles of the canal passed through the rolling countryside of western New York when it was scarcely settled, except by American Indians. In some ways, the region has a Midwest flavor. People speak not in the pungent accents of New York City but in flat Midwestern tones. The economy, based originally on farming, was dominated by heavy industry by the late 19th century. The land was settled mostly by New England Yankees, with cultural folkways quite different from those of New York City. Later, they were joined by Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants who came to work in the factories of Buffalo and Rochester. For most of its history, western New York had an economy more prosperous than that of the rest of the country, as you can still see in the solid houses and schools, stores, and factories built to weather the upstate winters. But in the past three decades, economic growth has lagged behind the rest of the nation. Many of Buffalo’s factories have closed, and the large Delphi plant in Lockport—where the locks of the Erie Canal are near Main Street—had major cutbacks following the company’s bankruptcy in 2005. Rochester’s premier industries, Eastman Kodak and Xerox, have fallen on hard times and laid off thousands of workers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 26th Congressional District of New York covers much of western New York. About half its people are in the suburbs of Buffalo in Erie and Niagara counties. It extends from the city limits of Buffalo to the city limits of Rochester and includes Rochester’s northwestern suburbs. In between is rural and small-town territory. One of them is Attica, scene of a terrible prison uprising in 1970. Politically, this is ancestrally Republican country, based on upstaters’ general distrust of Democratic New York City. But as economic growth has lagged, upstate New York has trended toward the Democratic Party. The 26th District still leans Republican, however. It was one of six New York districts that voted for Republican George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and it was one of four New York districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee John McCain in 2008.