Democrat Kathy Hochul has upset Republican Jane Corwin in a special three-way House election in New York that became a referendum on the GOP budget plan that revamps Medicare.
The Associated Press called the race after 71 percent of the vote was counted, with Hochul taking 48 percent to Corwin’s 42 percent. Independent candidate Jack Davis took 8 percent, running on a self-proclaimed tea party line.
The race to replace former GOP Rep. Chris Lee—who resigned in February after a gossip site reported the married congressman had replied to a Craigslist personal ad—wasn’t supposed to be a high-cost, national attention affair. But that changed when Hochul seized on the controversial changes to Medicare in Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., budget and made it the centerpiece of her campaign.
Hochul ran the first ad of the cycle, knocking her GOP opponent for her support of the plan, and pressed the issue at debates and talked up the changes at every stop on the campaign trail. Corwin argued that the plan was aimed at preserving the system and noted it wouldn’t touch voters older than 55, but the damage was already done. Corwin herself admitted on Monday that she should have responded sooner. Instead, she made the economy and cutting the deficit the focal point of her campaign, sticking to a strategy that worked for Republicans in last year’s midterms but overlooking the new injection of Medicare into the race.
Republicans have pointed to the presence of Davis as the reason for an artificially close race, saying the two-time Democratic nominee for the seat was taking GOP votes from Corwin. But the final Siena survey of the race showed that while Davis’s numbers had plummeted in the past month, those voters weren’t moving uniformly to the Corwin camp, and instead he was still drawing votes from both parties. A wealthy manufacturer who put $2.6 million of his fortune into his campaign, Davis had interviewed for the Republican nomination that went to Corwin. Instead, Davis petitioned onto the ballot as an independent and created his own tea party line. That moniker upset both local and national tea party groups, who called him a fraud.
As the race tightened and both parties hoped—or worried—that the campaign was becoming a referendum on Medicare, outside groups began pouring money into the already high-spending contest that saturated the local airwaves.
The conservative American Crossroads spent almost $700,000 to hit Davis first, then Hochul. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $400,000 to boost Corwin, who had already put more than $2.7 million of her own money in her campaign coffers. Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks both endorsed and worked on behalf of Corwin, hoping to knock down Davis.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $266,000 to knock both Corwin and Davis, while the newly formed House Majority PAC, a liberal counter to Crossroads, spent $371,000 to hammer Corwin over the Ryan budget.
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