4:20 p.m.: WRGZ Executive Producer Athan Kompos told Hotline On Call that even with Davis's last-minute withdrawal, Thursday morning's debate is still proceeding as scheduled, although the station is contacting both Hochul and Corwin's campaigns to let them know of situation and gauge their interest in continuing in a one-on-one debate.
"As of right now, that's our plan," said Kompos. "We're going forward as though there's a debate tomorrow."
Kompos said the station learned of Davis's withdrawal along with the rest of the media - via a press release sent out around 3:40 p.m. Davis spokesman Curtis Ellis did speak with the station's news director this morning an gave them an idea he may pull out, but Davis's official confirmation to them came through the press release.
The debate will be streamed live on the WRGZ website at 9 a.m. and will air at noon on their broadcast channel.
3:52 p.m.: Davis has announced he's pulling out of Thursday morning's debate on WRGZ-TV in Buffalo. The debate was slated to be streamed online Thursday morning and broadcast later that afternoon throughout the district.
Davis' decision comes as Republican-aligned groups have been piling on him; they believe he is pulling votes away from Corwin and skewing the race in the Democrats' favor. This morning, the Tea Party Express also blasted Davis' candidacy and said they may also wade into the race.
"Jane Corwin and Kathy Hochul are professional politicians. They are lying about me and my record. They lied about their own past history, taking credit for work done by others," Davis said in a statement. "In the real world, any employer would fire both of them for dishonesty. Sadly, their behavior is considered politics as usual. I refuse to accept it."
"My morality and upbringing require me to tell the truth. My opponents have no such loyalty to the truth, " Davis continued. "I will not lend my integrity and my reputation for honesty to a forum with two politicians who will say anything to get elected. After thinking about this long and hard, I have come to a decision that I will not participate in the alleged debates. "
Instead, Davis said he will hold an "electronic town hall" this Saturday, May 21, "where voters can ask me any question they want and get an honest answer.
3:40 p.m. Corwin's latest filing with the FEC today shows House Speaker John Boehner donated $2,000 to her campaign on Tuesday, the day after he traveled to the district to headline a fundraiser. Another notable contribution came from Dan Humiston, a tanning bed company owner who also interviewed for the GOP nomination earlier this year after Rep. Chris Lee (R) resigned. Humiston was the Republican nominee in 2008 against Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins in the neighboring 27th district.
Political action committee contributions included $5,000 from the American Medical Association PAC; $5,000 from CAMPAC, Rep. Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) leadership PAC; $2,500 from the Credit Union Legislative Action Council; $1,000 from the Independent Community Bankers PAC; $1,000 from the Indoor Tanning Assn. PAC; and $2,500 from the Seneca Nation of Indians.
12:35 p.m. The National Republican Congressional Committee is getting involved in the special election in New York's 26th District. An NRCC official confirmed to Hotline On Call that the committee's independent expenditure arm has been activated and received permission to spend money on the special election.
The NRCC already has two staffers on the ground helping with Corwin's campaign.
If the NRCC spends money in the race, they'll join American Crossroads, which reserved $650,000 worth of airtime, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose independent expenditure arm bought $250,000 worth of TV ads yesterday.
10:28 a.m. Hotline's Sean Sullivan, at a Tea Party Express briefing this morning, reports that the Tea Party Express isn't buying that Davis is a legitimate Tea Party candidate even though he's running on a Tea Party ballot line.
"I'm not sure if his objective is to elect a Democrat or if he just wants to be elected himself, because he's run six times now," Tea Party Express Chair Amy Kremer told Hotline On Call Wednesday morning. "But he's not a Tea Party candidate, and the people don't need to be fooled by his Tea Party line."
Tea Party Express chief strategist Sal Russo added that Republican Jane Corwin "is the candidate that most closely relates to Tea Party issues."
Underscoring the worry that Republicans have over Davis' ability to steal away Republican support and open the door for Democrat Kathy Hochul, Conservative group American Crossroads has come to Corwin's defense, making a significant television ad buy and launching a Tuesday spot that attacks Davis. The DCCC, meanwhile, has also purchased air time, but they have not yet released their ad.
Kremer and Russo said that the Tea Party express is considering whether they too, will enter the fray.
"I don't think we've made any tactical decisions," said Russo. Russo said the group will decide "within a week" if and how they will get involved in the race.
"I think we'll be involved in a material way," Russo said, when asked if the group will be advertising in the race.
9:27 a.m. Republicans are already seizing on what could well be a ready-made soundbite for an attack ad against Hochul. Appearing on MSNBC's "Hardball" last night, host Chris Matthews asked Hochul whether she liked the work former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed as leader.
Hochul responded, "You know, she`s done a great job for this country." And while she went on to talk about being an independent Democrat and her opposition to changes in Medicare - the Pelosi soundbite is one Republicans likely won't let her forget.
8:50 a.m.: Republicans are continuing to take down independent candidate Jack Davis, this time enlisting losing New York gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino to blast the candidate running on the Tea Party Line.
"I'm still mad as hell, but this time it's because Jack Davis is lying. I'm mad as hell because he's claiming to be a Tea Party candidate, while supporting Nancy Pelosi, endorsing Barack Obama and supporting radical liberal policies like partial birth abortion," Paladino writes. "He flew in a company from California to get voters' signatures and create a fake Tea Party line on the ballot... despite being told that the Tea Party represents a movement, not a political party."
As both American Crossroads and the National Republican Congressional Committee have begun hammering home a similar message, Paladino points out that Davis endorsed President Obama in 2008 and also supported now-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"He may be running as a Tea Party candidate, but don't be fooled - Jack Davis is a Democrat," Paladino writes.
Davis has gotten the endorsement of the Western New York Tea Party Coalition, but TEA New York, the region's largest Tea Party group, endorsed Corwin and has been very critical of Davis and his self-created Tea Party line for the May 24 ballot.
Paladino, who lives just outside the district, briefly considered running for the seat himself, but instead passed and backed Corwin when she was vying for the GOP nod. In last year's gubernatorial contest against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, Paladino won 58 percent of the vote within the district.