Spoiler Alert in This Unpredictable New York House Race

Martin Babinec currently has far more support than the usual third-party contender.

Martin Babinec
Photo courtesy of Friends of Martin Babinec
Sept. 14, 2016, 8 p.m.

A wealthy busi­ness­man run­ning a third-party cam­paign that has grabbed a fifth of the vote in re­cent polls is cre­at­ing an in­creas­ingly un­pre­dict­able race in a top House battle­ground dis­trict in cent­ral New York.

Few strategists say they be­lieve Mar­tin Babinec cur­rently has a vi­able path to vic­tory in his bid to re­place re­tir­ing Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Richard Hanna. But his cam­paign has gained im­press­ive trac­tion and has the po­ten­tial to play spoil­er to either his Demo­crat­ic or Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent—it’s just not yet clear which one.

After in­vest­ing $1 mil­lion in his cam­paign, Babinec in­und­ated the air­waves last month with ads in­tro­du­cing him­self simply as a can­did­ate who will cre­ate jobs in the re­gion. It’s that kind of ideo­lo­gic­al am­bi­gu­ity that has both parties ra­cing to paint him as a li­ab­il­ity to the oth­er in the 22nd dis­trict, which split its votes al­most evenly between the two pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates in 2008 and 2012.

“He’s a com­plete un­known,” said Broome County GOP Chair­man Bi­joy Datta, who noted some con­cern that Babinec could pull from the Re­pub­lic­an base. “I think people are con­fused about who he is and what he stands for. All they see are kind of feel-good ads on tele­vi­sion.”

In one of a few New York dis­tricts tar­geted by na­tion­al Demo­crats, the race pits Babinec against loc­al le­gis­lat­or Kim My­ers, a mod­er­ate Demo­crat and heir­ess to the Dick’s Sport­ing Goods em­pire, and state As­semb­ly­wo­man Claudia Ten­ney, a Re­pub­lic­an with tea-party sup­port and a pen­chant for per­son­al at­tacks.

Each has strong back­ing from their na­tion­al party’s House cam­paign arms, which both de­scribe the third-party can­did­ate as an as­set.

In a press con­fer­ence last week, Rep. Greg Walden, chair­man of the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee, high­lighted Babinec’s “ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions to Hil­lary Clin­ton” as a reas­on why he would pull voters from the Left. Mean­while, the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee in­sists Babinec will split the GOP vote with Ten­ney, cit­ing his pledge to caucus with House Re­pub­lic­ans.

Babinec had a mono­poly on the air­waves in Au­gust. While his spots prom­ised to cre­ate con­di­tions for en­tre­pren­eur­ship to flour­ish, they did little to clear up where he falls on the polit­ic­al spec­trum.

In an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al, Babinec de­scribed him­self as fisc­ally con­ser­vat­ive and a pro­ponent of lower taxes and smal­ler gov­ern­ment. He will be run­ning on the Re­form and Up­state Jobs bal­lot lines, and he said he isn’t wor­ried about how his op­pon­ents try to brand him.

“The jobs mes­sage and what I stand for as an in­de­pend­ent can­did­ate is be­ing em­braced by a broad spec­trum,” Babinec said. “It’s not about try­ing to fit in­to a tight ideo­lo­gic­al box.”

He said his rise in re­cent polling is proof he is more than a spoil­er. Babinec, who foun­ded a non­profit that con­nects start-up com­pan­ies and en­tre­pren­eurs in up­state New York, said he best fits the pro­file of the dis­trict, which has a his­tory of elect­ing mod­er­ate can­did­ates.

That in­cludes Hanna, who over three terms bucked his party on abor­tion, cli­mate change, and same-sex mar­riage. He is cur­rently the only Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber of Con­gress to pledge his vote to Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Three polls re­leased this month by the NR­CC, the DCCC, and Babinec’s cam­paign showed him grabbing at least 20 per­cent of the vote and pulling sup­port from both parties.

Si­ena Re­search In­sti­tute, which con­ducts in­de­pend­ent polling in New York, ex­pects to sur­vey the dis­trict in Septem­ber.

Some loc­al Re­pub­lic­ans pre­dicted Babinec was more likely to splinter the GOP vote be­cause Ten­ney was too con­ser­vat­ive for the mod­er­ate-lean­ing dis­trict.

Ten­ney wasn’t na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans’ pre­ferred can­did­ate, and Hanna, who battled Ten­ney in a con­ten­tious 2014 primary, has said he won’t back the as­semb­ly­wo­man and she can’t win. Hanna has met with My­ers and Babinec, but has not made any de­cision on an en­dorse­ment.

The Ten­ney cam­paign said it isn’t wor­ried about los­ing mod­er­ate voters to Babinec but doesn’t cur­rently have plans to go neg­at­ive against him.

“He’s ac­tu­ally a lib­er­al Demo­crat just like Kim My­ers, and Claudia’s run­ning against two people who are one and the same,” Ten­ney spokes­wo­man Han­nah An­drews said.

The race is set to be one of the more ex­pens­ive this cycle. The Oneida In­di­an Na­tion, one of the re­gion’s largest em­ploy­ers through its casino busi­ness, dropped nearly $600,000 in the primary to op­pose Ten­ney, who last year called its CEO, Ray Hal­brit­ter, “Spray Tan Ray.” The group hasn’t in­dic­ated wheth­er it will spend in the gen­er­al elec­tion.

Both cam­paign com­mit­tees will likely in­vest heav­ily, and Babinec is no longer the only one on the air. House Ma­jor­ity PAC re­served $1.1 mil­lion in TV time in the dis­trict and re­leased its first spot last week, which slammed Ten­ney for missed votes in the state le­gis­lature. The NR­CC countered with an at­tack ad over tax in­creases My­ers sup­por­ted while serving on a loc­al school board. The My­ers cam­paign also went on the air this month.

What We're Following See More »
APPEARED ON COLBERT
Gillibrand Announces Exploratory Committee
15 hours ago
THE DETAILS
TOURING IOWA
Sherrod Brown Also in 2020 Mode
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
FIRST KNOWN INCIDENT OF TRUMP DIRECTLY REQUESTING A COVER-UP
Report: Trump Told Cohen to Lie to Congress
15 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. 'Make it happen,' the sources said Trump told Cohen."

Source:
OFFICE WILL BE BASED IN BALTIMORE
Kamala Harris Announces for President
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAYS OFFER IS NOT "IN GOOD FAITH"
Pelosi Rejects Trump's Immigration Offer
2 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login