NY-26: Corwin Leads by Just Five

Siena (PDF) (4/26-27, likely voters, no trendlines):

Kathy Hochul (D): 31

Jane Corwin (R): 36

Jack Davis (T): 23

Ian Murphy (G): 1

Undecided: 9

(MoE: ±4.5%)

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting numbers like this, not at all, for a whole host of reasons. Republicans looked very unified in tapping Assemblywoman Jane Corwin – she was acceptable to the conservatives and even quite a few teabaggers, despite her establishment pedigree, and she also was personally very rich. Meanwhile, Democrats dithered, waiting weeks to pick a candidate after Corwin was already in the race. Furthermore, the one bona fide teabagger who hoped to run, Iraq war vet David Bellavia, screwed up his paperwork and failed to get on the ballot. And on top of that, Ian Murphy, the writer who achieved his 15 minutes with his fake David Koch prank call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, decided to hop into the race on the newly-reconstituted Green Party line. And oh, yeah, the 26th is the most Republican district in the state. The GOP seemed poised to avoid the mistakes they’d made in the NY-20 and NY-23 specials. It didn’t seem promising for Dems.

But the one wild card has proven much wilder than I had anticipated: zillionaire nutball Crazy Jack Davis is having a much bigger impact than his shot-to-hell reputation would seem to warrant. Prior to this year, Davis had run for this seat in three successive cycles from 2004 to 2008, losing twice in the general and once in the primary – all three times as a Democrat. But he cut a strange figure for a Dem, sound like the most unhinged of right-wingers on his favorite issue, immigration. He also has a well-deserved reputation as a lunatic who is impossible to work with, abuses people, and can’t hold on to staff. Thus he earned the epithet “Crazy,” and he’s been Crazy Jack Davis for about as long as I’ve known of him.

He looked to cement that reputation a few months ago, when he decided he’d get into the mix for this seat yet again, following Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation. But this time, Davis wanted to score the Republican and Conservative Party lines – well, I told you he was crazy. He was quickly rebuffed by both, but this is where that unusual “T” line comes in next to his name in the blockquote at top. Thanks to his millions (he’s always spent his own money freely), Davis was easily able to get on the ballot as an independent, and cannily chose to name his ballot line the “Tea Party.” This caused an entertaining split among teabaggers in western New York, with the “real” teabaggers insisting that Davis was just trying to bogart their good name (yeah, I know, LOL)… but there was nothing they could do about it.

And thanks to his free-spending ways, it seems like Davis is screwing up what should have been a sure thing for Corwin. At the same time, he’s also hurting Hochul. Looking at the cross-tabs (PDF), Davis gets 24% of the Republican vote, 20% of the Democratic vote, and 27% of the independent vote. Rare to see a candidate with such cross-spectrum appeal! I figured Dems would be disgusted with him, and Republicans would want nothing to do with him given his Democratic past. But evidently that’s not the case, at least for everyone.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the major-party candidates react. Surely the campaign committees are doing their own polling, but even if it doesn’t match Siena’s, these numbers will have to make operatives second-guess themselves a bit. Does Corwin start attacking Davis? Or does she try to pound Hochul? Or both? As I see it, though, the strategy for Hochul is a lot simpler. As Siena notes:

They strongly oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits to help close the deficit (59-38 percent); however, they strongly support increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (62-35 percent)….

Hochul’s most recent ad attacked Corwin on Medicare – Corwin said she’d have voted for the Ryan Republican budget – and I said the other day that she should make this her unrelenting theme for the final weeks of the campaign. The poll numbers bear that out. (I’m sure that Hochul won’t call for tax increases on the rich, despite that being super-popular in a red district, but that wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.)

We’ll also have to see if the DCCC and NRCC decide to get involved here. If Hochul can use Medicare the way ex-Rep. Scott Murphy beat Jim Tedisco over the head with the stimulus in the spring of 2009, this could be a real race – coupled, of course, with the Jack Davis factor. All of a sudden, things just got exciting in western New York.

UPDATE: I meant to include this new bit of news in the post, and was reminded in comments. Davis just said he would caucus with the GOP if he wins. That can only help him with would-be Republican voters and hurt him among Democrats. In other words, good news for us!

119 thoughts on “NY-26: Corwin Leads by Just Five”

  1. He did run as a Dem the last 3 elections, so hopefully the D vote will consolidate around Hochul soon. I would say that the closeness is more part of the district’s relative swinginess (IIRC, Davis got 48% of the vote as a D in 2006, for instance), less Republican interest coupled with greater D interest, and the Ryan budget.

  2. you can see that this district would pretty clearly prefer a Republican to a Democrat. But Davis is splitting the right. I would be surprised to see the NRCC go after him.

  3. I’m not keen on the DCCC dropping much coin here. Should Hochul miraculously pull off a razor-thin victory, she’d be facing off with an entrenched incumbent – probably a Dem – in new territory just next year.

    99 times out of 100 it is well worth the investment to get a Dem into a Likely GOP seat, thanks to the power of incumbency and presidential election turnout, but this would seem to be the exception.

  4. Hochul is actually even with Corwin favorables-wise, 44-31. Voters narrowly support “Increasing federal revenues by increasing tax rates for American corporations” 48-47, and support “Increasing federal revenues by raising taxes on those Americans making more than $250,000 a year” 62-35.

    It’s hard to tell who Davis is hurting more. His supporters approve of Hochul 36-35 and disapprove of Corwin 24-39.

  5. This has Hochul almost within the margin of error even as David pulls pretty evenly from both Hochul and Corwin. But this morning’s Buffalo News has an article in which Davis declares he would caucus with the GOP. That’s going to make his appeal among protectionist Democrats decrease. It will probably increase his appeal among Republicans.

  6. How is Hochul’s name pronounced?  Hoe-cool?  Hoe-chool?  Hockle?  Hawchool?  Hockchool?

  7. Hochul lives in Hamburg, which I believe is in the 27th. That makes her tie in Erie County even more impressive, since Corwin actually lives in the 26th part of Erie.

  8. May hurt rather than help.  I think a lot of people want someone who is not a republican, but just have a cultural aversion to voting for a Democrat.  Davis was a good choice in that regard.  How that affects the race is probably uncertain at this juncture.

  9. That would be an interesting dynamic if he didn’t – A Republican for the Ryan Budget, a Republican against the Ryan Budget and a Dem against the Ryan Budget.  

    And if he did it makes it easier for Hochul to attack them both in one ad.  

  10. He moves it from R favored to R lean, and here’s his story:  http://rothenbergpoliticalrepo

    Key graf:

    GOP insiders acknowledge (and a new public poll shows) that state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) has a small lead over Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul (D)…

    Another key graf:

    Corwin and her allies are expected to attack Davis in the near future to remind voters that he was a Democrat, thereby helping them bring some GOP voters “back home.”

    Hold on to your hats!

    In hindsight, I remember having read that Crazy Jack had put over a million bucks into this special, and that money proves I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when I saw this Siena poll today.

    I will say I don’t think there’s any moral victory for us if Hochul loses narrowly.  The 3-way makes it hard to extrapolate anything of future use from a narrow defeat, and beyond that a loss is a loss.  If Hochul lost a 2-way by a hair, we could deduce the Medicare hit works in a real campaign, and we’re in decent shape with it in blue and purple GOP-held seats even if we didn’t get over the hump in this one.  But in this 3-way, only an actual victory is a moral victory.

  11. I see four possible scenarios (assuming each side is losing one):

    Scenario A-Corwin wins comfortably: Things proceed as expected. Buerkle is thrown under the bus (or at best, drawn into Hanna’s seat), and Democrats lose one seat downstate.

    Scenario B-Corwin barely hangs on: Sensing weakness, Skelos decides to axe Corwin instead, combining her with Reed or Buerkle.

    Scenario C-Hochul wins: Probably the toughest to figure. They could eliminate her by putting her in with Reed, and then possibly cut Nan Hayworth downstate by pushing Lowey and Engel further up the Hudson. Alternatively, they could keep her and make three low D+ districts in WNY, and eliminate Buerkle and an NYC Dem. Finally, they could do a fair fight Hochul vs. Reed, and another fair fight like King vs. McCarthy downstate.

    Scenario D-Davis wins: If Dems agree to consider him a Republican, this is the easiest solution. He gets cut and so does a downstate Dem.

  12. As some proclaimed. Not that I actually expected to win and still don’t. But if nothing else I think it is worth making a decent investment here if for nothing more than message testing.

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