For a brief heartbeat, the political world will turn its eyes to upstate New York’s 26th Congressional District, where Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has taken a slight lead over Republican Jane Corwin in a three-way special election in a mainly rural district that is a traditional GOP home.
Hochul is ahead of Jane Corwin 42% to 36%, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday. Jack Davis, running as a tea party candidate in Tuesday’s election, came in at 13%. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9%
PPP is a Democratic polling company, but its findings are similar to other polls in the closely watched House race. A recent poll by Siena College found Erie County Clerk Hochul ahead with 42% and Assemblywoman Corwin with 38%. Davis had 12% in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus four points.
The special election was needed after Rep. Chris Lee resigned in February after reports that he had sent a shirtless picture and emails to a woman not his wife. That created problems in his conservative New York district, stretching roughly from Buffalo to Rochester, which went GOP in the last three presidential elections.
Special elections, especially three-way races, are notoriously fickle, but New York's 26th Congressional District found a sweet spot in the higher-stakes national political game, becoming a test of Democrats’ hopes to regain the House and the GOP’s desire to push its message that cutting entitlement spending, particularly for Medicare, was crucial.
Hochul has wrapped herself in the Democrats’ shield that protecting seniors from Medicare cuts was paramount and has demonized Rep. Paul Ryan, the theoretical wizard behind the GOP plan to turn Medicare into a voucher instead of a general benefit. Corwin has defended the Ryan plan, arguing that unless there are changes, Medicare may not be around for future generations. The Republican has also called for changes in the Ryan plan.
Both of New York’s Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have campaigned for Hochul, and House speaker John Boehner traveled to the district to help raises funds for Corwin. Tea party movement favorites, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have made robo-calls for Corwin, hoping to minimize the impact of Davis as a spoiler.