It was announced late Tuesday night that Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul had defeated Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis in the Special Election for New Yorks 26th district. The seat was vacated in February by Chris Lee who resigned after a shirtless picture he posted on Craigslist surfaced. The announcement came as a shock to people across the country as this is the first time since the Civil War Era that the seat in Western New York has been held by a Democrat. Many are now asking why; in such a conservative area was liberal was elected who doesn’t even live in the district. I managed to get in contact with a few people close to the campaign and have learned some interesting facts about the race and possible reasons why people didn’t vote for Corwin.
The first big issue that Corwin faced was that instead of facing one candidate, she was facing both a Democrat and a Tea Partier. Hochul received 46% of the votes, a slim victory over Corwin who received 45% of the vote. The other 9% went to Jack Davis. Davis, a Republican turned Democrat turned Tea Partier, threw his hat into the ring shortly after Jane Corwin was picked to run on the Republican line. After gathering the bare minimum of signatures needed to run in the race, he placed himself on the Tea Party line, even though he had never called himself a Tea Partier prior to this and was only endorsed by one Tea Party organization. Some people have even claimed corruption for this endorsement as they organization did not indorse Davis until after the leader of the organization received a personal loan from Davis that covered the lean that was placed on his house. When asked, most of the voters that voted for Davis said that if he wasn’t running they most likely would have voted for Corwin, which would have easily put her over the top for the election.
Another problem that the Corwin campaign had to face was voter mobilization. The 26th District is one of the biggest in New York and covers many counties in the area between Rochester and Buffalo. While the campaign workers, over 100 volunteers and local politicians such as Niagara County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy did an excellent job of getting the word out, the leaders of statewide political organizations dropped the ball with their support. As a matter of fact, NY GOP leader, Ed Cox, didn’t visit the race once and was on vacation in Florida on Election Day.
But the final nail in Corwin’s coffin was that the campaign underestimated the amount of voter education that they would need to do. Corwin stated that she supported the Paul Ryan budget plan which calls for revamping the Medicare system and changing it to a waiver system. Many people don’t understand the changes and believe that the budget would end Medicare all together. This was the biggest issue that campaigners for Corwin faced when going door-to-door. One said “We would go up to the door and before we could tell them anything they would ask us ‘Are you with the person who wants to end Medicare?’ And we would try to explain that Jane didn’t want to end Medicare but most people either didn’t want to hear it or didn’t believe us.” It is rumored however, that when Corwin wanted to publically attack that part of the budget, she was told by people in the national organization to stay quiet as to show a united front for the budget.
Corwin ran a good campaign and had many things going for her, but was unable to win in a vastly conservative area. Many members of her campaign team believe that, looking back, even with the knowledge they now have, they could not have run a better campaign. One member of her team summed it up the best saying “At the end of the day it was our lack of explanation about our stance on Medicare and Jack Davis’s decision to run that turned the race. […] Looking back I don’t think there was a thing that we could change that would have won us the race.”