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Three names have emerged as the possible Democratic nominee in the special election to replace Chris Lee in the NY-26. They are Erie County (Buffalo and some of its suburbs) Clerk Kathy Hochul, Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, and Iraq war veteran Jon Powers. Any talk about Kathy Konst as the nominee is wishful thinking on the part of her supporters, and should not be taken seriously.

The nominee will be chosen not by a primary, but by the weighted vote of the Democratic Party county committees in the district. Here is a quick rundown on the three actual possibilities. For more on the district, see my backgrounder here.

The most interesting possibility--Mark Poloncarz
There are some in the netroots who might be surprised that I would name Mark Poloncarz as the most interesting candidate instead of Jon Powers, but I do so for two good reasons.

First, Poloncarz has actually gone to the mat in real fights against Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who is a vicious right-winger. These fights have ranged from Poloncarz suing Collins on multiple occasions, and even to denying a Collins new refrigerator for a time.

Second, Poloncarz started an organization called WNY Democrats for Progress. The organization clearly has roots in the New Democrat faction of the party (it was originally called New Democrats of WNY), but a recent name change implies a shift to a more progressive locus. Also, the group is engaged in an ongoing effort to develop an online presence for Democrats in the region, and Eric Schneiderman has been the group’s main endorsement to date.

Poloncarz comes off as both a fighter and an organizer, even if he may have some Village and / or New Dem tendencies (like this). However, it is widely believed by the local activists I have spoken with that Poloncarz really wants to challenge Chris Collins for Erie County Executive, not run for Congress.

The likely nominee--Kathy Hochul
As interesting as Poloncarz seems, there is a much higher probability that the Democratic nominee will be the more centrist Kathy Hochul.

Most importantly, she has the support of more county party committees than any other potential candidate. Erie County Dem Chair Len Lenihan has gone on the record supporting Hochul. Further, two separate sources confirm she is the choice of the chairs in Monroe and Niagara counties.

Hochul also has the sort of bipartisan credibility that incites drool in the recruiters at the DCCC. For example, she was endorsed by both the Conservative and Working Families parties in last year’s re-election campaign. She was able to do this because New York uses a fusion voting system that allows different parties to nominate the same candidate.

Like Poloncarz, Hochul is widely believed to be eyeing a run for County Executive--possibly even a contested primary against Poloncarz. However, she is less-than-wedded to that specific office. For example, in 2008, she conducted a benchmark poll in NY-26 (the poll was not, as the linked article suggests, a push poll). This is a rock-solid indicator she has very seriously considered running for this congressional seat in the recent past.

Since they are potential rivals for both seats, one possible solution to all this would be Poloncarz and Hochul dividing up turf. That is, one agrees to run for NY-26, while the other runs for County Executive. Given my prior experience in party committee politics, I would be stunned if a deal like that hasn’t been floated by multiple local decision makers.

Also in the running--Jon Powers
When the news of Chris Lee’s resignation hit, Iraq war veteran Jon Powers wrote on his Facebook page that he was “definitely thinking hard about" running. Powers ran for the sat in 2008, losing the primary to Alice Kryzan. That was mainly because Powers got into a bitter fight with Jack Davis, the pathetic 2004 and 2006 nominee who also ran in 2008. Powers and Davis took each other out, allowing Kryzan to rise to the top.

One disadvantage Powers faces in securing the nomination is that he has been somewhat withdrawn from the district. In late 2008, he moved to DC in an unsuccessful attempt to be removed from the Working Families Party line. The idea was to give Kryzan a shot at winning the seat, but it didn’t work and he remained on the WFP line. He still lives, and works, in DC, too. While this does not make him ineligible for the seat, it likely has weakened his ties to the local Democratic county committee members who are the decision makers in the nomination campaign.


No matter who the Democratic candidate ends up being, I need to emphasize what I wrote on Wednesday:

It’s a Republican district, with a Cook PVI of R+6. This means that on average Republicans score 6% better in this district than they do nationally, basically giving them a built-in 12% edge here. For example, John McCain scored 52% in this district in 2008, 6% better than his national average of 46%.

This makes the NY-26 a very difficult district for Democrats. Not impossible, but very, very difficult. During the height of Democratic electoral dominance in late 2009, the New York House delegation was a well-rounded 27-2 in favor of the blue guys. However, even then the NY-26 remained in red hands. Further, in 2006, then-NRCC chair Tom Reynolds held onto the seat despite becoming embroiled in the Mark Foley House page scandal. Perhaps most notably of all, Carl Paladino, who is from the neighboring NY-27, won the NY-26 quite handily in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Paladino lost by 27% statewide.

This will be a very difficult seat for any Democrat, and a loss is to be expected. Winning by any amount would be shocking, and show that a very strong wind is blowing toward Democrats this cycle.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:20 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Should we gather? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, oceanview, PinHole
    •  I have talked with friends of the district who (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

        are currently out of state re. absentee ballots.  The livingston county board of elections did not have anything new on their website about a special election, yesterday.  They probably will today.  I asked them if they knew what happened - They Did - and encouraged them to write/call for an absentee ballot.  We need Every Vote here mebbe there will be a Republican backlash against a Republican candidate.   One Can Hope.

  •  Whoever it is, make sure that person doesn't use (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ParaHammer, devtob, oceanview, PinHole
    Craig's List

    Show me a politician that doesn't want to gain, and/or hold onto power, and I'll show you one who can't get elected.

    by HarryParatestis on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:26:10 PM PST

  •  We Can Always Hope (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, oceanview, TofG, James Allen

    With an R sex scandal scenting the air, maybe we can temporarily hope that the district is more R+4.

    (-6.25, -6.77) Moderate left, moderate libertarian

    by Lonely Liberal in PA on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:27:15 PM PST

  •  And the GOP candidate? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, oceanview, Gentle Giant, TofG


    Will this district even exist in a few years, as well, given how much population Western New York has lost.  The state's losing seats but there might be pressure to increase the number of seats downstate, especially with redistricting in solidly democratic control.

    "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by Loge on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:28:13 PM PST

    •  No, it isn't. The Senate is 32/30 R. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      janinsanfran, devtob, PinHole

      Heartbreaking, after the gains in 2006 and 2008, to have control of the NY Senate for only a few months, but there it is.

      They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

      by Ponder Stibbons on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:40:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, so we lose on Dem and one Rep, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and exurbs in Florida and Texas go solid R.  Sigh.

        "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

        by Loge on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:44:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Democrats in NY screwed things up royally (6+ / 0-)

        The swing seat, in Buffalo, in a predominately African-American area that abuts the northern working class suburbs, was lost when the previous Democrat was more interested in ascending up the ranks of the party (thereby taking orders from NYC) while every other local congressman (of both parties) was fighting for bills that would benefit the region. He went out of his way to antagonize the local Democrat rank and file. The Republicans then pulled a fast one. They recruited a Democrat to run on the GOP line with the promise that he would caucus with them.

        Basically, a whole range of variables went against the Democrats on this one, and it was their own damn fault, and because of their smug arrogance, they lost the NY Senate, and will now lose a seat in congress.

        Stupid idiots.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:55:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  it's a real tough district (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    janinsanfran, devtob, Gentle Giant

    and the post redistricting fate of the district will also influence who is willing to jump in.

    if i had to make a guess, i'd say Hochul gets the nod and most likely loses.

    "after the Rapture, we get all their shit"

    It's time: the albany project.

    by lipris on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:30:23 PM PST

    •  She already has lost the vote of a lot of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      devtob, Aquarius40, PinHole, Ralphdog

      progressives in the area.

      I want to say it doesn't matter because most live in Buffalo anyway, but then I think that SUNY-Buffalo might be in this district, and that people affiliated with the university might remember the way her husband--a federal prosecutor--went on a witchhunt against a liberal professor who was critiquing Monsanto.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:57:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gaaaagh. (0+ / 0-)

        We're better off if that kind of Blue Dog loses. She'd be more of a liability than another brainless conservative Republican.

      •  too true. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        when one consider both the nature of the district and the baggage she's carrying for dems, it just makes it all that much harder t see how she, if she does indeed get the nod from the county chairs, pulls this off. and i think she probably will most likely get that nod.

        not impossible to pull this one off with Hochul, but the odds don't look great.

        "after the Rapture, we get all their shit"

        It's time: the albany project.

        by lipris on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 06:17:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just three months... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, TofG, James Allen
    removed from the 2010 blowout, the politica1 jet stream may already be realigning considerably on the national level. According to this, Obama is headed for at least as high an electoral college count as he got in 2008. Against Palin, he could quite possibly win 40+ states.

  •  Couldn't hurt to go for this seat (5+ / 0-)

    If we win or even lose narrowly, it'll be a sign the GOP is already falling apart. It would be humilating to lose a special election on friendly territory just a few months after November.

  •  Any chance the Conservative Party (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, TofG

    mounts their own candidate?

    "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

    by James Allen on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:47:51 PM PST

  •  Anyone who Schneidermann endorses (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, oceanview

    is someone I can support.

    But perhaps not the most likely to win the seat

  •  I live in the Rochester, NY area, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, oceanview, davboyce

    I'm not in Chris Lee's district. On our local news, one interviewee said, "This is pretty mild compared to Elliot Spitzer."
    Well, no one is excusing Spitzer, either. It's the hypocrisy of running on a straight line of personal integrity and "family values" and then doing something that could easily render one divorced.

    Hey, he's human, and is prone to the frailties and failures as such. The difference is, he has pretended to be something more.

    "I think, therefore I am... Liberal.

    by Gentle Giant on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 02:51:50 PM PST

  •  Whoever gets the Dem nod (4+ / 0-)

    should run 24/7 against the far-right extremists who run the House, who want to cut Social Security, voucherize Medicare, gut the EPA, provide no help for states, counties and municipalities during the lingering Great Recession, and reduce public and private/contractor employment.

    The GOP ran against Pelosi 24/7, let's give it back to them.

    A public option for health insurance is a national priority.

    by devtob on Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 03:33:28 PM PST

  •  Konst (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lipris, devtob

    I'd read about the Konst thing, the claims of chair/DCCC backing and then the fierce pushback and counter-claims that she was persona non grata with local Dems. But are we 100% sure on this? A local blog, Albany Project, gives good info on the candidates and it sort of aired both sides, including the strong rebuttal from the anti-Konst side, but also one writer who made the case for Konst, and another who spoke very highly of both Powers and Konst, but seemed less sure about Hochul's chances.

    "I count both Kathy Konst and Jon Powers among my friends, and I think that they're both very dedicated to their issues and public service, and either of them would make a fine representative for the 26th District. I respect Kathy Hochul for her work in Erie County and her popularity there."

    I supposed those two could be spinning Konst allies as well, I suppose, but I'm just saying, can either side be completely trusted?

  •  Yep. I live here, and it doesn't get any Redder. (6+ / 0-)

    The fact that a bona-fide lunatic like Carl Palladino could carry this district by a mile says it all. It's been carefully gerrymander'd through multiple iterations to craft the safest possible Republican seat. This is because its previous occupants (Tom Paxon and Tom Reyolds) spent their entire terms raising corporate cash for Republicans nationally, and they didn't want to be bothered with anything as distracting as, you know, actually representing the district in Washington.

    I find it profoundly depressing, because my end of the district is a dirt-poor northern outpost of Appalachia that has been absolutely pulverized economically by Reagan/Republican policies. Yet local voters keep saying "Thank you sir, may I please have another" by pulling the 'R' lever again and again.

    •  Miracles can happen (0+ / 0-)


      I went to Brockport in the 1970's and remember John LaFalce was sent to Washington as a Democrat. If it happened once, it can happen again.

      •  John LaFalce was a "Watergate baby". (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        A miracle is just what it would take. Not even a 'live boy/dead girl' would do the trick anymore.

        I actually knew John LaFalce slightly; he attended the same high school, and routinely returned to speak for graduations and what-not. Not a bad guy at all, and a true statesman next to Lee.

        LaFalce was elected as part of the Democratic wave that swept into office out of general disgust over Watergate. The thing is, that only happened because the U.S. still had a relatively functional free press that eventually reported the scandal for the Constitutional crisis that it was.

        The mind-boggling negligence that permitted 9/11, the illegal invasion of Iraq, warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and (God help us all) torture in the name of America were all bigger scandals; yet our now-moribund press only clapped louder for invasion and swept everything else under the carpet.

        John LaFalce retired because malignant Republican redistricting pushed him into Louise Slaughter's district, and he took the honorable path rather than slugging it out with her.

  •  Yes and there was a special election in Red, Very (0+ / 0-)

      Red upstate, near the Canada border district.  The Democrats won it and it helped propel the momentum forward, before the 08 success.  

  •  NY-26 (0+ / 0-)

    I am a graduate of SUNY Brockport, located in the 26th district of NY. I was at Brockport from 1975 to 1979, and that district sent John LaFalce to Congress as a Democrat. LaFalce served for several terms before retiring, but it the Democrats in Monroe and Orleans counties work hard to get the students at Brockport to get out and vote in this election, perhaps they can have a chance in defeating the Republican candidate. It happened before and it can happen again. What they need to do is reach out to the Brockport Political Science department and recruits it's students.

    They should do it for Brockport as we did in the 1970's, after all we helped send Daniel Patrick Moynihan to the Senate against James Buckley in 1976.

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