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GOP Worries About N.Y. Special Election

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio has the story.

BRIAN MANN: Whether it's fair or not, sometimes one moment can define a political campaign. In New York's 26th Congressional District race that moment was captured earlier this month on a YouTube video.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

U: Jack, why did you back out of the debate?

MANN: Do you want to punch it out?

U: Why? Why did you? Ow. Ow. Sir...

MANN: Davis is apparently slapping at a cameraman who turns out to be the chief of staff at Jane Corwin. She's a Republican in the race. Political observers say this kind of muddle and melodrama have left Corwin vulnerable in a part of Western New York the Republicans usually dominate.

MANN: It was the Republicans candidate's race to lose. And she may be losing it.

MANN: The small city sits in that conservative heartland of the district, halfway between Buffalo and Rochester. Fischer thinks Republicans got sidetracked, going too negative and trying to convince voters that Davis isn't a legitimate conservative, with ads like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

U: Davis even said he had a hand in creating Nancy Pelosi's Democrat majority in Congress.

MANN: But Republican State Assemblyman Steve Hawley points out that Davis has been hard to marginalize. He's a millionaire, wealthy enough to finance his own campaign. Davis is also better known in parts of the District than the Republican or the Democrat.

MANN: He has better name recognition. And, as you know, that's very, very important.

MANN: The Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul pounced, accusing Jane Corwin of supporting an effort to dismantle the popular program. Here she is speaking during a debate on WGRZ-TV.

MANN: And the truth is, it is a voucher program and Jane knows that. The Wall Street Journal even said that it ends Medicare as we know it.

MANN: Corwin has scrambled to explain her views on Medicare, insisting that she would never vote for a plan that would impact those seniors who now rely on the program.

MANN: Actually, Kathy is the one with the scare tactics, because the reality is this does not eliminate Medicare.

MANN: But even many Republicans say the Corwin campaign handled the issue clumsily. And Dan Fischer says questions about Medicare put a key voting bloc back in play.

MANN: The demographics of this town definitely tend to be older, and nowhere is it more pronounced, Medicare, as the third rail of politics than right here.

MANN: If Republican leaders here are worried, so our rank-and-file conservative voters like Janet Burheit, an attorney from Buffalo. A Corwin supporter, she is dismayed that Democrats might pull off an upset.

MANN: Yeah, I think Kathy Hochul might win.

MANN: Do you think the Republicans have - have kind of - I mean they...

MANN: Screwed it up.

MANN: Screwed it up?

MANN: I think they might have.

MANN: For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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