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Poll: A real race in New York special election

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A few months ago, we wrote that there wasn’t much chance of a Republican civil war over the special election in New York’s 26th district in the Buffalo area. But it turns out there is a potential spoiler who could boost a Democrat into this historically Republican seat.

A survey done by Siena College shows a tight race for the seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), with Democratic Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul in striking distance of Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, with 36 percent for Corwin and 31 percent for Hochul. Third-party candidate Jack Davis, who's running on the Tea Party line, is pulling 23 percent of the vote.

Davis was intially dismissed by Republicans as a crank; the millionaire businessman ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2004, 2006, and 2008 as a Democrat. The spoiler, if there was one, was expected to be David Bellavia, a conservative Republican and and Iraq War veteran. He failed to qualify for the ballot.

Davis is taking a good chunk of Democratic votes in the poll, but he pulls more from Republicans and independents. In a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 40 percent to 32 percent, and 28 percent of voters are in neither party, Hochul has the most to gain from a divided field.

A few days ago, Hochul became the first Democratic candidate to use the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as an attack. Corwin has come out in support of the Ryan plan, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program for future beneficiaries. The 26th is a senior-heavy district, with 15 percent of the population over 65. “I think the Paul Ryan budget is going to be a major factor in this race,” said Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Len Lenihan. “Republicans need health insurance too.”

She had a good first quarter, raising $350,000. EMILY’s List endorsed Hochul last week; the powerful Democratic political action committee is known for having high viability standards for candidates. “EMILY's List has been saying that this is a race Kathy Hochul can win -- and now everyone can see how close it really is," said Jess McIntosh, the group’s deputy communications director. NARAL Pro-Choice just endorsed today.

Corwin is still on top here. She’s underperforming with her base, but so is Hochul. While Corwin raised only $102,685 last quarter, she invested $1 million of her personal wealth in the campaign. And Republicans are planning to get more involved. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions is expected to make a trip to New York for a fundraiser and rally with Corwin. With the election a month away, Davis has yet to be targeted, and there’s plenty of material for either side to use against him — his Democratic past, his anti-immigrant and racially offensive comments.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not yet given much public attention to the contest, but strategists say that they’re likely just lowering expectations in a tough race and that spending on the Democratic side will increase over the next few weeks. "We'll continue working with the campaign and tracking developments closely," said Josh Schwerin, a DCCC spokesman.

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