The Lessons of NY-26

And the end came, not with a bang, but with a whimper. The special election in Western New York’s 26th congressional district to replace the insufficiently clad Chris “Craigslist” Lee should, by all rights, have been a lackluster affair of little note in a backwater area south of Buffalo. After all, the 26th hasn’t elected enough Democrats since the Civil War to field a baseball team. What we wound up with, to invoke the spirits of Laurel and Hardy, was a fine mess indeed.

First, due to the eccentricities of the Empire State’s arcane election laws, there would be no primary. The county chairs for each party would assemble and apply their infinite wisdom to the task of appointing candidates. (Savvy readers will recall that this is the same tried and true system which produced the Dede Scozzafava vs. Doug Hoffman kerfuffle a few years back.) Adding sauce for the goose, New York’s rather unique fusion style ballot system assures ballot lines for any third party who manages to wrangle 50,000 votes in each gubernatorial election, as well as easy access to anyone else that wishes to create their own “party” and can send out enough flunkies with petitions over a few weekends.

This delicate political machinery produced Jane Corwin for the GOP and Kathy Hochul for the Democrats. Jane was a fine enough candidate by most New York standards, but her flirtations with pro-choice positions immediately set off sparks with some of the more conservative voters who were looking at other options along with the New York State Conservative Party (CP). In the end, though, the CP got on board and endorsed Corwin as well. Hochul, meanwhile, was virtually unopposed among the ranks of the Democrats and also nabbed the endorsement of the Working Families Party (WFP).

But these two ladies were not the only ones showing up to the dance. First, the Green Party attracted the candidacy of Ian Murphy, previously known only for prank calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Mr. Murphy was apparently attempting to extend his fifteen minutes of YouTube fame before resigning himself to a career of hoping for guest spots on TruTV’s World’s Dumbest series. But he wasn’t the only spoiler.

Enter Jack Davis, multimillionaire and perennial congressional candidate. Mr. Davis landed himself a spot on the “Tea Party” candidate line, which came as quite the surprise to the only organized, active Tea Party group in the area, as they endorsed Ms. Corwin on April 13th. They had never even considered Davis. The moniker was even more unexpected considering that Jack had run as a Democrat in three consecutive elections and had even been previously endorsed by the aforementioned Working Families Party. (For those not familiar, the WFP is the safe haven for New Yorkers who find the Democrats to be not quite liberal or socialist enough.)