WASHINGTON – It was just moments after the results came in Tuesday night that Democrats began attributing their Rep.-elect Kathy Hochul’s come-from-behind victory in a mostly Republican district as a rebuke to the GOP plan to privatize Medicare.
“Today, the Republican plan to end Medicare cost Republicans $3.4 million and a seat in Congress. And this is only the first seat,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a congratulatory press release for Hochul. “We served notice to the Republicans that we will fight them anywhere in America when it comes to defending and strengthening Medicare.”
Hochul took 47 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Jane Corwin, who took 43 percent, and tea party independent Jack Davis, who won 9 percent. The special election in New York’s 26th district was held to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R), who resigned after shirtless images of him soliciting women were found on Craigslist and revealed to the public.
“Tonight’s result has far-reaching consequences beyond New York,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “It demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical.”
Medicare dominated the campaign trail as Corwin stood by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) House-passed blueprint to replace the seniors’ health care system with a subsidies program for private insurance. Hochul, the Democrat, ran against it.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a fellow New York Democrat and the party’s point man for messaging, congratulated Hochul in a statement that said: “New Yorkers of all political persuasions do not want to destroy Medicare.”
The 26th district has been held by Republicans since 2003, as well as for 48 of the last 58 years. It went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election by 6 points.
GOP lawmakers played defense after the results came in Tuesday night.
“Obviously, each side would rather win a special election than lose, but to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “History shows one important fact: the results of competitive special elections from Hawaii to New York are poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes.”
Despite internal skirmishes and polls showing it to be unpopular, Republicans have overwhelmingly united behind the Ryan plan, portraying it as a critical step to reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt. The issue has become something of a litmus test for Republicans eying the 2012 presidential nomination.
As to the notion that this could spell danger for Republicans in the 2012 elections, Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) spokesman scoffed: “With millions of Americans out of work and 9 percent unemployment, anyone who thinks the 2012 election won’t be about jobs is delusional.”
Image credit to bluejersey, Creative Commons license