Tuesday, October 03, 2006

New York Matters, Part Deux

As we draw closer to the November midterm elections, what should be a slam dunk for Democrats nationwide, taking over at least one house of Congress, and possibly both, is still up for grabs. As Time magazine reports this week, there's "an eerie, Zen-like calm" projected by top Republican officials. Why? A couple of reasons. First, money. Republicans on the whole still out-draw in campaign contributions by a sizable amount, thanks to special interest and corporate donations.

Second, aggressive redistricting by Republicans means that, rather than have 100 seats up for grab as happened in 1994, there are really only 36 seats that the GOP has to focus on in order to retain control of Congress. The Dems need to capture 21, 15 House, six Senate. Tall order when all that money and machinery can be so narrowly focused.

Which means the Democrats will have to pick their spots very carefully. Earlier this year, I recounted how important New York state would be in determining the make-up of Congress. Today, we can flesh out some of the details:
In the Empire State, Democrats and nonpartisan political analysts say as many as five of the nine GOP seats could be in play in November. However, so far only one - the race to replace moderate Republican Sherwood Boehlert of Utica - at this point in the campaign leans Democratic or is a toss-up.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is being challenged by Nassau Legis. Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale), who in six weeks raised more money than King's previous two opponents combined. Despite being listed as one of the top races to watch by political handicappers, King is a heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Republican district.

Several other GOP incumbents are in competitive races, according to nonpartisan political analysts. Among those are: Sue Kelly of Westchester, John Sweeney of Clifton Park, James Walsh of Syracuse and Randy Kuhl of Hammondsport.

The Democrats' "best opportunities are in congressional districts that are generally Democratic but have Republican incumbents," said Stuart Rothenberg, a political handicapper.
In each of the previous three elections, Democrats have been able to capture at least one seat formerly held by Republicans, while maintaining a tight grip on all their holdings in the state. This year, several factors should increase that tally:

1) Bush's miserable performance as President will be a real issue in two ways: it's angered the hell out of Democrats, and it's deflated and frustrated blue state Republicans, who tend to be more moderate than red staters.

2) Eliot Spitzer, Hillary Clinton, and Andrew Cuomo are almost guaranteed to win their races, again, deflating Republicans who might turn out for competitive races, but who will be further frustrated and likely not to vote.

3) Rep. Mark Foley. The taint of Congress and incumbency was already weighing heavily on Republicans across the nation, but recent revelations regarding the sex scandal that Foley singlehandedly created will tarnish anyone who's had any type of close ties to Foley. The fact that the party leadership in Washington knew enough about Foley's escapades to warn pages as early as five years ago does not reflect well on anyone in the party, but in particular on Tom Reynolds, who ought to have known better and who is running in the 26th.

4) Lastly, traditional Republican strongholds in the state, like Long Island and Westchester County, have seen a gradual erosion of that power as aging Republicans retire and move away, such that Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, was able to wrest the Nassau County board away from the GOP.

The fight is there. The work is cut out for us. It's time to wipe the slate clear of Republicans and take back Congress.