House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R)
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare changes may have tipped special election. / Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Democrat Kathy Hochul won a seat previously held by a Republican in the House in a special election Tuesday in New York’s 26th Congressional District. Hochul won by a narrow margin, beating her Republican opponent Jane Corwin 47 percent to 43 percent. Democrat-turned-Tea Party candidate Jack Davis took 9 percent of the vote.

Candidate opposes Medicare changes

The main issues Hochul addressed in her campaign were the changes in Medicare proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Hochul vehemently opposed the changes. In last week’s debate with Corwin, who supports Ryan’s budget plans, Hochul said: “I will fight any plan that tries to decimate Medicare. That is something people in this district feel passionately about, and I do as well.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel said of the victory: “Even in one of the most Republican districts, seniors and independent voters rejected the Republican plan to end Medicare.”

Medicare changes passed by House

Ryan’s Medicare redesign was passed by the House on April 15 with all Democrats four Republicans opposing. The proposed changes include federally subsidized premiums for private insurance, and would apply to people who are now younger than 55.

Obama praises Hochul victory

President Obama praised Hochul in a statement Tuesday. “Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.”

GOP disputes that Medicare was deciding factor

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor disputed the claims that the victory was based on the Medicare reform issues. “This race is about the fact that it’s a three-way race,” Cantor said to reporters.

Seat vacated in sex scandal

Hochul will take the seat vacated in the wake of Republican Rep. Chris Lee’s sex scandal. In February, Lee stepped down after shirtless photos of himself that he had sent to a woman on Craigslist surfaced.

More special elections slated

Two more special House elections will be held later this year to fill vacancies. One, to be held in July, will be to replace California Democrat Jane Harman. Republican Dean Heller will be replaced in Nevada in September.  Heller has been appointed to the Senate to fill the seat vacated by John Ensign.


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