New York's 26th congressional district special election, 2011

New York's 26th congressional district special election, 2011
New York's 26th congressional district special election, 2011
New York
2010 ←
May 24, 2011
→ 2012

  Kathy Hochul .jpg
Nominee Kathy Hochul Jane Corwin
Party Democratic Republican
Alliance Working Families Conservative
Popular vote 52,713 47,187
Percentage 47.2% 42.3%

Nominee Jack Davis Ian Murphy
Party Tea Party Green
Popular vote 10,029 1,130
Percentage 9.0% 1%

Representative before election

Chris Lee

Elected Representative

Kathy Hochul

A 2011 special election in New York's 26th congressional district was held on May 24, 2011 to fill a seat in the U.S. Congress for New York's 26th congressional district.[1] The vacancy was due to the February 2011 resignation of married Republican Chris Lee who resigned amid a scandal involving flirtatious emails and a shirtless picture he had sent to a woman he met on Craigslist.[2][3] Four candidates competed in the election: Republican New York State Assembly member Jane Corwin; Democrat Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul; Green Party candidate Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast; and independent candidate Jack Davis, a businessman running on the Tea Party line (formerly registered as a Democrat).[4] Hochul was projected as the winner of the race with a plurality of the vote on election night.[5][6]



Under New York election law, special elections to fill vacant offices were held between 30 to 40 days of their announcement by the governor.[1] In March 2011, at the initiative of Governor Cuomo and with the approval of the state legislature, the campaigning period was more than doubled, with the reason given that U.S. military serving overseas needed the extra time time to receive and send back their ballots.[1] The Capitol Confidential noted that the federal government had sued for the extension for the military and predicted that the change might also "shift... political tactics during the [special election] campaigns, which because of their short duration favor wealthy candidates and 'air wars'.[7][8] Once the governor called the election, county chairpersons from each of the six qualified New York parties (Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Working Families, Independence, and Green) caucused to choose their candidates, with no primary election or petitions to circulate. Independent candidates also had the opportunity to petition onto the ballot.


The district is traditionally a safe Republican seat, having been continuously represented by Republicans since Jack Kemp's election in 1970. Democrats had made serious, but unsuccessful, attempts to gain the seat with self-financed candidate Jack Davis in 2004 and 2006 as well as Alice Kryzan in 2008, but nominated only token opposition in 2010 when Philip Fedele ran.


According to many observers, the campaign "turned into a referendum on the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare" because of Corwin's support for the Republican alternative budget proposed by Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a proposal that would replace government-provided health care with partial subsidies for the cost of private medical insurance.[9] Hochul criticized the Ryan plan and supports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Corwin wants to repeal completely.[10] Davis opposed both the Ryan plan and the Affordable Care Act.

Tea Party involvement

The local leaders of the Tea Party movement had divided their support between Republican nominee Jane Corwin, independent petitioner Jack Davis, and potential candidate David Bellavia. Jim Ostrowski, the leader of a libertarian-leaning tea party group (the Tea Party Coalition of WNY), endorsed Davis, criticizing Corwin for her lack of outreach to the Tea Party groups, and arranged to put the name "Tea" on Davis's ballot line.[11][12] TEA New York, a more mainstream Republican-leaning tea party group, was divided between Bellavia and Corwin, with several of its members backing Bellavia's ultimately unsuccessful petition campaign and others (the best known being gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino) backing Corwin from the beginning.[13][14] After Bellavia failed to get onto the ballot, TEA New York endorsed Corwin. TEA New York refused to consider cross-endorsing Davis, mainly because of the use of the name "Tea Party" on Davis's ballot line (a tactic the Tea Party Coalition also used in the 2010 elections), to which he and numerous other Tea Party groups objected.[15] TEA New York, the Tea Party Express and numerous other Tea Party groups campaigned on behalf of Corwin and attempted to portray Davis as a "fake Tea Party" candidate.



Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul was unanimously selected by local Democratic Chairs to be their special election candidate on March 19, 2011.[16]

Other candidates interviewing for the party nomination included[17] Jane Bauch, former Democratic Party Chair of the town of Murray;[18] Mark Manna, Amherst town councilor; Martin Minemeier, a corrections officer from Henrietta;[18] Satish Mohan, former Amherst town supervisor; Robert Stall, a geriatrician from Tonawanda;[19] and Diana Voit, a resident of Erie County.


Assemblywoman Jane Corwin was selected as the party nominee the evening of February 21, 2011.[20] Corwin had been considered the likely Republican candidate almost immediately following Lee's resignation.[21][22]

Other candidates interviewing for the party nomination included[23] David Bellavia , author and Iraq war soldier; Jack Davis, Amherst businessman and three-time Democratic candidate for the same seat;[24] Brian Napoli, Ridgeway town supervisor; Peter O'Brien, U.S. Navy veteran; Barry Weinstein, Amherst town supervisor and former county legislator; Kathy Weppner, talk show host on WBEN; and Gary Wheat, former Avon council member.


The Conservative Party of New York State endorsed Republican nominee Jane Corwin on March 14.[25][26] Bellavia and Davis also sought the line.

Working Families

The Working Families Party endorsed Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul on March 20.[27]


The Independence Party of New York endorsed Republican nominee Jane Corwin on March 14.[26]


The Green Party of New York, in the first election since 2002 in which the party has automatic ballot access, nominated Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast, as its candidate on March 23, 2011.[28][29]

Tea Party

On March 21, Jack Davis, who had also been rejected in his bid for the Republican, Conservative and Democratic endorsements, filed approximately 12,000 petition signatures, more than triple the necessary number, and was on the ballot on the Tea Party line.[30]

Jim Ostrowski, the unofficial proprietor of the "Tea Party" line, later stated after the election that he believed perennial candidate David DiPietro was the best candidate for the seat, but did not believe DiPietro had the resources to run an effective campaign and had "almost given up" on running a serious candidacy until aligning himself with Davis.[31]

Rejected petition

David Bellavia, who had tried but failed to get party endorsement attempted to launch an independent campaign,[32] submitting approximately 3,600 signatures under the "Federalist Party" line. His petitions were challenged by a local resident.[33][34] In addition, Bellavia had failed to submit an affidavit formally accepting the nomination.[35] Consequentially, Bellavia did not receive a ballot position, and the petition challenge was rendered moot.[36][37] Bellavia eventually endorsed Davis for the seat.[38]


Poll source Date(s)
of error
Corwin (R)
Davis (T)
Hochul (D)
Murphy (G)
/ Other
Siena Poll April 26–27, 2011 484 ± 4.5% 36% 23% 31% 1% 9%
Global Strategy Group • May 2–4, 2011 400 ± 4.9% 31% 26% 30% 13%
Public Policy Polling+ May 5–8, 2011 1,048 ± 3.0% 31% 24% 35% 2% 8%
Siena Poll May 18–20, 2011 639 ± 3.9% 38% 12% 42% 1% 7%
Public Policy Polling May 21–22, 2011 1,106 ± 2.9% 36% 13% 42% 3% 5%
Results (for comparison) [May 24, 2011] 111,597 ± 0.0% [ 42.3% ] [ 9.0% ] [ 47.2% ] [ 1.1% ] [ 0.4% ]
  •  • Commissioned by the Hochul campaign
  • + Commissioned by Daily Kos and the SEIU


The race was called for Kathy Hochul, the Democrat, by multiple local and national news organizations, including the Associated Press, at about 10 p.m. EDT, an hour after polls closed and after a majority of votes had been counted.[39] The Corwin campaign, anticipating a close margin of victory, filed for an impounding of the ballots in preparation for a potential recount,[40] but Corwin rescinded her request the following day.[41] Turnout was relatively light; including 6,224 absentee ballots,[41] a total of 111,106 valid votes were cast between the four candidates, a number that is down significantly from the over 150,000 votes cast in each of the three special congressional elections in upstate New York in the past two years (by comparison, in 2008, losing candidate Alice Kryzan collected 109,615 votes on the Democratic Party line alone). Hochul collected the most votes in Erie and Niagara Counties, while Corwin carried Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming and Monroe Counties.

Special election May 24, 2011, U.S. House of Representatives, NY-26[42]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Kathy Courtney Hochul 47,519 42.58%
Working Families Kathy Courtney Hochul 5,194 4.65%
Total Kathy Courtney Hochul 52,713 47.24%
Republican Jane L. Corwin 35,721 32.01%
Conservative Jane L. Corwin 9,090 8.15%
Independence Jane L. Corwin 2,376 2.13%
Total Jane L. Corwin 47,187 42.28%
Tea Party Jack Davis 10,029 8.99%
Green Ian L. Murphy 1,177 1.05%
Blank and void 259 0.23%
Scattering 232 0.21%
Totals 111,597 100.0%
Voter turnout  %
Democratic gain from Republican


  1. ^ a b c "Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Ensure Military Voters are Treated Fairly in Special Elections, Calls Special Election in 26th Congressional District". Governor of New York's Press Office. March 9, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Congressman Chris Lee Resigns After Shirtless Photo Posted on Internet - ABC News". February 9, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ O'Connor, Maureen. "Married GOP Congressman Sent Sexy Pictures to Craigslist Babe". Gawker. February 9, 2011.
  4. ^ "2011 Special Election Ballot Certification NY State Board of Elections"]. April 11, 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hennessey, Kathleen (May 24, 2011). "AP: Democrat Hochul pulls off upset in New York congressional race". Los Angeles Times.,0,2207615.story. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  7. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (February 23, 2011). "Cuomo would make NY-26 doubly special". Capitol Confidential. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Special Elex Timeline To Be Extended (Updatedx2)". March 3, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Rucker, Philip (May 15, 2011). "N.Y. race is referendum on GOP Medicare plan". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Medicare, taxes dominate final NY election debate". Wall Street Journal Online. May 18, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011. 
  11. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (2011-02-22). Paladino, Roberto endorse Corwin, who's hitting the hustings. State of Politics. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
  12. ^ Ostrowski, James (March 2, 2011). Jack Davis for Congress. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  13. ^ "Tea Party Groups Angered by GOP’s Choice for N.Y. Special Election : Roll Call Politics". 2011-02-21. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  14. ^ Peoples, Steve (2011-03-08). Businessman Pushes for Third-Party Run in N.Y. Special Election. Roll Call. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  15. ^ Thompson, Rus and Jul (March 25, 2011). The Tea Party is not a 3rd party: for immediate release. TEA New York. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  16. ^ [1]. WHAM-TV. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  17. ^ Spector, Joseph (March 9, 2011). Seven Democrats interested in running for 26th CD. Gannett News Service. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  18. ^ a b May 12, 2011. "Jane Bauch of Murray wants a shot at Congress - The Daily News Online: News". The Daily News Online. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ by: phillip anderson. "the albany project:: The Dem Field In NY-26".;jsessionid=77A714B45E63511EE5549C7F033526ED?diaryId=9278. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  20. ^ Mason, Aaron (February 21, 2011). GOP pick Corwin to run for Lee's seat. WIVB-TV. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  21. ^ "Chris Lee Resigns: What's Next For 26th Congressional District". Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  22. ^ McCarthy, Bob. "Successors to Lee are quick to emerge". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Republican leaders unanimously endorse Corwin in 26th District". The Batavia Daily News Online. March 26, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  24. ^ Wolcott, Bill (February 21, 2011). Eight Republicans line up for Lee's seat. Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  25. ^ "Conservatives Will Likely Pick NY-26 Candidate On March 14". March 3, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Jagow, Allison (March 14, 2011). Corwin Endorsed By Three Parties For Special Election. WGRZ. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  27. ^ "Working Families Party backs Hochul for Lee’s seat - Hamburg". The Buffalo News. March 21, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  28. ^ Bedenko, Alan (March 17, 2011). Ian Murphy running for Congress. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  29. ^ "NY Greens nominate Ian Murphy, noted phone caller to Wisc. Gov. Walker, in special election for Congress". Green Party of New York. March 23, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  30. ^ "NRCC Attacks ‘Washington Lobbyist’ Hochul, Davis To File Petitions". March 21, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  31. ^ Ostrowski, James (2011-06-10). A Panoramic Review of the WNY Tax Revolt/Tea Party Movements (2004-2011). Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  32. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (February 21, 2011). Indys leaning toward Corwin, open to others. State of Politics. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
  33. ^ Terreri, Jill (April 1, 2011). Bellavia off ballot. Gannett News Service. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  34. ^ Illuzzi, Joseph (March 30, 2011). "Bellavia's signatures challenged." Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  35. ^ McCarthy, Robert (March 25, 2011). Bellavia unlikely to be on ballot. The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  36. ^ Illuzzi, Joseph (April 1, 2011). "Bellavia Thrown Off Ballot ... Davis OK to use Tea Party line." Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  37. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (April 1, 2011). Bellavia withdraws from NY-26 race. State of Politics. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  38. ^ Johnson, Michael (May 11, 2011). Bellavia backs Davis for Congress. State of Politics. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  39. ^ "Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan". New York Times. May 24, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^ Official Election Results from the New York State Board of Elections

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