Tea Partier Puts GOP-Friendly NY District Into Play For Dems

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In a potential replay of the 2009 NY-23 special election that saw a third-party candidacy turn a red-leaning district blue, a Tea Party candidate is threatening to hand Democrats an upset in the race to replace resigned Republican Rep. Chris Lee in NY-26.

A new poll from Siena Research Institute finds Republican Jane Corwin leading the race with 36% of the vote, while Democrat Kathy Hochul takes in 31%. Jack Davis, a wealthy businessman courting the Tea Party vote, draws a surprisingly strong 23%, making the race highly volatile. The district went for John McCain in 2008 by 6 points over Barack Obama.

Davis previously ran for the seat unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 2006 and 2008; however, he says he will caucus with the GOP if he wins. He is a harsh critic of the recent Republican budget, especially its plan to privatize Medicare, but his campaign is overwhelmingly concentrated on promoting an isolationist foreign policy and restrictions on free trade.

In a parallel to the NY-23 race, the Republican candidate’s more moderate positions — Corwin is pro-choice — have left an opening for attacks from her right. Two rival Tea Party groups in the regionsplit their endorsements between Davis and Corwin and are engaged in a bitter dispute over the race.

The special election for the open seat, left vacant after Rep. Lee resigned over a topless Craigslist personals ad, will take place on May 24.

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