Special elections fuel political spending


The exit of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) from the US Congress opened a seat in California District 36 in the Los Angeles area, and the scandal-fueled exit of Chris Lee (R-NY) opened up a seat in New York District 26. The New York contest in particular has attracted a lot of out-of-district interest.

The California event was held 5/18/11, and was run as a free-for-all with the top two vote-getters going into a run-off. Democrat Janice Hahn was an easy winner, and as of this writing, Republican Craig Huey looked like the number two choice over Democrat Debra Bowen by an extremely slim margin that may not hold.

The prospects of national attention for this race are slim – the district is a Democratic stronghold. Nonetheless, it did feature spending that would not otherwise have happened. Hahn was said to have quickly raised over $400K for the race, and Huey was self-funded with $500K. More spending should ensue in the run-off – but since the seat is expected to be safely in the hands of one party, is unlikely to draw interest from the outside.

New York 26 is another matter. The district is in the Buffalo area and is a Republican stronghold. However, a third candidate is in the mix, and that has posed problems for Republican Jane Corwin, who is facing Democrat Kathy Hochul. The third candidate is Jack Davis, who is on the ballot as a Tea Party candidate, and who has been drawing support away from Corwin.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, three candidates have raised $6.2M on their own. On top of that, the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have been spending in the District.

Further, several national conservative organizations have also been pouring cash into the district in an effort to keep the seat in Republican hands. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is said to have spent $650K. The election is scheduled for 5/24/11, with more spending, and more participants in the spending, expected.

RBR-TVBR observation: The forces that have conspired to muddy the waters in Lee’s district put a spotlight on the possibilities of a special election. One party sees a pick-up opportunity, the other sees a need to defend, and with no other game on the schedule and the main election over a year away, national money is free to flow into the local district.