Tedisco/Murphy race “too close to call”

Memeorandum is loaded with updates and commentary this morning on yesterday’s vote in NY-20 as to who was going to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in the US House – Jim Tedisco (R) or Scott Murphy (D). The NYT reports that as of late last night, 65 votes separated the two candidates:

With all precincts reporting, the Democrat, Scott Murphy, a 39-year-old venture capitalist, led 77,344 to 77,279 over his Republican rival, Assemblyman James N. Tedisco, 58, for the seat vacated by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat. The turnout was surprisingly strong for a special election.

But 10,055 absentee ballots were issued β€” and 5,907 received so far, state election officials said β€” meaning the election cannot be decided until the paper ballots are counted. Moreover, it is likely that the count may not begin until at least April 6, said Bob Brehm, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections.

Republicans held out hope of recapturing the seat in the 20th Congressional District, which is heavily Republican and stretches from the Catskills through the Albany suburbs to the Adirondacks. Democrats, meanwhile, waited to see whether their standard-bearer, a first-time political candidate who campaigned on his support for the federal stimulus package, could pull off an upset.

Mr. Murphy, a Missouri native unknown in the district until he began running television ads in February, faced a huge Republican registration advantage and an advertising onslaught by outside conservative groups. But he raised enough money to significantly outspend Mr. Tedisco in a race where voters complained that both sides went negative early and often.

Mr. Murphy closely aligned himself with President Obama, who narrowly won the district in November; Mr. Murphy also won support by promoting the stimulus package. Mr. Tedisco, who eventually came out against the stimulus, struggled to articulate a compelling economic message early on, but capitalized on outrage over bonuses for financial executives, portraying Mr. Murphy as sympathizing with Wall Street financiers more than ordinary upstate families.

We likely won’t know the results of this race until mid-April. Will this turn into another Franken/Coleman drama? I hope like hell it won’t. The Politico is trying to paint the virtual tie as a “loss” for the GOP. I’m not so sure about that, for reasons mentioned below.

I think both parties may have put too much emphasis on this race, especially the GOP, who wanted to make it a “referendum” on Obama a little over two months into his presidency. He’s still popular right now with the majority, so it’s not exactly like we could have produced a landslide victory so soon after he took the oath of office, especially considering that the seat was already a Democrat (conservative to moderate Dem) seat already thanks to Gillibrand.

Chris Good makes a good point here:

A long vote-counting or legal process would, undoubtedly, mute the national political impact of Tuesday’s election. Democrats had hoped the race would prove President Obama’s economic agenda is popular with voters; Republicans, that it would prove their party still appeals to swing voters and is capable of a comeback. As a major political football, the specter of AIG outrage loomed. Republican National Committee Chairman (RNC) Michael Steele had staked some of his reputation on the race, visiting the district twice and pouring $275,000 of RNC money into it, as Politico’s Charles Mahtesian notes.


If there’s a clear winner by midday tomorrow, NY-20 could still set a tone for the 2010 cycle as a statement on the stimulus, AIG, and party momentum. (Granted, reading too much into it ignores the strengths and weaknesses of Murphy and Tedisco themselves and assumes that New York’s 20th district voters think like swing voters elsewhere.)

It’s unclear whether such a winner will emerge. But no matter who wins–and no matter how long it takes–the losing party will be able to say, “yeah, well, it came down to a pretty slim margin, and there’s a lot of time between now and November 2010.”


In any event, clearly, we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get this party back on track. I hate to say it – and maybe it’s because it’s early in the morning and I’m cranky – but I’ve seen very little evidence so far that the GOP leadership is trying to do that.

Frustrating. And infuriating.

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