Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Has the Worm Turned? NYTimes Reports Democrat Wins Special Congressional Election In NY

Chris Lee, Former Republican Congressman from NY-26

Chris Lee resigned from his seat for New York's 26th Congressional district in early February after Gawker.com published a story complete with pictures about the married congressman's effort to hook up with a woman he had met on Craig's List.  Lee sent the woman semi-nude pictures he had taken of himself. When the story first came out Lee’s office claimed that his email had been hacked and that the messages were not his, but he ultimately decided not to go with that angle.  Forbes blog had perhaps the best take on Lee's judgment:
You know who probably won’t respect your privacy? A random stranger on Craigslist to whom you send shirtless photos. It seems like a fairly obvious assumption, but it caught New York congressman Christopher Lee by surprise.
It’s hard to keep your identity under wrap when you’re a public figure, even if just a congressman from Western New York. It’s even harder in the age of Facebook, because amazingly, he emailed this woman from a Gmail account using his real name. (Lee, those email accounts come free, by the way! Use a throwaway one that doesn’t involve your real identity when emailing randos on Craigslist, like the rest of us do.)
His Craigslist correspondent looked him up on Fbook and discovered that he had lied about his age, marital status, and occupation. Given his high-profile position, she then forwarded their correspondence along to Gawker. (More advice for Lee: do not include your face in shirtless photos. Any teenage sexter could have told you that.) 
All this is just the set-up for the important event which occurred today. When Lee resigned from his seat,  a special election was scheduled to replace him.  The election was today.  The New York 26th congressional district, consisting primarily of suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, is one of the staunchest Republican districts in the state.  Lee won the 2010 election with 76 percent of the vote.  (Think of Waukesha County on steroids.) The Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, defended the Ryan Medicare plan and the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, made it the centerpiece of her campaign.  The New York Times political blog is now projecting that Hochul will win the election.  With 66 percent of the precincts reported, Hochul is winning 48% to 43%. (There is a third-party candidate.)

If the results hold up, you can expect to watch more Republican congressman begin to distance themselves from the Ryan Medicare plan over the weeks ahead.  It will probably start with a trickle and turn into a stream.  The significance of this election probably doesn't rank on a par with Republican Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts after Kennedy's death, but it is a big shift that undoubtedly signals that the Ryan plan is on life support, and tax increases (or at least cleaning up of exemptions and credits) will be part of the deficit fix.

Kathy Hochul

New York Times Photograph

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