From MYD’s Political Director Dillon:
Anytime there is an election, we are always bombarded with messages about how close a race is, how much the candidate needs donations, and how truly valuable your time would be if you could just stop by and help out a bit. Now, I don’t want to put down helping your favorite candidate during election season, but we get asked by many different causes on a regular basis to donate our time, our money, or to reach out to our contacts and eventually we get tired of hearing the same song and dance. With the Internet and cell phone plans offering unlimited long distance calling on nights and weekends, now we are asked to take part in races on the other side of the state or country by phonebanking. It’s impossible to tell what races really are close, and which are foregone conclusions, especially when you don’t know the people involved before a group asks you to help out.
But every so often there is a race that’s actually that close, where a few hours of your time would make a difference. Kathy Hochul’s race next Tuesday is that race. And I want you to know why.
One thing that doesn’t lie is unbiased numbers. And when we talk about elections, one of the hardest things to come across is actual, unbiased numbers generated by a firm that has no political connections. Siena College has been putting out just this kind of high quality data on New York races for years. It’s my personal Gold Standard for anything that’s happening in New York. And the best part? Their results are boring. They’re detailed. And they don’t come with any commentary.
So when I started to hear the buzz that the upcoming race in NY’s 26th congressional district was unusually close and I was asked to join a number of Hochul phonebanking efforts, Siena College is exactly where I looked to see just how close it really was. Now granted, the latest Siena numbers are about two weeks old, but that’s good enough to work with, and certainly enough to get an idea from. The headline numbers had Hochul down by 5 points, with 9% undecided, in a three way race. That got me to dig a little deeper, since that actually is close.
Since that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that beyond the “Rah! Rah! Help the Democrat!” I usually hear in connection with phonebanks for races outside of my area, this race is actually something that’s winnable, genuinely hanging in the balance, and a race that will have a long term impact in that district.
And why? Largely because of these points:
1) It’s become a serious three way race where three major candidates all are serious contenders to win. This means that unlike many races, a few points either way is actually a big swing. And in a special election, a few points is a very small number of voters.
2) The Siena data is two weeks stale; all of the more recent (and more partisan) polls I’ve seen have the the race in a statistical dead heat.
3) Jack Davis, the candidate running independently, is pulling 20%(!) of the Democratic vote for his “Tea Party” candidacy.
4) Even though the race is quite close, only 58% of Hochul voters actually believe that Hochul will win, and I would postulate this stems from this district historically electing Republicans. This kind of thinking can lead to a serious Democratic apathy at going to the polls; phonebanking that “this is a close election” and other get out the vote efforts are the only way to combat this.
5) This isn’t as Republican a district as we’ve been led to believe! While the tendency of the district is to elect “moderate” republicans, the actual breakdown of the voter registration is as follows:
|Republican + Conservative
|Democratic + Working Families Party
|Independence + None + Other Parties
Anyway, the point of all this is that these phonebanks will have a an impact on this race. And your time will have a stronger impact than I’m used to seeing in phonebanks for “winnable” races. This is a winnable race, but not one that will definitely be won.
Beyond that, the makeup of this district, means that this isn’t just a case where the Democrat will eek out a win due to a third candidate and immediately be dumped in the next election. This is a district where the incumbency advantage should be enough for a moderate Democrat like Kathy Hochul to offset the 8% registration advantage the Republicans have in this district, especially when she has a pool of 25% independent voters to draw from.
Please take the time to attend one of the phonebanks that are being held in New York City this week. Your time will have a serious impact on this race. One that can turn a district blue, and keep it that way.
Greater NYC for Change is keeping a comprehensive and up to date list of all phone banks happening over the next few days here. Please take a look and get involved.
And if you can’t make it to one of those phonebanks, please consider taking the time to phone from home using www.callny26.com.
*Data used is from the Siena poll of April 29, 2011, available here, with the exception of district-party makeup data which is via the NYS DOE, updated as of Feb 16th, 2011, of active voter registrations in CD 26.