NY-26: Left Behind
by Chris Bowers, Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 02:01:32 PM EDT
This afternoon, Mark and I drove up to Batavia, NY in the heart of New York's 26th congressional district. Last night, Jonathan reported that the NRCC, chaired by Tom Reynolds, had given up on this district, held by Tom Reynolds. After visiting the district today, I can tell you that the NRCC is not alone when it comes to abandoning Reynolds.
Mark and I avoided the Thruway on our drive into Batavia, preferring to take back roads instead. As we drove through some of the most rural parts of the district, we began to notice the conspicuous absence of Reynolds signs. Not only was Democrat Jack Davis ahead something like 13-2 in yard solitary signs during our drive into Batavia, but signs for Reynolds were also notably absent in clusters of signs for other Republicans running in the area. It was common to see groups of signs for Faso (the Republican who will get crushed by Eliot Spitzer), Spencer (the Republican who will get crushed by Hillary Clinton), and a couple of local Republican candidates. However, no one in any of these clusters was there a Reynolds sign. Not once--both of the Reynolds signs that we did see stood alone on a private lawn. In fact, there were often gaps in the clusters of Republican signs where another sign once stood. Mark and I found at least two clusters where the wire that once held a sign now stood alone, without any sign. I think it is pretty safe to assume that the sign that had been removed was for Reynolds. Local Republicans are trying to disassociate themselves from Reynolds as much as possible. Reynolds has been abandoned.
While we were in Batavia, Mark and I stopped by to see our Grandma on our mother's side, Elizabeth Crane. She had just gotten out of the hospital, and her electricity had just been restored the previous day after the snowstorm. However, as we talked over tea and coffee, she said that she would still be working the polls on Election Day, just as she has every year for thirty years now. If my 86 year old grandmother who just got out of the hospital can work the polls to help make certain that every vote can be counted, everyone reading this blog can work as a volunteer in this election in some way.
As Mark and I were leaving town, we passed by a Christian bookstore. On the side of the bookstore were signs and posters for every Democrat on the ballot in the area, proving yet again that the secular, far-left, liberal elite is making the Democratic Party un-electable. Snark aside, it also led me to think about the meta-question I have been trying to answer on this trip: why is upstate New York turning blue? Along with the bookstore, my grandmother, who goes to church every morning, has always voted Democratic from what I know (for example, she threw out a piece of attack mail against Jack Davis that arrived in her mailbox while we were visiting). Being devout in upstate certainly does not seem to be associated with being conservative. I wonder if that is a change that happened recently, as the broader country has moved against Republicans, or if there was never much of a Christian right in upstate New York to begin with. I certainly don't remember encountering anything resembling the Christian right until I left upstate New York to attend college in the Philadelphia exurbs. Meeting fundamentalists was, um, something of a surprise to me.
There won't be national exit polls on this election, so it will be difficult to draw quick conclusions about the demographic shifts in the two coalitions that will have taken place since 2004. I expect that Democrats will have made significant gains in all areas, including frequent church-goers. This interesting things is that I think will happen without any significant or effective outreach to frequent church-goers on the party of national progressive and Democratic organizations. I don't see many more Democratic candidates talking faith and "values," but Democrats are still going to do a lot better among regular church goers. Will this simply be a temporary increase caused by disgust with the Bush administration and Republican trifecta? Is a more permanent shift in the interests of regular church goers themselves? Perhaps even more importantly, does it demonstrate that there are other ways to reach regular church goers other than to make overt public gestures of faith? There may be other things Democrats are doing, other than publicly wearing their faith as though it were a medal of honor, that are reaching the devoutly religious. Certainly, it would appear that in the NY-26, Tom Reynolds is being left behind by nearly everyone, including the devout. How much can we expect this pattern to extend beyond the specific districts involved in the Foley scandal, and how long will the aftershock of the scandal distance Republicans from their white evangelical base?
Next stop on my trip: Rochester Turning, Eric Massa and the NY-29.