The 15th Seat: Kirsten Gillibrand and NY-20
by Andrew C White, Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 01:12:31 PM EDT
The good news and good reports have been coming fast and furious for Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic challenger in New York's 20th Congressional District.
USA Today's Andrea Stone highlights Gillibrand in a report on Democratic chances for recapturing the US House of Representatives in this falls elections. Democrats need to gain a total of 15 seats in order to gain majority control.
Describing the upstate New York district as "the land of opportunity" and a "key" to Democratic "strategy for gaining control of the House of Representatives," Gillibrand is quoted as saying:
"There's a shift happening right now in the district and the region," says Gillibrand, 39, a lawyer and a former Clinton administration housing official. "People want new leaders who are accountable."
Gillibrand has made ethics and accountability centerpieces of her campaign. She opened her campaign with a humorous but hard hitting ad attacking the incumbent, John Sweeney, for his coziness with lobbyists amid the Abramoff-DeLay scandals striking at the heart of Republican Washington.
The northeast region, particularly New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania is considered "fertile ground for Democrats to pick up many of the 15 seats they need to regain House control." There are more a dozen Democratic candidates vying to take currently Republican held seats in the area.
"If there is a (Democratic) wave this year and it's going to hit anywhere, it's the Northeast," says Amy Walter, analyst at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "That is where Bush's weakness is felt."
Incumbent Republican John Sweeney, a "rubber stamp" for the Bush agenda, is feeling the heat. While recent health problems have had some in his own party questioning whether he would run for re-election or not. Sweeney insists his health is improving and dismisses questions regarding his and his wife's personal ethics and finances. Even while admitting the New York GOP is "in disarray" and that there are vulnerable House Republicans, Sweeney insists that his seat is safe.
"They get a good mark for effort," Sweeney says of the Democrats Northeast strategy. "But if they're going to spend their time in my district, they're wasting their time."
Meanwhile various political analysts have moved the district from safe Republican to Republican favored and are listing this as a race to watch to see if Democrats can succeed in taking control of the House.
Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, which includes several Northeastern lawmakers, says the GOP faces several challenges: "The president's numbers, the war in Iraq, the famous six-year itch. There's a lot of things that are around this."
New York Republicans tend to be traditional Republicans. Fiscal conservatives, fiercely independent and libertarian in regard to individual liberties. While Sweeney and his surrogates like to point to the districts large Republican enrollment advantage it is the independent voters that often make the difference.
Dartmouth University political scientist Linda Fowler says the "most ominous" signs for Republicans there are the disenchantment of independent voters and fiscal conservatives who are fed up with deficit spending by Congress.
Local elections across the 10 county district showed Democratic gains at almost every level including Democratic sweeps of several long time Republican strongholds. Democrats are quick to point out that the district has been won in statewide elections by Sen. Chuck Schumer and this years Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer during his previous election for Attorney General. Many analysts also expect a banner year for Democrats and depressed turn-out amongst Republicans due to the overwhelmingly strong top of the Democratic ticket which features Spitzer and Sen. Hillary Clinton and the complete disarray of the Republican party that may feature virtual unknowns at the top of their ticket.
Congressional Quarterly reported last week that Gillibrand's 1st quarter FEC filing ranked her 14th among all House challengers as of March 31. CQ subsequently moved the rating on this campaign from Safe Republican to Republican favored.
Virtually all analysts believe that this is exactly the kind of race that Democrats must win if they are to gain the 15 seats it requires to become the majority party once again the US House of Representatives.
NY-20 is the 15th seat. If we win here we win control of the House.