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N.Y. GOP Goes Back to Drawing Board After Special

Even as Rep.-elect Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) prepares to be sworn in as Congress’ newest Member on Wednesday, Republicans on Capitol Hill and in upstate New York remain cautiously optimistic about their prospects for knocking him off in 18 months.

New York’s 20th district “taught us we could once again be competitive in a Democrat-held district, so it will be natural for us to apply what worked well and target it again in 2010,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said on Monday.

In addition to state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R) — who lost the special election to replace recently appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by less than 400 votes — potential Republican candidates in 2010 include former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, state Sens. Betty Little and Roy McDonald, Richard Wager, a former aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), and Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy, who is no relation to the Congressman-elect.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer declined to say Monday whether Murphy will be added to the committee’s “Frontline” program, which raises money for vulnerable incumbents, but such a move seems likely, especially after such a narrow victory and considering that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district by about 70,000.

In his victory statement, Murphy thanked Gillibrand and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), among others, for their help during the hard-fought campaign. But as he looks ahead to 2010 in his moderate district Murphy may want to guard against getting too close to some other more liberal Members of his party between now and next November.

“We will ... be watching Scott Murphy to see how far he goes in supporting the interests of his Washington and Wall Street friends at the expense of upstate New Yorkers,” Lindsay promised on Monday.

In upstate New York, some Republicans said Monday that a GOP victory in the 20th district next year will require the party to first look inward and address some organizational and process issues that undercut their chances in the special election.

“There are several good Republicans in the district that could be candidates if they choose to be,” said Brendan Quinn, a former executive director of the state GOP who is now a consultant in upstate New York. “What they need is for the party to step up and get its act together for them to be viable.”

Several Republican insiders have criticized the way Tedisco was nominated — in a hastily called meeting of the 10 county GOP chairmen in the 20th district. The party leaders did not even offer potential candidates, including Faso and Little, a chance to speak.

“A handful of county chairmen jammed through their favorite son, and a lot of Republicans didn’t support it,” said one knowledgeable upstate Republican. “So unless you’ve changed the process, you’re not going to change the result.”

Tedisco was also the choice of state GOP Chairman Joseph Mondello.

Tedisco’s office did not respond Monday to a request to comment on whether the Assemblyman — who was replaced as Minority Leader earlier this month — would make another Congressional bid.

But former Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), who headed the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2004 and 2006 cycles, said Tedisco had earned the right to run again next year if he wants to, even though he is likely to face a primary challenge.

Reynolds added that Tedisco’s campaign — and the efforts of state and national Republicans and their affiliated groups — often seemed a step behind Murphy’s and the Democrats’ during the special election, particularly on the advertising front.

“Most people that I respect believe that the presentation made on the Democrat side was better than it was on the Republican,” he said.

Reynolds, like other Republicans interviewed for this article, said the state GOP apparatus simply was no match for the public employee unions and other interest groups pulling votes for Murphy.

“The state Republican Party is in deep trouble in its ability to put organizational support in that district, or frankly, in any district,” he said.

Many Republicans expect shake-ups in the months ahead in some of the county GOP organizations in the 20th district, and possibly in the state party itself.

But one Republican insider familiar with New York said analysts should not lose sight of the fact that Tedisco, according to his own poll taken at the beginning of the special election, had 50 percent of the vote and never progressed as the campaign unfolded.

“Tedisco’s team was in over their heads from the start,” the GOP insider said. “It was painfully obvious watching every misstep along the way.”

The insider said that, as a result, if Tedisco wants to run for Congress again, he’ll meet some resistance.

“I don’t think there’s going to be much of a stomach to see a Tedisco reprise,” the Republican said.

Faso said Monday that it’s premature to speculate about whether he’ll seek the Republican nomination in 2010. He also declined to give any timeframe for when he might make a decision.

Little spokesman Dan Macentee said Monday the Senator has no interest in running against Murphy in 2010.

“She intends to run for New York state Senate in 2010,” MacEntee said. “That’s not expected to change.”

GOP insiders also expressed the fear that even if a Republican wins the seat in 2010, Democrats, who already hold a 26-3 edge in the Congressional delegation, will find a way to eliminate it following the 2010 Census, when the state is expected to lose one or two House seats.

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