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Conservatives Rallying Behind N.Y. Contender

Split GOP Could Give Democrats a Chance

There is little sign at this point -— among Democratic leaders in New York or Washington, D.C. — that Democrats will make the necessary investments in the 26th district special election to compete against Republican nominee Jane Corwin. Corwin appears to be days away from securing the Conservative Party ballot line despite early bristling from tea party activists. 

Even the prospect of two motivated third-party candidates has done little to encourage New York State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs.

“That makes it more viable, but it doesn’t mean that you’ve crossed the threshold yet,” he told Roll Call in a recent interview. “We’re also waiting to see how enthusiastic the DCCC is about this race. It’s a very tough seat.”

Asked how the state party would judge the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s enthusiasm, Jacobs replied, “Dollars.”

“If the DCCC is going to invest money in this race and send up staff and go all out, it would have to be predicated on the viewpoint that we can stand a chance at winning,” he said. “Now, we can always win a race, and there are a lot of variables, but you start with the registrations. And we haven’t seen the Democratic performance being all that impressive for anybody in that district.”

Today is the party’s self-imposed deadline for declaring interest in the suddenly open seat.

Jacobs has been in regular contact with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, but he said the New York lawmaker had yet to pledge any resources to the special election to replace former Rep. Chris Lee (R), who resigned suddenly last month amid reports that the married Congressman sought romantic encounters on the Internet. 

DCCC spokesman Josh Schwerin offered a short statement when asked Wednesday about the DCCC’s planned investment. “The DCCC is doing an assessment of the race,” he said, declining to elaborate. 

(The opposite has been true in a special election in a Democratic-leaning California district, where Republicans don’t plan to invest time or resources.)

In New York, Democrats are quietly hoping for a Republican implosion. 

Just as was the case in the 2009 special election in New York’s 23rd district, many think that only a divided GOP electorate could help deliver the seat to Democrats. And two Republicans who tried and failed to secure the GOP nomination, Iraq War veteran David Bellavia and businessman Jack Davis, are openly pursuing third-party candidacies.

But a 23rd district repeat appears unlikely.

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who played a key role by backing the third-party challenger in the 23rd district during the last cycle, met privately with Bellavia on Thursday morning and suggested afterward that he would probably back the Republican nominee, Corwin.

“He’s very intent that he’s going to make this run,” Long said of Bellavia. “I told him that I appreciated everything he said to me, that naturally it would be rolling around in my head, but I felt that Jane really had a leg up here.”

The Conservative Party’s executive board could vote to award its ballot line to Corwin by the end of the week, Long said.

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