New York Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney announced Tuesday she will challenge Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., in the Republican primary next year, setting up a fight between the three-term tea party state legislator against a moderate incumbent.
Tenney, who challenged Hanna in the 2014 primary, framed the race as one against a “Washington incumbent who betrays Republican and conservative values.” “Politicians in Washington tell us what we want to hear in the district, but vote the opposite when they go to Washington,” she said in a statement that came out ahead of a three-stop tour of the 22nd District. “Hanna continues to surrender our principles on the steps of the Capitol and sides with the President and Democrats to keep his seat in power.”
Tenney lost to Hanna by 1,600 votes in the 2014 race where about 28,600 votes were cast.
Hanna, who was elected in 2010, drew national attention this year — along with ire from Republicans — when he said during a radio interview that a House committee’s investigation into the 2012 attacks on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, might have been more about targeting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton rather than genuine interest in the attacks.
In an interview last month , Tenney accused Hanna of supporting Clinton’s claim that Republicans were using the committee to target her as “trying to shore up more Democratic support in the event of a challenge next year.”
The Benghazi episode is not the only time Hanna has split with his party’s leaders, which could make him vulnerable to a primary opponent such as Tenney. He has supported legalized marriage for gay couples and has opposed efforts to chip away at funding for Planned Parenthood. But he has maintained support from groups such as the National Rifle Association, which typically align with conservatives.
Chris Pack, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday the group will "always work to protect our incumbents," and that includes Hanna.
"Richard Hanna has already shown he knows how to win a primary and we expect this cycle to be no different,” he said.
Last cycle, Hanna faced no Democratic opponent. New York's 22nd District is rated Safe Republican in the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.