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Updated Dec. 3, 2009
As one of just three Republicans left in his state's 29-member House delegation, freshman Lee moved early to craft an image as a consensus-builder and bipartisan pragmatist who is focused on spurring a rebound for the upstate 26th District's struggling economy.
This puts Lee on a different political path than that pursued by his predecessor: Retired five-term Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds was a genial but highly partisan Republican who headed his party's national House campaign committee in its successful 2004 election efforts and in the unsuccessful 2006 campaign that cost the GOP its House majority.
Lee's approach has earned him some positive press at home in a district that gets most of its population from suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, with mainly rural areas in between. He even has drawn praise from some Democratic colleagues. And so far it's earned him a reprieve from Democratic challengers, in the wake of his double-digit percentage margin in 2008.
The solid Republican base he enjoys in the 26th was evident in the presidential voting that year, as John McCain outran Barack Obama by 6 percentage points, down from the GOP's usual advantage but respectable by New York standards.
Still, it's highly unlikely that the state's emboldened Democrats will give Lee a completely free pass as he seeks re-election for the first time.
Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul appears to have the right of first refusal, but she decided not to run in 2008 and may forgo the race again this time.
District Profile from Politics in America
Stretching from suburban Buffalo to the Rochester suburbs, the Republican-leaning 26th scoops up miles of farmland between and to the south of the two cities. Slightly less than half the district's residents live in Niagara and Erie counties, and manufacturing still drives their local economies. Abundant dairy farms and apple orchards shape the rural regions.
The population is anchored in the district's portion of Erie County, particularly in Amherst. The north campus of the state university at Buffalo, which houses most of the university's programs, and corporate office parks are Amherst mainstays.
The 26th's share of Niagara County includes Lockport and North Tonawanda, which becomes a tourist hot spot each summer. Visitors are attracted to North Tonawanda's Gateway Harbor Park, the last spot before the Erie Canal joins the Niagara River. Yahoo Inc. plans to expand its data center that opened in Lockport in 2010.
The 26th has had a noticeable GOP lean for decades, but voting habits differ across the district's seven counties and even registered Republicans will back some Democratic candidates. The district's portions of the population centers of Erie and Niagara counties vote Democratic, while Livingston to the south has a more Republican lean. Rural Wyoming, Genesee and Orleans counties are solidly Republican, but third-party candidates can do well in Monroe County outside of Rochester.
Manufacturing, agriculture, service
North Tonawanda, 31,568; Lockport, 21,165
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is in North Tonawanda.
|2010||general||Christopher Lee (R)||151,449||73.6%|
|Philip Fedele (D)||54,307||26.4%|
|2008||general||Christopher Lee (R, INDC, C)||148,607||55%|
|Alice Kryzan (D)||109,615||40.5%|
|Jonathan Powers (WFM)||12,104||4.5%|
|2006||general||Thomas Reynolds (R, C)||109,257||52%|
|Jack Davis (D, WFM, INDC)||100,914||48%|
|2004||general||Thomas Reynolds (R, INDC, C)||157,466||55.6%|
|Jack Davis (D, WFM)||125,613||44.4%|
|2002||general||Thomas Reynolds (R, C, INDC)||135,089||73.6%|
|Ayesha Nariman (D)||41,140||22.4%|
|Shawn Harris (RTL)||4,084||2.2%|
|Paul Fallon (GREEN)||3,146||1.7%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 46%||John McCain: 52%|
|2004||John Kerry: 43%||George W. Bush: 55%|
|2000||Al Gore: 45%||George W. Bush: 52%|