Cross posted on Upstate Political Report
New York’s 20th congressional district has a huge Republican advantage in party registrations compared to Democrats. The 2006 election season was largely a Democrat year. Combined with the fact that all sorts of negative news came out about sleazy ex-Congressman John Sweeney, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand was able to take the seat. In 2008, Gillibrand easily won reelection. In early 2009, then New York Senator Hillary Clinton was given the consolation prize of Secretary of State since she lost the Democrat primary to the so-called “hope and change” candidate. While Caroline “y’know” Kennedy was assumed to be the frontrunner to replace Hillary, ultimately the seat went to Kirsten Gillibrand. With the departure of Hillary, Chuck Schumer then TRULY became New York’s senior Senator, even though he had held that title on paper since 2001. Gillibrand provided him with an extra perk in my view: she has basically given in to him for at least 90% of her voting decisions.
Anyway, in the race to fill Gillibrand’s seat via special election, the Republicans nominated then New York State Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco. The Democrats had to pick through a bunch of no-name candidates. It was expected that Tedisco would handily win, and a Democrat had to run as the sacrificial lamb.
Scott Murphy, who had lived in Glens Falls for around three years by the 2009 race, happened to have a lot of money. He was chosen over nearly three dozen other candidates — many of whom likely lived in the district far longer — because of money.
While Tedisco spent years in the NYS Assembly and had a long record of accomplishments, the Republican National Committee came along and basically ran ads simply bashing Scott Murphy. Murphy was a nobody in the area….until the RNC gave him all sorts of free publicity. They created sympathy for the man with their attack ads. Even among conservatives, there was disappointment with these kinds of ads.
When Tedisco finally asserted control over his campaign and ran some positive ads, it was too late. The damage was done. Murphy had been given name recognition by the other side and generated sympathy.
What should have been a landslide victory in a heavily Republican district turned out to be too close to call. After seesawing for weeks, Murphy won by a few hundred votes and Tedisco conceded.
Fast forward to 2010. Despite Murphy’s claims that he is a business man, cares about small business, wants to get the government out of the way, blah blah blah, he has established a record of voting nearly 90% with Nancy Pelosi to expand the federal government. District residents have felt he ignored them and instead listened to his union DC Democrat masters. His campaign war chest is loaded with donations from “safe” Democrats, Wall Street, big unions, trial lawyers, etc.
Murphy started releasing ads. Some ads were positive about himself, though they did not talk specifics about his extensive DC record supporting Pelosi’s agenda. Other groups released ads touting the fact that Murphy has Sunday dinners with 52 family members as some sort of reason why he belongs in Congress. (Maybe if he is retired from Congress he could eat with those 52 family members every night of the week?) Another one touted the jobs he created, except they forgot to mention that many were in India.
But then Murphy started releasing attack ads against his opponent, Colonel Chris Gibson. One ad has a wild accusation about Gibson cutting Medicare by 75% when the Colonel has never been in Congress! Another one showed Gibson riding an alligator, gobbling things up. Murphy’s ads tend to mention Gibson’s name. Even in the “I approve this message” part of the ad, Murphy has been shown mentioning Gibson’s name. He should have been saying “My opponent” if he had to reference Gibson at all. Strategically, it is just foolish for the incumbent to provide free publicity for the challenger.
Did Murphy learn anything from the 2009 campaign which greatly benefitted him?
Evidently not. Murphy’s poll numbers are down into the final week of election season. Murphy needs to be “rescued” by Bill Clinton on the day before election day. (Bad idea to have such a high profile candidate this late into the race.) It just doesn’t look good.
Should Murphy be toppled, some of this will be due to his advertising mistakes, along with ignoring many in his constituency and false statements about Colonel Gibson such as the Medicare accusation.