Rural Election Watch: New York’s 20th District

By Sean Reagan

Voters in New York’s 20th district – a sprawling, largely rural district encompassing all or part of ten counties – head to the polls on Tuesday to fill the House seat vacated by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.

Gillibrand was appointed to Hillary Clinton’s former Senate seat by Gov. Paterson.

The race pits Democrat Scott Murphy against Republican Jim Tedisco, the state Assembly Minority Leader. At the outset, Tedisco’s name recognition – he’s an Albany fixture, and not always in the best sense of the word – easily dwarfed Murphy’s. The RNC has dumped over $100K into the race.

But for all that, Tedisco’s double digit lead had been steadily shrinking. Recent polls show a tight race, with the momentum all in Murphy’s camp. Veteran pollster Stu Rothenberg has noted that Tedisco can’t quite seem to close the deal.

The Republican voter registration advantage appears to be a lagging indicator of the direction of a district that voted overwhelming for Gillibrand and gave Barack Obama a more narrow victory last fall.

There appears to be a sizable population of Republicans that aren’t yet willing to vote for state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R). Democrats have Tedisco on the defensive for not taking a stance on the stimulus bill in a district where President Obama and Gillibrand are very popular.

In recent days, Murphy has been racking up editorial endorsements. This one, from the Oneonta Daily Star, neatly puts the race in a nutshell. Murphy – smart, creative and energetic. Tedisco – uninformed and out of touch.

Strictly on the issues, The Daily Star endorses Scott Murphy.

While we are concerned about Murphy’s lack of political experience, Tedisco’s unfamiliarity with some local issues after many years in the Legislature bothers us more.

Murphy seems to know little about NYRI’s attempts to create an upstate power line to benefit New York City, but – unlike Tedisco – he at least knew that NYRI stands for New York Regional Interconnect.

. . .

But mostly, this election comes down to this. Murphy supports President Barack Obama’s efforts to revive the economy, and Tedisco opposes them.

If we elect Murphy, he will be a solid vote in the House of Representatives for what Obama is trying to accomplish.

Tedisco would not. The country needs solutions, and another vote to essentially do nothing won’t solve our problems.

Earlier this week, President Obama and the DNC got into the act as well.

The DNC, which has given candidate Scott Murphy $5,000, is now sending another $5,000 to aid the New York Democratic Party in the March 31 contest to fill former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat, according to a source familiar with the contribution.

And President Barack Obama has signed an e-mail urging support for Murphy and blasted it to a list of more than 50,000 allies in and around the upstate district.

If the election turns out to be a referendum on Obama and the economy, Tedisco is in trouble. He wavered when asked whether he would vote for the President’s stimulus package. In comparison, Murphy’s unqualified support appears to have resonated with voters concerned about the current economy.

While I believe the recovery package is far from perfect, I support President Obama’s call for bold action. It’s essential we provide middle class tax relief, and create jobs in upstate New York immediately. President Obama’s economic recovery package is estimated to create or save over 76,000 jobs in upstate New York and will provide significant budget relief to help hold the line on property taxes.

In a similar vein, early accusations by Republican attack dogs that Murphy had shipped jobs to India backfired. In reality, Murphy used profits from the sale of his India-based internet company and invested them in upstate New York.

In short, Tedisco wants to coast on a long record of wheeling and dealing in Albany’s famed back rooms while voters are looking for the kind of bold and decisive action characteristic of the Obama administration.

Advantage: Scott Murphy.

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9 Responses to “Rural Election Watch: New York’s 20th District”

  1. Seems like we just finished the election and we’re off to the races! 

  2. Having known Jim Tedisco from childhood you might think I would be a supporter. I am not! Although he is a very personable man he is a political wheeler dealer. He will vote the way the Republican party tells him too. He will not represent the interests of all of the people of the district. What made Gillibrand so popular is that she did not please everyone. She had some concervative votes and some liberal votes in congress. She listened to her constituents. That will not happen with Jim. At least with Scott Murphy there is a chance he will listen to his constituents.

  3. Excellent roundup, but a couple of corrections are in order.  First, the 20th is not mostly rural.  While it contains a lot of rural real estate, the majority of the population lives in a hard-core suburb called Clifton Park.  And Clifton Park votes on fraudulent electronic machines.

    Second, the 20th sprawls in a ridiculous manner because it was specifically gerrymandered to guarantee Re-pub control.  It is in fact in the the shape of a giant “C” which skirts around the Cities of Albany and Troy.

    Yet, despite these terrific disadvantages, along with fighting against Re-pub money and lack of name recognition, Mr. Murphy is according to the latest Siena Poll pulling ahead with a four point lead.

  4. It’s very clear, the choice here.

    Go party of  ‘NO” v ‘Yes We Can’?

    A real ‘no brainer’,  save Gillibrand’s seat,
    bring Murphy in on retainer.

  5. Dear Dan:

    Thank you for visiting The Back Forty and we’re happy to hear from you.  As for your question re: the makeup of the district, we always strive to give our readers factual answers when we can.  2000 census data (and most recent on record) shows NY-20 to be 55.1% rural.  

    Deb & Matt, Cofounders

  6. My fellow populist Democratic friend on Facebook shared this link with me and I’m not dissapointed at all that I came here.

  7. Your informations has been very useful for me. I hope you can post any more info about the race in NY20 soon. Looks like Murphy will win and would like to here more about the wild ride.

  8. I’ve been following your blog for quite a long time and must tell you that your articles are always valuable to readers. Keep it coming!

  9. Did Murphy actually win? Or is this another situation like Minnesota’s Coleman V. Franken recount — will it go on forever?

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