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Signs of trouble for Hochul

When the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported last week that congressional Democrats reserved $19 million of air time on television stations across the country, the list once again ignored Buffalo and Rochester.

That signals continued trouble for Kathy Hochul, the Democratic incumbent fighting for her political life in the new 27th Congressional District. Because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chooses races it deems competitive, the latest move makes the Hochul contest conspicuous by its absence.

That follows the DCCC's April reservation for $32 million in about three dozen competitive districts – which also sniffed at the Hochul race.

There is a reason for such skepticism. When Hochul shocked the political world a year ago by decisively winning a special election in a Republican district, she emerged as a new Democratic darling. Kathy Hochul: official poster child of all things Democratic, even while maintaining a bit of an independent streak.

But reapportionment has cast an even redder shade to her already scarlet turf. In fact, the new 27th now ranks as the most Republican congressional district in all of New York. And that's why Republican hopefuls Chris Collins and David Bellavia are drooling over the vast pool of potential votes on the GOP line.
In early June, however, not even the wisest and most experienced political observers are counting out Hochul.

They point out that other Democrats have recently won in overwhelmingly Democratic districts. Recall Kirsten Gillibrand over John Sweeney in the Hudson Valley and Eric Massa over Randy Kuhl in the Southern Tier.

In addition, Hochul found herself in a similar position early in her 2011 campaign against Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. The DCCC showed initial skepticism before finally coming through.

And no Republican in captivity – including Collins or Bellavia – discounts Hochul as an opponent. She possesses the "gift" other pols can only covet when it comes to connecting with voters. Include former Congressmen Jack Quinn and Tom Reynolds in that category, while old-timers mention the late Mayor Frank Sedita or the late Judge Mike Dillon.

The DCCC could still join the Hochul race. It is far from over.


*As the June 26 congressional primary approaches, it appears less and less likely that Collins and Bellavia will debate as they vie to challenge Hochul. The pair squared off in Canandaigua Wednesday, but the tepid format resembled "interviews" rather than the frank discussion of issues most Republican voters would appreciate.

For now, it appears the Bellavia campaign is rejecting a June 19 affair in Clarence sponsored by the Erie County Federation of Republican Women. It objects to the role of Legislator Lynne Dixon as moderator, claiming the Independence Party member who caucuses with the GOP is too close to Collins, the former county executive.
The Collins camp, meanwhile, is ignoring an invitation for a YNN Cable debate on June 18 – acceptable to Bellavia.

*It's low-key so far, but a Democratic primary for county comptroller is under way. Businessman George Hasiotis is circulating designating petitions in a challenge to David Shenk, the endorsed candidate appointed interim comptroller by the County Legislature.

*The Democratic Party remains poised for Len Lenihan to return from the mountaintop where he is contemplating his future as chairman. Lenihan is sounding very much like a chairman, issuing press releases and preparing for fall elections.

But as thunder rumblings and lightning appear on Lenihan's mountain, the bet here is that County Executive Mark Poloncarz is very much involved in those discussions.