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And the mud begins to fly

A few things to count on during the special election campaign for the 26th Congressional District:

*Spinmeisters from both sides are already churning out jabs they hope will end up in print. And in an age when bloggers eagerly gobble up everything served by the spoon feeders, they are scoring some success.

Expect the Washington GOP types to build on their 2010 gains by labeling Democrat Kathy Hochul a "career politician" and a "carpetbagger" who does not live in the district -- even though veteran pol Tom Reynolds won the same seat in 1998 from outside the 26th in Springville.

And the press room of the National Republican Congressional Committee will label Hochul the choice of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, even though Hochul aides say the two have never met.

*Over on the Democratic side, Hochul supporters are already hanging the "Wall Street veteran" moniker on Republican candidate Jane Corwin, as if experience at the epicenter of U.S. commerce and finance disqualifies her from the office.

Hochul's website, meanwhile, ignores that she spent 13 years on the Hamburg Town Council, already the focus of pointed attacks from Republicans who say she raised taxes and fees while serving there.

Expect, instead, references to "hard working families."

*Money will drive the campaign for the May 24 election, which is why Hochul waited until almost the ultimate deadline before declaring her candidacy last weekend. Even though state law does not provide for a primary in special elections, a federal loophole allowed her to collect the $2,500 primary limit plus the $2,500 general election limit for more than five weeks before making it official.

*Polling conducted by both sides will hold a hefty sway. The guess here is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will eventually poll despite its current lack of interest.

That survey will justify an "I told you so" from Washington when the committee refuses help for Hochul late in the contest. Or, if Hochul is surging, Democratic constituencies like labor will assume key roles as in other recent special elections in New York State.

*Watch for tea party entrant Jack Davis to have an effect after a promised $3 million effort in his fourth campaign for the seat. But even seasoned observers are not yet sure if he siphons votes from the Republican or the Democrat.

Major statewide Democrats are already urging Rep. Steve Israel of Long Island to focus on the Hochul effort. They like the Erie County clerk and figure if anyone has a chance in the tough 26th -- it's her. And as a New Yorker, Israel will have to pay at least some attention to those pleas.

*Still, few Democrats on either the county or state level are thrilled over the Hochul decision. They saw her as the party's best candidate to oppose Republican incumbent Chris Collins for county executive this fall. Indeed, internal polls showed her posing a serious threat.

They would rather see the considerable dollars about to be spent dedicated to a winnable county executive contest, as opposed to an uphill -- though not impossible -- congressional effort.

*Collins will have a major influence on the election. He recruited Corwin from his inner circle to run for the Assembly in 2008, and has dispatched his top two political advisers -- consultant Michael Hook and staffer Chris Grant -- to the Corwin effort.

*That sigh of relief blowing through Erie County last week started on the 16th floor of the Rath County Office Building after Collins learned his toughest potential opponent had just opted out of the county executive race.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

Get the latest from the campaign trail at the Politics Now blog on buffalonews.com

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