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Hochul counterpunches with first TV ad Congressional contest heats up as Democrat responds to Corwin

The springtime airwaves, usually devoid of political ads, are saturated with ads of congressional candidates as the campaign for Republican Chris Lee's vacant seat gets into full swing for the May 24 special election.

Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul is the latest to appear on television screens across Western New York, as today she launches a 30-second ad airing in the Buffalo and Rochester media markets. It is her first advertising effort to counter the three spots already sponsored by her Republican opponent, Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin of Clarence.

The new Hochul spot starts out with the candidate viewing a clip of a Corwin ad chastising the Democrat for raising taxes and fees during a 13-year stint on the Hamburg Town Board.

"I'd guess this is what you'd expect from an Albany politician," Hochul says in the ad. "I think you deserve to hear what I've done, and what I'll do in Congress, directly from me."

She then outlines her accomplishments as Erie County clerk, including opposition to two Democratic governors over plans to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and to the proposed requirement to purchase new license plates, as well as her efforts to remove tolls from the Niagara Thruway. She does not counter any claims in Corwin ads about her record on the Hamburg Town Board.

Hochul spokesman Fabien Levy said the ad is meant to counter the "negative attacks" sponsored by Corwin at the outset of the campaign.

"We think showing how Kathy has stood up to party leaders and has fought for Western New York people and businesses is better than going against any candidate," he said. "We don't need to go with negatives."

Levy also said the appearance of the new ad signals Hochul's fundraising success, while Corwin and tea party candidate Jack Davis have so far self-funded their campaigns.

"We think the voters will reject Jane Corwin and Jack Davis and anyone else with self-funding efforts," Levy said.

Davis, who ran three previous times for the seat as a Democrat, has promised to spend $3 million of his own money on his fourth effort. He has already sponsored radio ads and direct-mail material, and is expected to go on television soon.

In another development, Niagara County Democrats working on the Hochul campaign raised questions about Corwin's stand on high-speed rail projects in New York after she opposed the project Monday.

Niagara County Democratic Chairman Daniel Rivera, again referring to Corwin as an "Albany politician," accused of her flip-flopping on the issue of improved passenger service. He said her previous statements show her calling for a decrease in transportation and infrastructure funding while running for the Assembly in 2009, supporting the project in 2009, and then opposing it again.

"Federal stimulus money could provide the funding to not only transform the high-speed rail into a reality, but also extend the track all the way to Manhattan," Rivera quotes her as saying in 2009. "Jane Corwin seems to be confused on how to take a position," Rivera said. "You either support something or you don't."

Corwin spokesman Matthew Harakal reiterated that the candidate believes that conditions have changed.

"Since President Obama's proposal of high-speed rail, our national debt has increased $3 trillion," he said. "While Jane Corwin believes that improving passenger rail is a noble priority, our country is flat-out broke, and we need to focus on getting our fiscal house in order."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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