Tag Archives: Curtis Ellis

Davis, #NY26, and Who’s the Real Tea Partier

20 May

For some reason – perhaps just to annoy Jane Corwin – Jack Davis’ campaign yesterday released the results of a poll showing Davis in second place and Corwin in third.  From Celeste Katz at the Daily News’ Daily Politics:

The Jack Davis campaign late last night said a poll it had commissioned showed Democrat Kathy Hochul in first place in the NY-26 race at 44%, followed by Davis at 27% and Republican Jane Corwin at 17%, with 12% of voters undecided. According to the Davis campaign’s email, which I received at 11:42 p.m., the poll “surveyed 4,602 ‘frequent’ voters most likely to cast a ballot in New York’s 26th District special election” and was conducted Wednesday and Thursday.

I asked several times who conducted the poll and, later, to see the crosstabs, but have not received an answer as I blog this.

“It’s clear that if conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party patriots want to keep Kathy Hochul, a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, from representing this district, they must vote for Jack Davis,” said Davis campaign manager Curtis Ellis in a statement accompanying the poll numbers.

(For the record, a Rochester-area poll of 650 people shows Corwin way out in front. The problem is that only 35% of those polled are registered voters. Fail.)

And I thought about it yesterday – how the tea party schism in western New York, which had its roots in the 2010 Republican primaries for state senate and congress – especially NY-27, NY-28 (the Lenny Roberto / Jill Rowland fiascos), and SD-59 (DiPietro vs. Domagalski vs. Gallivan), has blown up into a full-blown war between the people associated with the Corwin campaign (Palinists Thompson, Roberto) and people associated with the Davis campaign (Ostrowski, DiPietro).

Remember this ad from 2008?


Well, that’s a shorthand version of the race that Kathy Hochul is running. While Corwin dodges cameras asking her questions about her staff’s poor tracking choices and Davis avoids debating while talking trade, Hochul is quietly consolidating her support in the Buffalo media market, and making sure she grows her name recognition and reputation in the Rochester media market.

I have no idea whether that Davis poll is in any way accurate, but if Saturday’s Siena poll shows Hochul widening her lead against Corwin, all hell will break loose over the next few days. The Republicans never expected that their tried and true strategy of keeping their NY-26 Congressional candidate as far away from media scrutiny as possible might backfire.

I learned yesterday that Corwin might not be as empty a vessel as I had thought, and that she has some very thoughtful positions on some relatively obscure issues, but the people running her campaign don’t let you see that, preferring instead to tightly controlled media appearances, press conferences, photo ops, and official debates.

One of the highlights of any NY-26 race is the candidates’ forum hosted at Clarence Town Hall by the League of Women Voters. The 2006 forum stands out as a particularly well-attended and raucus battle between Reynolds and Davis partisans in the audience.


The League was unable to schedule such a forum this year because the Corwin campaign claimed never to be available on any of the proposed dates. The Hochul campaign, by contrast, told the League to schedule it, and Kathy would be there.  And I think candidates for congress – who are going to directly be representing a particular set of constituents – should make appearances at these sorts of civic fora so that these prospective constituents can get a sense of who these people are and what they stand for.

Turning back to the tea party schism, a poll commissioned by the New York Times to see who, exactly, makes up that allegedly grassroots right-wing anti-Obama movement shows this:

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

That pretty much describes Jack Davis to a T. And beyond that, Davis is a self-made man who holds extreme positions on trade and immigration, and he is the true grassroots candidate (albeit moneyed), who had to petition his way onto the ballot without the support of either major party. If you’re talking about the tea party as being some sort of movement made up of people fed up with politics as usual, is that better embodied by the extremely wealthy Republican Assemblywoman who was hand-selected by the party chairs to run as a Republican in NY-26 because she was right out of WNY Republican central casting and could self-fund? Or is it better embodied by the angry, older millionaire who doesn’t care what you think of him, has given both parties the middle finger?

Corwin’s “tea party” credentials are weak. Yes, she’s garnered the support of the Palinists in town, but that’s because they’re just Republicans who want to not participate in the traditional Republican party committee structure. The non-Republican tea partiers are backing Davis. So are many inveterate movement conservatives like David Bellavia. His outspoken, unpolished outsiderishness is what makes Davis’ tea party credentials more credible. He fits the tea party demo. He ran as a Democrat, yes. But only out of cynicism and convenience, to guarantee a ballot slot and to exact his revenge over being snubbed by Dick Cheney.

Do I support Davis? Absolutely not. After his almost inexcusable 2006 implosion, and his treatment of Jon Powers in 2008, I had hoped never to hear from him again.

But as the debate in NY-26 turns on “who’s the real tea partier”, there can’t be any doubt that it’s Davis, not Corwin, who fits that bill.