3.26.2008

The recruitement troubles of New York Republicans

It is still to early to know whether Eliot Spitzer's scandal and resignation can offer any boost to New York's dying Republican Party. On the verge of losing the state Senate and relinquishing control of the entirety of the state government since the 1930s, the state GOP collapse has major consequences at the federal level, since only 6 of the state's 29 representatives are now Republicans.

After picking up 3 seats in 2006 (NY-19, NY-20 and NY-24), Democrats are now looking to win in the three districts that they barely lost last time (between 2% to 4%): NY-25, NY-26 and NY-29. It is no coincidence that the incumbents from the first two districts have retired: Their situation looked difficult and they did not trust that the NRCC would do that much to help them. But with their departure, Democrats are in an even more favorable situation to pick up their seats.

To make matters worse, Republicans have some major recruitment trouble in those 2 districts. In NY-25, Peter Cappuccilli Jr., the only Republican to have stepped forward, dropped out on Tuesday, citing health reasons. This leaves the GOP with no candidate in the district, though they still have time to convince someone to jump in. Things are shaping up very well for Democrat Dan Maffei, and NY-25 will be one of the first districts the NRCC will give up in the fall when it will have to choose where to spend its meager resources. And that fact alone is surely enough to dissuade the strongest Republican candidates from jumping in.

In NY-26, the story is similar: a few days after the Republicans' top choice (state Senator Maziarz) announced he would not run, the GOPer most mentioned to take the nod, Assemblyman Jim Hayes, has declared he will stay out of the race. This is an open seat in a district that Bush carried comfortably in 2004, and instead of battling each other to become the nominee, the district's top Republicans are staying out. It says a lot about the pessimism of New York Republicans.

There is a Republican who has jumped in the NY-26 race, however: Iraq war veteran David Bellavia. The likely Democratic nominee right now is fellow Iraq war veteran Jonathan Powers, which would mean that the race finds itself disputed mainly on the war issue, not necessarily the best strategy for Republicans in upstate New York. It is also less likely that the NRCC abandons NY-26 than NY-25. The fundamentals of this district are more favorable to Republicans than those in NY-25, and it would really take a GOP plunge or major money woes for the House GOP to give up on a district that voted Bush with 55%.

And this is not the end of the House troubles of the state party: Their recruitment failures are as dramatic in some of the seats Democrats picked up in 2006. NY-19 is perhaps the most revealing example in the entire country, as Republicans had recruited one of their top and most highly touted recruits before he abruptly dropped out in late November. The GOP has since given up on contesting this race seriously, despite the fact that Rep. Hall was considered one of the weakest Democratic freshmen. In NY-24, one of the hotly contested open seat races of 2006 (you might remember the infamously absurd ad run against Democrat Arcuri), Republicans have only gotten businessman Richard Hanna to start exploring the race, and while Hanna could self-fund he will not be considered top-tier even if he does jump in.

One last recruitment note which has nothing to do with New York: The New Hampshire Republican Party is finding itself without a gubernatorial candidate after Manchester Mayor Guinta unexpectedly announced he would not take on Governor Lynch (who is up for reelection every two years). Republicans have other Republicans considering the race, but Lynch is a very popular governor who will have little trouble winning re-election, which leaves the GOP in a bind. From the Union Leader: "Influential state Republicans, surprised by Guinta's unexpected decision, are now searching for a candidate who can perhaps come within 10 or 12 percentage points of Lynch to bolster the ticket and, theoretically at least, prevent a 2006-style blowout."

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