Showdown in New York

A special election to fill an open House seat is being held Tuesday, and the whole country is watching.


Alex Koppelman
March 31, 2009 5:50PM (UTC)

Get ready, political junkies -- if you've been jonesing for a few months now, tonight's your chance to get a taste of those sweet, sweet election returns. New York's 20th congressional district is holding a special election today to fill the House seat left open by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment to the Senate.

Facing off in what's a fairly Republican district are Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco. The most recent poll of the race showed Murphy with a slight lead, after Tedisco had led for the duration of the race. But polling special elections is notoriously difficult, as it's hard to determine who really is a "likely voter" and what turnout will look like, so this one really could go either way.

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This race has gotten national attention, with President Obama weighing in on Murphy's side and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele -- whose future has been said to hang on the outcome of the vote -- making a push of his own for Tedisco. A caution in advance, though: Because of the involvement of national figures, some pundits may take the results as a sign of national trends. No matter which way the election ends up going, it's almost certainly a mistake to buy into that. If it were, say, a Senate race between two equal candidates in a purple state won by Obama, then you could legitimately extrapolate the results to the national political scene. A single House district, by contrast, is not a good barometer of anything but the mood in that district.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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