Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 22, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
While the nation mourns the loss of musician Prince and Chyna from WWE, on the same day, many issues are missed. Even in these moments of loss and sadness, the realm of politics continues to affect the nation, whether people pay attention or not. But, in a far less serious manner, the New York 22nd Congressional race will also have its own losses, while we have a glimpse of the potential future.
When the results from the NY presidential primary were tallied from April 20, 2016, there were no real surprises presented. Donald Trump won the State, along with Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. The primary math was not significantly altered – the Republican Party will go to a convention and Democrats will have Clinton as their candidate unless the FBI takes action. But the question is what did the primary reveal?
In terms of the NY-22 congressional district, the primaries for Democrats and Republicans continue now that the petitions for all the candidates have been submitted and challenges are on-going. In addition, financial statements have been submitted to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Combining this data with the presidential primaries it is possible to get a prediction on what will be the result on June 28, 2016, and likely for the November general election.
First, the petitions as provided by the NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). In combing through the results, patterns appear as well as a shocking revelation. For the Democrats – Legislator Kim Myers and David Gordon – both gathered at least 30% of their signatures in the last 6 days allowed (30% – Myers, 39% – Gordon). That could imply a lack of organization, or a lack of interest from Party members. Republicans fared much better in that regard, averaging about 11% of all signatures in the last 6 days signatures were allowed (George Phillips 23%, Claudia Tenney 5.7%, Steve Wells 4.2%).
Also of great interest is the distribution of where candidates got the signatures from. While an emphasis of any particular candidate on their home County is expected, what is of note is where candidates ignored. Overall, almost half the remaining 6 candidates (Aaron Price did not submit petitions, David Pasick is not required to file yet as a Libertarian) generally ignored Oswego, Tioga, and Cortland (with Phillips, Tenney, and Wells having varying focuses on these areas). But some candidates did not just under-represent Counties, they ignored them completely.
Martin Babinec (Ind) avoided Cortland, Chenango, Oswego, and Tioga Counties. George Phillips was virtually absent from Herkimer, Oswego, Madison and Oneida Counties. Steve Wells had a grand total of 101 signatures from Oswego, Herkimer, and Tioga Counties combined. David Gordon was almost absent in Oswego and Madison Counties with only 30 signatures. This is important as it clearly displays serious weaknesses of these candidates. Whether there is a lack of name recognition, lack of organization, or that the candidate just does not find the constituents in those areas of importance, it highlights how far some must go to win the primary and the cost that will go with that.
Martin Babinec is of special interest. Like Steve Wells he used paid workers to gather signatures. Neither Babinec nor Wells gathered any signatures themselves according to petitions submitted to NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). But Babinec, who’s Party affiliation is undeclared, had Nicholas I. Catello as one of his workers, gathering more than 50% of all of his petitions. According to the NYSBOE, on April 21, 2016, Mr. Catello is not a registered voter. Therefore the challenges facing the Babinec campaign are expected to be upheld. Babinec’s run for the congressional race may be essentially over as all the petitions from Mr. Catello could be void.
This brings us to the finances of the campaigns. The Babinec campaign will have its $1 million self-funding returned (minus monies paid for advertising and other costs) if the challenges stand. The resulting leaders in funding at this time are Steve Wells and Legislator Kim Myers with $258,000 and $228,000 cash in hand respectively. This is followed by Claudia Tenney with an increase from 2015 to $136,000. George Phillips has $126,000 cash in hand, the lowest level of increase of all the candidates. David Gordon trails the pack with $3,500. David Pasick, the Libertarian candidate of the race, will start his round of petitions in June and has not filed with the FEC at this time.
Given the data thus far, the implications seem to be clear. David Gordon is a long-shot in the race. As noted previously, he may not survive the petition challenge process. Still even if he does, the lack of funding makes any viable challenge on the Democrat Primary unlikely.
For the Republicans, it’s a bit complicated. George Phillips appears to be weakest due to a combination of lack of exposure and/or support in half the NY-22, and being the only candidate to experience a decrease in funding. The failure to gain traction in the Mohawk Valley, and very limited public exposure imply a campaign that could be in trouble. Rumors of recent changes in staffing only furthers that implication.
Steve Wells, is perhaps the least publicly known of the Republicans. While political insiders are aware of Mr. Wells, due to his political donations (to Democrats and NY SAFE Act proponent Gov. Cuomo) and volunteer position in the NY State GOP, he has remained out of the public eye. He has substantially self-funded his campaign, but has also received donations from elected officials – whom he previously donated to as well, effectively creating a circle of some funding..
His apparent avoidance of essentially half of the NY-22 has led to massive advertising spending already. Nearly one-third of funding has already been spent on television ads and social media marketing (which began in March 2016). Considering the results of the petitions, there has been little return for these efforts to date.
Claudia Tenney, appears to be the strongest of all candidates in the race. Recent internal polling released to the public show substantial support, in excess of 3x her closest opponent – George Phillips. This is reflected by a pattern of widespread distribution of petition signatures compared to the other candidates (as well as the numerical lead of signatures submitted). This is further bolstered by the 3-fold increase in funding from the 4th quarter 2015, the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and support from several PAC’s.
All of this leads us to the NY Presidential Primary. While New York made no real difference in the results for either Democrats or Republicans, it did reveal some facts about the NY 22nd congressional district. A total of 108,000 voters came out for the primary (46,000 Democrats and 62,000 Republicans). The number of people and their Party breakdown, not only confirms the R+3 political rating of the District, but implies that turnout will heavily favor Republicans in November.
Further, if we breakdown the presidential candidates to their corollaries in the congressional race we see an interesting trend. For Democrats, Legislator Kim Myers would reflect the establishment candidate of Hillary Clinton. Conversely David Gordon would equate somewhat to Sen. Bernie Sanders (mostly as a non-establishment candidate). While Hillary Clinton lost to Sen. Sanders (44% to 56% respective), recent polling tends to indicate that the largest portion of Sen. Sanders support - youthful voters - will abandon the race if Clinton is the candidate as is expected. That could reduce the Democrat turnout by some 25%-50%. This could give the race to the establishment candidate, Clinton and by proxy Legislator Myers. Given the exponential difference in funding, and the 50% greater number of petitions, all in favor of Legislator Myers, this appears to confirm the presidential primary results thus far.
Looking at the Republicans, again the results are somewhat involved. Donald Trump swept the NY-22 District versus Gov. Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz (53% – 28% – 19% respectively). There is no question that Donald Trump is the political outsider, opposed by the establishment. Sen. Cruz would be best categorized as also being opposed by the establishment and the most Conservative of the candidates. This leaves Gov. Kasich as the representative of the establishment (one of the reasons why he continues in the presidential race).
The equivalents of these candidates in the NY-22 would be Claudia Tenney taking the role of Donald Trump (as being opposed by the political establishment, and viewed by many as a political outsider for this reason). Tenney would also qualify as the equivalent of Sen. Cruz, as the far and away Conservative of the race – which the endorsement of the Conservative Party indicates.
The role of the establishment candidate thus falls to a split between George Phillips and Steve Wells. Both are known for establishment support – with Wells being a (volunteer) member of the NY State Republican Party and Phillips having the 2010 support of Chairman Ed Cox. With both remaining in the race, they split the establishment vote.
When we factor in the petitions and the funding, we get a confirmation of the internal poll released by the Tenney campaign. Even if we assume only half the voters for Trump and Sen. Cruz would turn out for the June 28th congressional primary – out of anger of a Kasich or other establishment candidate being nominated at the Republican convention – Tenney would still have 36% of the vote versus the combined establishment vote of 28%. Which does not take into account the split between Phillips and Wells.
Given the funding divide between Phillips and Wells, and the fact that funding for Phillips is on the decline, the edge would appear to be to Wells though he is almost universally unknown to general voters. The intense advertising campaign that Wells has already begun, like the Kasich campaign, is trying to introduce him to voters and solidify his hold on the establishment as his main target to win the primary. Whether that will work effectively remains unknown.
Given this exclusive, in-depth, and comprehensive analysis of the petitions and funding, the influence of the NY Presidential Primary, as well as prior research noted in our 25 articles on the NY-22 race, the final candidates going into November can be predicted at this time to be Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney and Legislator Kim Myers. Once again turning to the Presidential Primary, the overall odds are between 2:1 and 3:2 in favor of Tenney winning the race, if this were a bet.
This is a political race and so there are many wild cards. Massive advertising by Steve Wells and Legislator Myers could influence the Primaries and voter turnout. Martin Babinec may again try to re-enter the race through procedures allowed in NY State election rules if he is ejected from the race. Libertarian David Pasick is an unknown factor that could influence the outcome of the race.
The on-going activities in the 2016 Presidential race could likewise shift both turnout and preferences for establishment candidates. Gaffes by any candidate in potential debates could further cement or destroy any campaign. Of course any previously unknown or news cycle related scandal or event would also shift these results.
Political predictions are like forecasting the weather. You make the best guess based on the data at hand and then see how close you get. Voters alone will make all the final decisions in the New York 22nd Congressional race.