The Battle for Western New York

by Robert Costa

The special election in New York’s 26th congressional district, which will be held on Tuesday, is heating up in its final days. On Wednesday night, the top two contenders, Republican Jane Corwin and Democrat Kathy Hochul, met for their final debate. Jack Davis, a 78-year-old former Democrat who is running on the “Tea Party” line, did not show.

Corwin and Hochul squared off on a variety of topics, but none more so than Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget and its Medicare provisions. “I have made a commitment that I will take to my grave,” said Hochul, the Erie County clerk. “I will fight any plan that tries to decimate Medicare.”

Corwin, a state legislator who is supportive of Ryan’s agenda, defended the GOP push for entitlement reform. “The plan I am supporting is not a voucher system,” she insisted. “We have to take action now, because what my opponent is advocating for is to do nothing. If we do nothing, the plan goes bankrupt in 13 years.”

But Medicare was not the only topic of debate. Though the Ryan budget dominated the discussion, a campaign video produced by Corwin’s chief of staff was another hot-button issue. Michael Mallia, the Corwin staffer, recently approached Jack Davis with a hand-held video camera and filmed the candidate waving his arm toward the lens. In the clip, Mallia can be heard screaming as Davis nears.

The video — which has generated over 80,000 views on YouTube — is strange, and a thorn in Corwin’s side.

“As far as I’m concerned, the video speaks for itself,” said Corwin last night in her campaign’s defense. “It’s up to the people to decide how they feel about it.” She added that since Mallia made the tape on his own personal time, she would not fire him for his guerrilla-video antics. Hochul noted that if Mallia was her staffer, he would have been fired.

Social Security fireworks came next. “We need to address Social Security,” Corwin said. “What I would propose, whatever we do, is that we make sure that we are not raising Social Security taxes, make sure we are not privatizing the fund, and I want make sure that there is means testing.”

“Means testing, vouchers, that’s just not fair,” Hochul replied.

Over the course of the hour-long debate, Corwin, who is a calm and telegenic candidate, did make some points beyond Medicare and video squabbles. She began by highlighting her family’s phone-book business, which has made her millions. She also advocated for charter schools, against unfair trade practices with China, and for tax reform.

The Corner

The one and only.