This diary is an attempt to understand how we managed to miss a very competitive race in NY-23 and blow a chance of gaining another seat in the recent elections. For 2013/2014 the many and varied DKE commentators carefully list the seats that they think are competitive CA-31 etc. However, when we did these for the last elections I think we all stuffed up by not paying closer attention to NY-23 which surprised us all.
NOTE: I do not in this diary really discuss the upcoming race in the district or the Dems great candidate, Martha Robertson who outraised Reed in the 4th quarter there will be a follow on diary for that.
NY-23, is the southern tier of Upstate New York and saw 29th District incumbent, Tom Reed (40yrs) challenged by Nate Shinagawa (28yrs). While listed as an Emerging Race by the DCCC, all major pundits had it at Safe Republican... And most had it at Safe Republican long before the adjoining NY-22 was listed as such... Despite that district being more conservative than NY-23 and having a popular moderate incumbent in apostate Richard Hanna.
Then a month before the election a poll came out of nowhere showing a 5% race with Reed just falling short of 50%... At the time I thought that this was a desperate last gasp attempt for some money... And since the race was no longer competitive it was not on the fundraising lists ensuring I missed the late increase in cash for Shinagawa.
So how competitive was it ?
The NY-23 Candidates
|Info||Nate Shinagawa (DEM)||Tom Reed (GOP)|
|Job||Vice Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature / Guthrie Health Administrator.||Incumbent (Former Mayor of Corning / Lawyer)|
How Competitive was NY-23 ?
|Polling||There was only one publicly released poll on the race (22nd October) which showed Reed below the magic 50% level with 49.7% to Shinagowa's 44.7% and 5.6% undecided. Interestingly the poll had an almost dead even 3 way split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents, despite the Republicans having a 30,000 registration advantage over the Dems. I dismissed the poll at the time, due to a lack of prior polling and the seemingly convenient figure of 49.7% assigned for Reed (looked like the poll was trying to show a path to victory). The poll did however ominously showed a 10% decrease in Obama voters.|
|NY-23||The seat is half Appalachian, so Democrats have always struggled to get a majority in the seats in this area. Allegany County was one of two (?) counties that voted against Gillibrand in the 2012 senate race (Wyoming in NY-27 also voted against her. However there seems to be a fairly high floor to go with the low ceiling, as Tompkins County is a reliable source of Dem votes, and the Finger Lakes region seems to be trending Democratic|
|The Candidate||Shinagowa was probably a fairly strong Democratic candidate given that this seat is historically Republican, and there is a fairly non-existent bench for the Dems in the area. He seems to be backed by Progressives and prominent elected Asian Americans. While there may have been better candidates out there, he certainly seemed like someone who could give Reed a good race.|
|The Opposition||Reed, whilst conservative, certainly seems saner than the average Republican congressman. He represented 54% of the district after winning the special election to replace Massa.|
|The Ballot||Weirdly Shinagawa outperformed the top of the ticket in two counties, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus... not sure why. Or it is more correct to say that Reed didn't get all the Romney voters in these two districts. Obama won Tompkins and Seneca Counties whereas Shinagowa only won Tompkins (fairly similar margin too). So Shinagawa performed fairly similar to Obama, albeit slightly worse and with some noticeable but still fairly minor differences in performance in some counties. Reed had the Independence nod and this was good for 5,750 votes (the winning margin was 10,014).|
|So Is It Competitive ?||NY-23 is very definitely competitive, with the addition of Ithaca to the district giving the Dems a valuable stronghold of fundraising support and reliable Dem voters. With Massa winning the Appalachian county of Cattaraugus, it shows that voters are no longer rock solid Republican (albeit Massa was a fairly conservative Dem who voted against ACA). But the real key it seems to winning in a good Dem year was that Massa out raised incumbent Randy Kohl in their rematch, thus attracting strong support. But yeah the district has a Republican registration advantage and Steuben County is a good stronghold to match Tompkins for the Dems.|
|So How Did We Miss It ?||Still not really sure... Basically the collective wisdom was that there is no such thing as a Safe Republican New York seat, but NY-23 was generally ranked by everybody as being the second safest Republican seat. Shinagawa was seen as... well no one mentioned him or the race very much. It seems like a lack of fundraising early on and losing $$ winning the primary doomed Shinagawa to invisibility. Sienna Research polled all of the competitive races, which did not include NY-23 (or so we thought) which also seemed to indicate that they didn't think it worthwhile. NY-29 didn't have a strong Democratic bastion like Ithaca, but even so Eric Massa managed to give incumbent Randy Kuhl a close race in 2006 before winning in 2008 (albeit both strong Dem years). When the late poll showing a close race came out, I thought it was a desperate measure and dismissed it (did you ?).|
|Way Forward||I think the Obama 2008 path to victory is the way forward - we are likely to have an Ithaca or at least Thompkins County candidate who needs to max out Thompkins County, win in Ontario and Seneca Counties and try and get Chautauqua or at least level it. Not sure if there is a good Chautauqua candidate that could compete in the primary ? Not only that but I think that a loyal democrat (ie will vote for Pelosi and praise President Obama) could win this district, maybe they will not be able to vote ultra progressive, but hey I dont think we need to recruit another Eric Massa here !|
NY-23 is a rural district with some small cities (Jamestown, Ithaca, Elmira and Geneva) that is located in the Southern Tier region and the Finger Lakes region of Western New York.
NY-23 is ranked as the 24th most Democratic seat out of the 27 New York Congressional Districts with only NHY22-Hanna, NY-11-Grimm and NY-27-Collins considered more Republican.
2008 Presidential Results (new 23rd): 49.58% (Obama)/48.77% McCain
As you can see the Southern Tier region is very red, while Tompkins County is bright blue with the Finger Lakes region and coastal parts of Chautauqua County being competitive.
Senator 2008-2010 Results: 57.02% Schumer / 41.28% Townsend
Governor 2008-2010 Results: 47.48% Cuomo / 48.36% Paladino
Comptroller 2008-2010 Results: 36.25% Di Napoli / 59.00% Wilson
Attorney General 2008-2010 Results: 43.69% Scheniderman / 55.04% Donovan
Senator 2008-2010 Results: 54.78% Gillibrand / 42.94% DioGuardio
Voting Age Population: 562,496
Demographics: 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian
Voter Registration: 446,348 (Total) consisting of 401,258 (Active) & 45,090 (inactive)
Redistribution: 54.26% (old 29th-Reed), 18.80% (old 27th-Higgins), 16.72% (old 24th-Hanna), and 10.23% (old 22nd-Hinchey).
The figure below shows the new NY-23 compared to the old NY-29 (Green is common to both, with blue = areas not in NY-29 and orange = areas not in NY-23
Please Note: The Monroe section of the old NY-29 is not drawn accurately.
|County||Region||County Largest City||County Seat||Control|
|Allegany||Southern Tier||Belmont||14R/1 I|
|Cattaraugus||Southern Tier||Little Valley||15R / 6D|
|Chautauqua||Niagara & Southern Tier||Jamestown||Mayville||13R / 6D|
|Chemung||Southern Tier||Elmira||Elmira||12R / 3D|
|Ontario (Pt.)||Finger Lakes||Geneva||Canandaigua||14R/6D/1I|
|Schuyler||Finger Lakes||Watkins Glen||7R / 1D|
|Seneca||Finger Lakes||Waterloo||9R / 5D|
|Steuben||Southern Tier||Corning||Bath||14R / 3D|
|Tioga (Pt.)||Southern Tier||Owego||9R / 0D|
|Tompkins||Finger Lakes||Ithaca||Ithaca||3R / 11D|
|Yates||Southern Tier Periphery||Penn Yan||14R / 0D|
As you can see from the table below NY-23 is an Obama 2008 district, which he won by 2,499 votes. This included winning 4 of the counties, including a narrow plurality win of Chautauqua by 550 votes.
2008 Presidential Results
|County||Obama (D)||McCain (R)||Total||% Total|
|Allegany||7,016 (38.12%)||11,013 (59.83%)||18,406||6%|
|Cattaraugus||14,307 (43.86%)||17,770 (54.48%)||32,617||11%|
|Chautauqua||29,129 (49.54%)||28,579 (48.60%)||58,802||19%|
|Chemung||18,888 (48.81%)||19,364 (50.04%)||38,695||13%|
|Ontario (Pt.)||10,089 (52.33%)||8,899 (46.16%)||19,281||6%|
|Schuyler||3,933 (45.73%)||4,542 (52.81 %)||8,600||3%|
|Seneca||7,422 (50.35%)||7,038 (47.74%)||14,741||5%|
|Steuben||17,148 (40.92%)||24,203 (57.75%)||41,911||14%|
|Tioga (Pt.)||7,764 (44.62%)||9,309 (53.50%)||17,400||6%|
|Tompkins||29,826 (70.09%)||11,927 (28.03%)||42,552||14%|
|Yates||4,890 (47.57%)||5,269 (51.25%)||10,280||3%|
|TOTAL||150,412 (49.59%)||147,913 (48.77%)||303,285||100%|
2012 Presidential Results
|County||Obama (D)||Romney (R)||Total||% Total|
|Allegany||6,139 (36%)||10,390 (62%)||16,895||6%|
|Cattaraugus||12,649 (42%)||16,569 (56%)||29,765||11%|
|Chautauqua||23,812 (45%)||27,971 (53%)||52,686||19%|
|Chemung||16,797 (48%)||17,612 (50%)||34,947||13%|
|Ontario - Part||9,393 (54%)||7,751 (44%)||17,496||6%|
|Schuyler||3,674 (45%)||4,281 (53%)||8,130||3%|
|Seneca||7,094 (54%)||5,889 (45%)||13,215||5%|
|Steuben||15,787 (41%)||21,954 (57%)||38,434||14%|
|Tioga - Part||6,882 (42%)||8,990 (55%)||16,249||6%|
|Tompkins||27,244 (69%)||11,107 (27%)||39,643||14%|
|Yates||4,488 (48%)||4,798 (51%)||9,442||3%|
|TOTAL||133,959 (48.38%)||137,312 (49.59%)||276,902||100%|
2012 vs 2008 Presidential Vote Margins
|County||Obama (2012) Margin||Obama (2008) Margin||Change in Obama Margin|
|Ontario - Part||1,642||1,190||452|
|Tioga - Part||-2,108||-1,545||-563|
2012 Congressional Results
|County||Shinagowa (D)||Reed (R)||Total||% Total|
|Allegany||5,400 (36%)||9,560 (64%)||14,960||6%|
|Cattaraugus||11,450 (44%)||14,680 (56%)||26,130||11%|
|Chautauqua||22,042 (47%)||24,558 (53%)||46,600||19%|
|Chemung||15,080 (48%)||16,291 (52%)||31,371||13%|
|Ontario (Pt.)||6,983 (47%)||7,807 (53%)||14,790||6%|
|Schuyler||3,364 (46%)||3,973 (54%)||7,337||3%|
|Seneca||5,372 (48%)||5,775 (52%)||11,147||5%|
|Steuben||13,922 (40%)||20,836 (60%)||34,758||14%|
|Tioga (Pt.)||5,512 (39%)||8,450 (61%)||13,962||6%|
|Tompkins||24,264 (70%)||10,201 (30%)||34,465||14%|
|Yates||4,071 (43%)||4,937 (52%)||9,512||4%|
|TOTAL||117,055 (48.1%)||126,519 (51.9%)||243,574||100%|
HOW COMPETITIVE IS IT ?
To determine how competitive NY-23 is, I guess you have to look at lessons learned from NY-29. Before you all groan I know it is a bit embarrassing bringing up Eric Massa... and he fought two close elections in 2006 and 2008 which were very favourable years for Democrats. But... lets face facts, if we want to have a shot at winning the house given the gerrymandering of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan we have got to max out in California and New York.
Whilst only 54% of NY-23 is the old 29th, it is the clear predecessor to the 23rd. NY-29 had a lone blue stronghold in part of Monroe County, similar to the role Tompkins County plays in NY-23.
2006 Election Results - 29th Congressional District
In 2006, Massa gave Kuhl a close race, although he won only one of the counties. Kuhl was able to win by racking up a large margin in Steuben County to largely cancel Massa's advantage in Monroe County. Kuhl then won all the other counties by solid margins.
2008 Election Results - 29th Congressional District
In 2008, Massa was able to beat Kuhl by racking up twice the margin in Monroe County as Kuhl had in Steuben County, as well as keeping all of the other counties (aside from blood red Allegany County) close, even winning Appalachian counties Chemung and Cattaraugus.
So upon review of these results, while they are promising in that the Dems won, it has a few flaws, in terms of being a useful strategy moving forward. Shinagawa won Tompkins by the same sort of amount that Massa won the part of Monroe in his district... yet he still lost. To win Massa actually won two Southern Tier counties... the Finger Lakes counties despite normally being less Republican managed to stay red. Competitive Ontario's numbers barely budged. Both Massa and Kuhl were from Steuben County, with Kuhl a former NY State Senator and Steuben County Official and Massa having no prior experience.
With Ithaca in the district it seems unlikely a blue dog will win this district, so it seems we might need to take advantage of presidential turnout. Reed has a strong advantage in Steuben County that is the red equivalent of Tompkins and I am sure he will try and pad his margins in the Appalachian counties going forward... pity there is no more pork barreling or earmarks...
THE CANDIDATE - NATE SHINAGAWA
Nate Shinagawa is a fairly strong fundraiser, and while well outraised by Reed, still posted respectable numbers... But certainly below most other Dems in competitive NY races, although he did raise considerable more than Dan Lamb who challenged Hanna in NY-22 (Lamb only raised $300K). Murphy in the 11th got around $100K more.
TOTAL - $698K (Collected), $107K (Cash On Hand), $602K (Spent).
PG2012 - $70K (Raised), $130K (Cash On Hand), $107K (Spent).
3Q2012 - $312K (Raised), $170K (Cash On Hand), $251K (Spent).
2Q2012 - $194K (Raised), $109K (Cash On Hand). $192K (Spent).
1Q2012 - $113K (Raised), $95K (Cash On Hand), $18K (Spent).
So where did Nate (who is not a self funder) raise his cash this cycle ? Well it was mostly though around 85% individual contributions.
Of the other contributions... The late great Senator Dan Inouye's PAC swung $7k Nate's way... not inconsiderable. Mike Honda also sent cash, as did Larson. The unions contributed, as did Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club and a few "Asian" PACs. 5 of the 11 County Democratic Parties in the district sent some cash his way: Allegany, Steubens, Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates.
So in short there was union support, local support and Asian American support in funding the campaign.
Unfortunately winning the primary drained him of cash, prompting DKE to downgrade his race from Lean R to Likely R in August.
Shinagowa actually didn't perform too badly against Reed compared to Obama against Romney. The gap in Tompkins County was pretty small, and he actually did better against Reed than Obama did against Romney in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua (not sure why this is ?). But Obama won Seneca and Shinagawa didn't (wouldn't have changed the election but it is a clear difference).
Certainly it seems that Reed was largely limited to the rump Republican vote, when compared against the other Republicans in Obama Districts. Richard Hanna (won 61% of the vote) ran well ahead of Romney, as did Peter King (58%). The rest of the New York GOP reps essentially won by enough, as opposed to their being a huge % difference between the top of the ballot and the down ballot races.
So while the area may be historically Republican, Reed hasn't demonstrated any cross over appeal yet, and doesn't out perform the top of the ballot much at all.
Nate won the the Working Families ballot line, and was endorsed by Cattaraugus County Democratic Committee, Chautauqua County Democratic Committee, Steuben County Democratic Committee and Tompkins County Democratic Committee and Chemung County Democratic Committee. He was also endorsed by the mayors of Ithaca, Elmira, Dunkirk, Waterloo, Hornell, Jamestown, and Freedonia.
As reflected in the contributions, Senator Inouye endorsed Nate for NY-23 along with the retiring Maurice Hinchey, Donna Edwards and Raúl Grijalva. I am guessing Nate was not a conservative! Snark.
In the primary, Shinagowa won a three-way race:
Shinagawa, Nate 5,697 (55%)
Burke, Leslie 3,841 (37%)
Dobson, Melissa 0,727 (7%)
After the primary, David Nir made a very nearly prophetic remark about him:
NY-23 (D) is called for Nate "The Great" Shinagawa. He earns the right to take on GOP freshman Tom Reed in November.
I won't go into his various positions on the key issues, but it is fair to say that he is fairly progressive, for example supporting SSM: https://twitter.com/...
HOW DID WE MISS IT ?
Still not really sure... But the primary did him in really. Basically the CW is that there is no such thing as a Safe Republican seat, but NY-23 was generally ranked by everybody as being the second safest Republican seat. Shinagawa was seen as... well no one mentioned him or the race very much. I couldn't find very many diaries on the subject at all, aside from the various DKE Live Digests etc.
It seems like a lack of fundraising early on and losing $$ winning the primary doomed Shinagawa to invisibility. Sienna Research polled all of the competitive races, which did not include NY-23 (or so we thought). Eric Massa managed to give incumbent Randy Kuhl a close race for the old 29th in 2006 before winning in 2008 (albeit both strong Dem years), and this was written off as a lost opportunity to get an entrenched incumbent (ala Owens).
Obama won this seat in 2008, and I believe that is the more likely coalition to win the seat... try to win Seneca and Ontario along with maxing out Tompkins and try for a win in Chautauqua whilst keeping it close in Chemung and Finger Lakes. I just don't think a conservadem could make any inroads into the Southern Tier against Reed, like Massa did to Kuhl but that is just my subjective take on it... nothing to back this up aside from the general shift against the Dems in the greater Appalachian region. Well certainly a Thompkins County / Ithaca based liberal is far less likely to !
Yes it will be tough in a non-presidential year and Reed is likely to be ready for a contest, but I believe we have to make this one of our targeted races over the next two cycles, right up there in the top ten targets. Lets turn this historically Republican stronghold blue !
All feedback is welcome, but please bear in mind that this is a Daily Kos Elections diary, which means that we look at the horse race rather than policy matters.
You may find some of the following resources helpful... they either provided useful information for this diary or were an entertaining read.
NY-23 & Miscellaneous Resources Ready Reckoner