Democrats View N.Y. Congressional Election As Referendum on Medicare


Democrat Kathy Hochul won Tuesday’s special congressional election in New York to fill the seat of Republican Chris Lee, who resigned in February after he sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman on Craigslist. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

( – A Democrat won Tuesday’s special congressional election in New York’s 26th District, and her party sees it as evidence that voters are rejecting Republican calls to reform Medicare.

In a statement congratulating Kathy Hochul on her victory, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz noted that Hochul won in a “solidly Republican district,” despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin:

“Tonight’s election result is not just a victory for Congresswoman-Elect Kathy Hochul, it’s a victory for the residents of Western New York and for Americans who believe that our elected leaders should fight to protect Medicare and ensure that our government works for our seniors, working families and young people.”

Wasserman Schultz said the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, “found out the hard way that their extreme plans to abolish Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in health care, education, innovation and job creation are wrongheaded and unpopular, even in a district that should have been a cakewalk for the Republican candidate.”

Hochul received 47 percent of the vote to Corwin’s 43 percent. A tea party candidate, Jack Davis, received 9 percent.

“The voters of this district have sent me to Washington because I said I’m willing to fight for them on Medicare, make sure the lobbyists pay for their fair share and get our budget under control,” Hochul was quoted as saying Tuesday night.

Wasserman Schultz said the Democrat victory has significance beyond New York: “It demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical.

“With this election in the rear-view mirror, it is my hope that Republicans will accept the message being sent by voters in this race, in the polls and at town hall meetings across the country and work with Democrats to get our fiscal house in order while protecting Medicare and other initiatives vital to our economic recovery.”

Hochul will fill the seat vacated by disgraced Congressman Chris Lee, a Republican who won last November with 74 percent of the vote.

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus predicted that Hochul will find it difficult to hold her seat in 2012 “with Barack Obama and his failed economic leadership weighing heavily on the minds of Western New York voters when they return to the polls.”

Priebus was quoted as saying that the election result proves “Democrats will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo in Washington, which is propelling our country towards bankruptcy.” He also criticized Hochul’s “reckless disregard for the looming insolvency of critical government programs and our crushing debt (which) will allow her to feel right at home in Nancy Pelosi’s Democrat caucus.”

Republican leaders say they are trying to save Medicare, an entitlement program for senior citizens, for current and future generations.

“Let me be clear, our plan will not make any changes to the current Medicare plans of anyone 55 or older. But for those 54 and younger, changes are necessary or the funds will be dried-up,” John Boehner wrote in a May 20 column posted on his Web site.

The Republican Medicare reform plan, outlined by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would give future beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance.

Here’s how Republicans describe their Medicare solution in their Fiscal 2012 budget resolution:

Saving Medicare: A flaw in Medicare’s structure is driving up health-care costs, which are, in turn, threatening to bankrupt the system – and ultimately the nation. This budget saves Medicare by fixing this flawed structure so that the program will be there for future generations. These changes will not affect those in and near retirement in any way. When younger workers become eligible for Medicare, they will be able to choose from a list of guaranteed coverage options, enjoying the same kind of choices in their plans that members of Congress enjoy today. Medicare would then provide a payment to subsidize the cost of the plan. In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. Reform that empowers individuals — with a strengthened safety net for the poor and the sick — will guarantee that Medicare can fulfill the promise of health security for America’s seniors.

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