Archive (2008)

Summing Up

It's been a hell of year for politics, and the race in the 29th was just one of the many dramatic races across the country. I'm going to post my take on each of the candidates in the next couple of days, but first I want to say a word about the candidates' staffs. Both went out of their way to be courteous to me this year.

Eric Massa and his staff have treated me in an exemplary fashion. I was invited to press conferences, put on the same press release list as district reporters, and questions I asked via email was answered quickly. Massa has a first-rate press operation, and it was a major part of his victory. Thanks especially to Jared Smith, Massa's Communications Director, who went out of his way to be helpful.

Randy Kuhl's staff could have chosen to ignore me, but they, too, responded to queries quickly and sent press releases. I understand why they didn't invite me to his press conferences, but other than that, I have no complaints. Justin Stokes, Kuhl's Campaign Manager, was very helpful, and Meghan Tisinger, his Communications Director, was not only courteous, she would also point out errors in posts, which I greatly appreciated.

A Congressional campaign or office is a direct reflection of the candidate or Member of Congress. I have a few critical things to say about the candidates, but that's no reflection on their staffs. Both staffs worked hard on this campaign. Any mistakes I saw were strategic, and the fault of the candidates, not the staffs.

Final Count: November 17

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader front page [pdf], which reports that the Kuhl and Massa campaigns have agreed to a final count of absentee ballots on November 17. This will allow time for military ballots to arrive, so the one count will be final.

Morning Count News

The Corning Leader and the Ithaca Journal have counting stories.

In the Leader's story, Randy Kuhl's attorney says that the Kuhl campaign would be open to counting ballots before Wednesday's court date in Bath.

In Journal examines a couple of instances of broken voting machines in Chemung and Steuben County. In Chemung, voters were issued emergency ballots until a new machine could be obtained. In Steuben, a machine for disabled voters was dropped before the election in the September primary, but no votes were on the machine at the time. Both of those instances were cited in Kuhl's injunction filing.

In both stories, Kuhl spokesman Meghan Tisingner said it's inaccurate to say that it's impossible for Randy Kuhl to win.

Mustard Street's Call to Arms

Conservative blogger Philbrick at Mustard Street posts his first salvo in the campaign to unseat Eric Massa. Philbrick calls on his fellow conservatives to attend Massa's public meetings, ask questions and post videos. He thinks the result will be disaster for Massa:

Anyone who's interacted with Massa in unscripted circumstances is aware of the limitations of intellect and social personality skills that set up Massa nicely for public embarrassment.

In this statement, Philbrick commits the same error that lost Randy Kuhl the election: believing the caricature of Massa that Republicans tried to make stick for the last two elections.

Contrary to what you read in comments by some Republicans here and elsewhere, Massa is neither dumb nor socially retarded. I've spent hours listening to him answer questions from the press, and I've asked him a few tough ones myself. I've heard a few dumb things come out of his mouth, but not many. He's no Joe Biden.

Unlike a lot of politicians, Massa writes his own script and stays on it. Republicans might not like the script, but they shouldn't believe Massa lacks intelligence.

That said, Massa's definitely an acquired taste. The way I put it is that his volume knob is always at 11. Judging from election results, it appears that a number of Republicans actually like the guy. The Republican Massa voters I've heard from all pointed to his personality as one of the reasons they voted for him. They felt that he would be an independent voice and a "good fighter" (exact quote).

In four years of almost constant campaigning in the Southern Tier, Massa answered a lot of tough questions from Republicans. From what I've seen, he enjoys it. A few questions at town meetings aren't going to derail Massa's election.

What's going to stop Massa in two years is a good Republican candidate who can raise money and articulate a positive agenda that addresses real issues. He or she will have to be accepted in the Southern Tier and the Rochester suburbs. This candidate will need to spend a lot of time working the district.

Does such a Republican exist? I challenge Mustard Street and the other conservative bloggers in the area to name one person who has the talent and the grit to unseat Massa.

Massa Press Conference

Massa Campaign Manager Justin Schall just had a press conference outlining the current state of absentee ballots. His numbers are roughly the same as Sean Carroll's.

The Massa campaign believes the absentee ballots will break roughly the same as the general election ballots, making a Kuhl victory a "statistical impossibility". In 2006, the Massa campaign won the absentee ballot count by 1,500 votes.

Schall would not claim victory outright, but he said that he believed that their 4,400 vote margin will grow.

This afternoon, lawyers for the Massa and Kuhl campaign will meet to discuss the possibility of opening ballots earlier than next Wednesday, which is the date when the campaigns are appearing in court in Bath. However, the timing of ballot opening is ultimately up to the discretion of the judge in the case, working with each county's election commissioners. The speed of ballot counting is also dependent on resources available in each county.

Schall explained that, as was the case in 2006, at some point in the process it will be mathematically impossible for Kuhl to win. Though every vote will be counted, it's likely that the winner will be known before the counting is over.

Massa will be attending Freshman Member of Congress orientation in Washington, DC next week, so he's beginning the transition process.

Massa Interview

WHAM has posted the full raw video of a post-election interview of Eric Massa by Sean Carroll.

Better Absentee Counts

Sean Carroll at 13-WHAM has done some work tracking down the current state of the recount, and he was kind enough to share it with me.

Sean reports that all absentee votes are in lockdown until a court hearing next Wednesday in Bath. That hearing will determine a standard by which all uncounted votes will be counted, with campaign oversight.

Counties differ in their absentee vote counting -- some include the numbers in the totals, others don't. It's possible that some military ballots won't be received until November 18th, two weeks after the election.

Here's Sean's count, with the proviso that Allegany's part of the count is approximate:

TOTAL ABSENTEE BALLOTS SENT OUT: Approx. 22,000 (my math has 22,420, campaigns have a few less)

TOTAL ABSENTEE BALLOTS RECEIVED: Approx. 17,000 (17,013 is what I have – campaigns are similar)

TOTAL ABSENTEE BALLOTS COUNTED: Approx 5,500 (campaigns have b/n 5,500 – 5,700, I do too)

TOTAL ABSENTEE BALLOTS IN LOCKDOWN: Approx. 11,500 + others yet to arrive

MASSA’S LEAD: 4,414 votes (288 more than last night, Monroe Co. updated their numbers for both camps)

This means Randy Kuhl needs roughly 8,000 of the 11,500 ballots outstanding.


Today's Corning Leader turnout story notes that turnout across the district was about 60% of registered voters, up from 49% in 2006. Turnout is always higher in Presidential years.

The district underperformed nationwide turnout, which was 63% 64.1% of eligible voting-age voters, the highest since even higher than 1960.

(Update: Found a source for turnout. I'm surprised that the voting-age population turnout (which is a larger population than the number of registered voters) is so much higher than the 29th's registered voter turnout.)

Morning News: Counting

The area media stories on the race all have a different count of absentee ballots.

The Wellsville Daily Reporter pegs it at 12,000. The Democrat and Chronicle says 20,000, and WETM says "as many as" 16,900. The Corning Leader also says 16,900, which is a number it got from the Massa campaign.

In the D&C story, a Monroe County Board of Elections Supervisor says that the final tally won't be ready until November 14.

In 2006, Massa conceded as the ballots were being counted, since it soon became apparent that there was no realistic path to victory. Perhaps that will happen this year, though there's no need to rush.

By the way, in case that last post wasn't clear, I think this race is over, just as I thought the 2006 race was over on election night.

The Rule of Law

The 29th race is not the only race waiting for the final vote tally. The Minnesota Senate race is even tighter. It looks like the margin there is hundreds out of millions. Whatever you think of Al Franken, I thought his statement on the race struck the right tone, especially this paragraph:

The process, dictated by our laws, will be orderly, fair, and will take place within a matter of days. We won’t know for a little while who won this race, but at the end of the day, we will know that the voice of the electorate was clearly heard.

In 2006, Eric Massa exercised his rights as a candidate and waited for all votes to be counted before conceding. In 2008, Randy Kuhl is doing the same. That's a powerful statement about the rule of law.

Afternoon Vote Count

Reader Elmer sends news that Randy Kuhl has moved to impound voting machines.

The Massa Campaign says that the current vote spread is 4,400 votes.

Massa and Houghton

In case you missed it last night, Sean Carroll of WHAM reported that Amo Houghton and Eric Massa met last night:

Sean Carroll: Just got done talking Amo Houghton - and he just got here after visiting with Eric Massa!

Evan Dawson: Sean -- WOW WOW WOW. And why was he with Massa?

Sean Carroll: said he respects him - "stands for the right things" even though he's on the other side of the aisle. said he's still pulling for Randy, but after all "we're all Americans"

Amo Houghton would have racked up another 60/40 or 70/30 win last night against almost any Democrat, probably with my vote. If Republicans want to come back in New York State, they need to take a serious look at what Amo did right and what Randy Kuhl did wrong.