Posts containing facts about the race in the 29th.

Devious Robo-Calls

The New York State Democratic Committee just held a conference call to air allegations about robo-calls that may be happening in the 29th. According to the Committee's lawyer, Frank Hoare, the calls follow one of two patterns:

  1. The call begins by saying that someone from the Massa campaign is calling, then the phone disconnects. After the recipient hangs up, they're called back multiple times.
  2. The voter answers the call, hears a long pause, and then gets an anti-Massa message.

Hoare used the 29th as a specific example of a district where such calls were occurring. He was long on accusations and short on proof, though he did point out that this type of robo-calling strategy has been used by Republicans in the past.

Even if the calls aren't intentional hang-ups, they're probably illegal. According to federal statute, all robo-calls must clearly identify who's initiating the call at the beginning. The calls that have been recorded don't do that until the end. They begin with "Hello, I'm calling with information about [candidate name]". So, if what's happening is malfunctioning robo-call, instead of an intentionally devious one, part of the problem is that the call doesn't follow federal law.

Rochesterturning has a post that details what to do if you've gotten a robo-call like this.

The Weather

The forecast for the Northern and Southern 29th has improved:  no rain, partly cloudy, breezy, high 55.

Turnout and Predictions

The area newspapers are running turnout stories.   The D&C makes the obvious point that this election is all about turnout, and the Star-Gazette reports that absentee ballot returns are up in Chemung County (versus last year's local election).

Political analyst Larry Sabato has posted his final New York House predictions.  He calls all the close Western New York races for the incumbents.  On the 29th, he says, "We cannot entirely rule out an upset, and we do believe at least one of these upstate New York districts will flip, but we can't bring ourselves to wager against Kuhl."

Shoe Leather

Rochester TV station WHEC has a story about how the Massa campaign uses "cyberspace", with Massa's MySpace page as the example.  While it's true that Massa has a MySpace page, that just scratches the surface of the differences in the two campaigns' approaches to using the Internet.  The Massa website is full of detailed information about the candidate's positions, solicits online fundraising, and is constantly updated. 

Massa also posts a diary regularly on DailyKos, and that diary is replicated across a number of "netroots" sites like MyDD and the TPMCafe.  I don't think those efforts will gain Massa many votes in the 29th, but they have helped him in other ways.  One of the reasons that Massa has raised $800K from individuals is online contributions (often small, like $20) from readers of these sites.  In addition, Massa's participation in the discussion threads on those sites has probably helped him sharpen his positions on some issues.

The Kuhl campaign's site does not solicit donations and is infrequently updated.  Kuhl says:

What were doing is taking the old fashioned way [...] Taking the shoe leather on the street, right out to the people and saying hello.

It's not an either/or.  For example, Reader Rich points to Massa's election-day schedule, which begins at 4:15 a.m. in Pittsford and ends in Corning at 9 p.m.  That kind of schedule is typical for Massa, who's run a hard campaign on the ground as well as in "cyberspace".   

What's Randy Kuhl doing tomorrow?  I have no idea -- it isn't posted on his website.

Down to the Wire/Celebrity Watch

Media coverage continues to increase in the South and stay pretty sparse in the North.  The Steuben Courier, "Steuben County's Largest Free Newspaper", has a pretty good race overview piece.   The Finger Lake Times covers the Massa and Spitzer visit to Canandaigua.  And it's down to the wire, according to the Olean Times-Herald.

Reader Rich reports that Bill Clinton will be coming to Rochester on Monday to rally the faithful.  Massa's Monroe County schedule hasn't been posted yet, but I assume he'll be there.  Today, Massa will appear at a rally in Hornell with General Wesley Clark.  The Kuhl campaign's celebrity is Amo Houghton, who will appear at a rally in Corning Monday night.

Saturday Morning News

The Rural Patriot reports that the Olean TImes-Herald endorsed Randy Kuhl in their paper edition.  The endorsement isn't available from the paper's website.

Today's Elmira Star-Gazette has a race overview story that's pretty good, but starts with some errors.  First, the subhead reads "Polls Show Kuhl, Massa Winning as Race Winds Down".  Then it cites the Cook Report and Evans and Novak as evidence of the closeness of the race.  Those aren't polls, they're political writers' ratings based on a number of factors including polls.  In addition, they interpret the Cook Report rating [pdf], "leans Republican", as putting the race "solidly in Randy Kuhl's hands".  That's not right .  In Cook-speak, "leans" means a race where one party has the advantage but the race is competitive.  Cook's rating for "solid" races is "solid", and the 29th hasn't been in that category since Cook started publishing ratings for this cycle.

The National Journal has dropped the 29th from 35th to 44th in their ranking of competitive house races. 

News Roundup

First the good PR: Randy Kuhl got some bill signing front page love with Governor Pataki in Corning, and Eric Massa got a sloppy wet kiss from the Elmira Star-Gazette.

Now, the good for one, bad for the other PR: The Rothenberg Political Report has rated the 29th "toss-up/tilt Republican", which I believe is a little more competitive than their last rating. The dispute between Sanford Dickert and the Massa campaign got aired on the AP wire late yesterday, and today's Democrat and Chronicle and Star-Gazette ran followups featuring Dickert's denial of Massa's charges. Also, I missed the Finger Lakes Times coverage yesterday, which was probably the most balanced of the bunch.

Dynamite or Firecracker?

The Elmira Star-Gazette and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle report on court documents filed by the Massa campaign in an employment dispute with their fired former campaign manager.  One of the accusations against Sanford Dickert, who was dismissed in June, is that he invited teenage boys to his apartment, gave them alcohol and hard liquor, and invited a 16-year-old boy to stay the night.

Massa says that he did not know of any of these things until Dickert was dismissed.  Affadavits filed in the case include a number of accusations of against Dickert, including lying on his resume, soliciting donations contrary to campaign finance laws, and distributing literature that did not represent Massa's true positions.  Dickert was hired in April and fired June 13.

Reader Rich points out Bob Lonsberry's column, in which Bob clarifies by quoting some of the documents filed.  First, the other teenage boys were college-age employees of the Massa campaign, one of whom says that the alcohol was purchased by another 25-year-old campaign worker for her personal use.  So I assume "teenage" in that case means 18 or 19. Lonsberry's reading of the filings says that it was Massa's 16-year-old son whom Dickert asked to spend the night.

Lonsberry tries to spin the differences in the affidavits into perjury on Massa's part, and likens the whole case to the page scandal.

The perjury claim is far-out.  Employment disputes often devolve into he-said/she-saids, and having different perspectives on the performance of a fired employee does not mean that someone's lying.  Also, the affidavit from which Lonsberry quotes is by a student at Cooper Union, where Dickert is an adjunct professor (according to his personal web page).  An employment arbitration proceeding would presumably go further into the details of what relationship, if any, exists between Dickert and the student.

As for the "teenagers" and alcohol,  Lonsberry claims that the Massa campaign has a special duty towards them, because they were "like pages".  I don't think that's true.  If they're all college-age (pages aren't), then they are adults, and can be treated as such.  If the campaign manager procured liquor for them, he should be fired, and he was.  If Massa had called the cops, then  the students would be in trouble for the actions of an irresponsible employee.  This is an area where discretion should be exercised, and it sounds like it was.

The revelation that the 16-year-old was Massa's son puts a whole new spin on the facts of the story.  If Massa's son was the only person at that party under the age of consent, and Massa has heard the whole story of the party from his boy, we have to assume nothing that happened there was worth calling the cops about.  Frankly, if I were Massa's 16-year-old son, I'd be a hell of a lot more scared of Eric Massa than the Corning PD.

The real scandal here would have been Massa paying the guy to go away.  That didn't happen.  But so close to the election, who knows what will develop out of this.

Klunk, Klunk, Klunk

The Kerry kerfluffle is the kind of ridiculous stuff that happens near elections, made worse by Kerry's typically ham-fisted handling of the whole non-event.  The Kuhl Campaign has issued a press release asking Massa to disavow Kerry's remarks.  The Massa campaign's rejoinder included this remark:

George Bush and John Kerry and Randy Kuhl have had their chance and failed to bring home either victory or the troops.  It’s time for a change down in Washington, and change is coming on Tuesday.

In case you're wondering, that noise you hear is Kerry going under the bus. 

Closing Time

Tight races are decided by the most fickle and least informed voters: last-minute undecideds.  In the 29th, both candidates are using every technique at their disposal to close with voters who haven't been paying attention until now.

Yesterday and today's Democrat and Chronicle has a couple of round-up stories that detail efforts to sway undecideds.  One of the important points made in today's story concerns the marginal value of additional spending.  At some point, additional money spent on advertising doesn't work.  But neither campaign knows if they've reached that point.  So they just keep spending.

The marginal value of advertising is especially questionable in the Northern 29th.  The Rochester media market has three close Congressional races along with the legislative and judicial contests.  Almost every ad during local programming (like the news) is a political advertisement.  Ads for the 29th are probably drowned out in the overall din of political ads.

The Kuhl campaign is trying to fill the space between the ads -- the local news -- by announcing grants in different parts of the district and hoping for media coverage.  Today, Kuhl will announce grants for Ontario and Monroe county projects.  Last week, he announced grants in Elmira and Corning. 

Lacking the incumbent advantage of announcing pork, the Massa campaign has opted for a more personal approach: touring the district and pressing the flesh. Massa began a week-long tour of the eight counties in the 29th yesterday.

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