All eyes on NY's eight crucial House races

From left, Town of Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, From left, Town of Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, Rep. Steve Israel, Sen. Charles Schumer and FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta discuss the possibility of the new $220 million Integrated Control Facility being built at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. (July 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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New York's eight competitive congressional races -- the second most in the country -- contribute to the uphill climb Rep. Steve Israel faces this year in his drive to retake the House for Democrats, independent analysts said last week.

Israel (D-Dix Hills), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he needs to do well in his home state to reach his goal of winning a net 25 seats nationally to regain the majority.

Yet Israel must play defense for Democratic House members in half of New York's competitive races -- including Rep. Tim Bishop on Long Island's East End -- as he tries to win back four upstate seats Republicans won four years ago.

"New York is a pivotal part of the battle," Israel said. "We need to hold our own in New York to win our 25 seats, and we're on course to do that."

But New York GOP chairman Ed Cox sees potential gains for his party. "We are clearly seen as one of the most important states for holding on and increasing our majority in the House," he said. "And we have the assets to win the close races."

New York is being closely watched. It played a key role in the wave elections in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats swamped Republicans at the polls, and again in 2010, when Republicans swept a net 63 seats. Both waves shifted control of the House.

The battle in New York is heating up, with Republicans attacking on unemployment and the economy, and Democrats criticizing the Paul Ryan Medicare voucher plan and tax cuts for millionaires.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said it has reserved $5.4 million in TV airtime through the election in six New York races, and both sides expect big spending by GOP-friendly groups.

The DCCC has run ads in two races, and Israel called on popular Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to help New York Democratic House candidates.

Independent analysts predict a small shift nationally, ranging from a Democratic pickup of 10 seats to a GOP pickup of one.

Neither result would undo the GOP's House majority.

Here's a rundown of the New York races, in order of the ratings by independent analysts at the Rothenberg Political Report, the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

 

PURE TOSS-UPS

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CD 24: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) vs. Daniel Maffei (D)

Buerkle and Maffei are in a closely watched rematch of the 2010 race in which she ousted him from office by 648 votes.

Now they're again in a dead heat, tied at 43 percent in a Sept. 13 Siena Research Institute poll.

Buerkle is a key DCCC target as a tea party backer in a Democratic district. She runs on low taxes and small government. A Maffei ad criticized her call to scrap the Education Department.

The DCCC has already spent $261,468 to defeat her. The NRCC says it reserved $1.2 million in TV airtime for ads.

CD 27: Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) vs. Chris Collins (R)

Last year, Hochul won a special election in the state's most Republican district, which has since become more Republican.

She won by tying her GOP rival to a plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now the GOP vice presidential candidate, to shift Medicare's guaranteed benefits to vouchers.

Hochul faces Collins, the blunt, fiscally conservative former Erie County executive. An Aug. 19 Siena poll found Collins up 47 percent to 45 percent.

The NRCC plans to spend $575,000 on ads. The DCCC hasn't committed funding.

CD 19: Rep. Chris Gibson (R) vs. Julian Schreibman (D)

Gibson, a retired Army colonel, faces a challenge from Schreibman, a former CIA attorney, prosecutor and Ulster County Democratic Party chairman.

Schreibman has attacked Gibson for voting for the Ryan Medicare plan. Gibson has distanced himself from it by talking of a "bipartisan solution" for Medicare.

A Sept. 21 Siena poll found Gibson leading 52 percent to 36 percent. But it is considered close enough to draw big money: The DCCC plans to spend $730,000 in it, and the NRCC is set to spend $1.33 million.

CD 18: Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) vs. Sean Patrick Maloney (D)

Freshman Hayworth, a businesswoman and ophthalmologist, won in 2010 with tea party support. Now she says she votes with President Barack Obama a third of the time.

Maloney, a former Clinton administration lawyer, is running ads to remind voters of her tea party past.

A Sept. 18 Siena Poll shows Hayworth up 46 percent to 33 percent.

To aid Hayworth, the NRCC scheduled $775,000 in ads.

 

LEAN DEMOCRAT

CD 21: Rep. Bill Owens (D) vs. Matt Doheny (R)

In the past two elections, Owens has won three-way races with less than half the vote. This year, he faces one rival on both the GOP and Conservative lines: Watertown businessman Doheny.

It's Doheny's second try and he's trying to take advantage of a remapped district with more Republicans than Democrats.

There's a wild card: Green Party candidate Donald Hassig.

A Sept. 10 Siena poll found Owens ahead of Doheny by 13 points. Still, the NRCC has scheduled $847,000 in TV ads.

CD 1: Rep. Tim Bishop (D) vs. Randy Altschuler (R)

Bishop faces a tough rematch against St. James businessman Altschuler, who lost by 593 votes in 2010.

Much in the race remains the same: Altschuler hitting Bishop for voting with Obama, and Bishop slamming Altschuler as an outsourcer of jobs.

Yet Altschuler has the Independence Party line that Bishop had two years ago, and is touting ethics questions about Bishop's fundraising practices.

Outside money once again favors Altschuler. The NRCC has set $540,000 for ads, and two other outside groups have already spent $440,000. Yet analysts give Bishop an edge.

CD 25: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) vs. Maggie Brooks (R)

A newly drawn district that's now mostly in Monroe County has created a competitive race for Slaughter.

Slaughter, who won with 65 percent in 2010 for her 13th term in Congress, faces Brooks, another proven vote-getter who won Monroe County executive twice.

The district leans Democratic and the NRCC isn't spending money there. But Brooks got a boost from $330,000 in ads by the National Federation of Independent Businesses last week.

 

LEAN REPUBLICANCD 11: Rep. Michael Grimm (R) vs. Mark Murphy (D)

The race between freshman Grimm and first-time candidate Murphy appears to be as tough as their Staten Island district.

Grimm, a former FBI agent, is being dogged by FBI investigations into one of his fundraising supporters and Grimm's resulting big legal bill.

Murphy, a real estate developer and former aide to the New York City public advocate, is son of former Rep. John Murphy, who lost in 1980 after being indicted in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting.

The district leans Republican, though the DCCC has targeted Grimm in its emails. The race hasn't drawn money from the DCCC or NRCC.

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