Races to Watch: A GOP Seat at Risk in Upstate New York

  • Share
  • Read Later

Chris Lee, left, and Alice Kryzan, right, are running for New York's 26th District Congressional seat.

The general election campaign for the open seat in New York's 26th congressional district is still largely defined by the rocky primary season that preceded it. Former businessman Chris Lee ran unopposed for the Republican nomination in the district that covers parts of seven counties across a broad swath of upstate New York between Rochester and Buffalo, giving him a substantial financial advantage. As of the last official reporting on August 20, he had about $750,000 on hand, including $470,000 from his own pocket. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, environmental lawyer Alice Kryzan, had to compete in a bruising primary contest and reported having just $95,000 on hand.

Despite the fact that Kryzan is spending a lot of her energy making up this financial deficit, the tough primary fight was to her advantage. She was the dark horse against two other Democrats — an Iraq war veteran who had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a millionaire who'd previously run against the district's retiring Congressman, Republican Tom Reynolds. After Kryzan's opponents fired off a series of nasty television attacks ads, she produced a brilliantly effective one showing two men engaged in a brawl near a park bench. In the ad, Kryzan appears in the foreground and says, "Boys, take it somewhere else." The high-road message was widely credited with turning the primary in Kryzan's favor, and she ended up with 41% of the vote.

The primary scuffle also helped Kryzan's name recognition and she emerged better known than her opponent Lee, a key advantage in a contest between two political neophytes. Still, the primary battle hasn't made it easy for Kryzan to consolidate Democratic support. Neither of her former Democratic opponents has endorsed her, and one remains on the ballot as the Working Families Party candidate. The party has signaled that it intends to endorse Kryzan, but the local Republican party structure is challenging the constitutionality of changing the name on the ballot.

(See a gallery of campaign gaffes here.)

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2