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Redistricting Shades N.Y. Race

Corwin Victory Might Ultimately Squeeze Out an Upstate GOP Freshman

Capitol Hill’s Republican elite — including Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) — have been among Jane Corwin’s most active supporters in western New York’s suddenly competitive 26th district special election.

But the Empire State’s own Republican delegation, particularly those upstate freshmen who occupy nearby districts, have done little, if anything, to help their prospective GOP colleague to date. As the May 24 contest draws a flood of money and logistical support from outside groups and Members across the nation, most of New York’s GOP Representatives have not sent donations, made phone calls or stumped for Corwin.

There may be a simple reason.

There is widespread fear that a victory by Corwin, a two-term state lawmaker with stronger ties to the state House than the GOP freshmen in the delegation, could shift the balance of power in the looming redistricting process.

New York will lose two Congressional seats in 2012 because of population losses. One of those seats will likely be upstate. And state lawmakers in a divided Legislature will ultimately pick the winners and losers when they redraw the districts in the coming months.

“The bottom line is that every district needs to change,” said a New York Republican strategist with strong ties to the delegation and the state Assembly. “But if Corwin wins, and I think she wins, she’s not going anywhere. She’s got the best seat and she’s got the connections into Albany.”

Indeed, none of the six New York Republicans serving a first full term has experience as a state legislator. They are a former FBI agent, an ophthalmologist, a nurse, a retired Army colonel, a businessman and a former mayor. A delegation staffer acknowledged privately that redistricting concerns are in the back of everyone’s mind.

Publicly, however, they downplay such worries.

“I think the conventional wisdom is that there will be one [seat lost] upstate and one downstate,” said Tim Kolpien, spokesman for Rep. Tom Reed, whose 29th district borders what could be Corwin’s district to the east. “Having said that, the most important thing is to get another voice on the Republican side of the House in Washington. The problems facing our nation are too great to let anybody’s petty political agenda influence that.”

Reed was the only one in the delegation to attend a recent New York fundraiser for Corwin featuring Boehner. But Reed did not donate to Corwin, was not among a group of Representatives who recently made calls on her behalf and has no plans to make any appearances with her.

“I know that Tom has been helping the campaign in terms of advice and support,” Kolpien said.

On the fundraising front, Corwin hardly needs individual donations given her significant personal wealth. But she has been reaching out to donors in recent weeks nonetheless.

Three prominent Republicans — National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), Cantor and Boehner — hosted local fundraisers on her behalf since April 29.

And the NRCC notes that Corwin has received at least $43,000 from Members, with other donations trickling in almost daily.

Overall, she reported outside donations in excess of $304,000 through May 4 to supplement the more than $2.5 million she has loaned her campaign.

As of Friday, however, the only New York Republican listed among the donors was Rep. Nan Hayworth, who gave $500 on April 6. Hayworth’s 19th district is almost 300 miles and five districts to the east of Corwin’s campaign headquarters.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, whose 25th district is adjacent to Corwin’s, does not appear to have done anything to help Corwin at this point.

“There’s been some conversation and she’s seeing what her schedule will allow,” Buerkle spokeswoman Liza Lowery said Friday, noting that Buerkle, like most of the delegation, will be in New York this week during recess. “She would like to do something, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot already scheduled for the Congressional district work week.”

Rep. Richard Hanna, whose 24th district is beyond Reed’s to the east, is the only delegation member so far who offered to visit the 26th district to help Corwin, according to Corwin spokesman Matthew Harakal. Harakal noted that other delegation staffers have volunteered on their own to help with phone banking at the Republican National Committee headquarters.

“We’ve received a lot of support from New York Reps,” he said in an email, adding that GOP freshman Rep. Chris Gibson, of central New York’s 20th district, was among 20 Republican military veterans in Congress who endorsed Corwin earlier in the month.

But the bulk of her support appears to be coming from outside the Empire State, according to campaign finance filings and information provided by Republican campaign staffers.

Recent donors include the political action committees of Cantor, Boehner and GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Candice Miller (Mich.) and Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

And the NRCC confirms that six Republicans made phone calls on Corwin’s behalf at the NRCC headquarters Thursday night. They were Sessions and Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.), Virginia Foxx (N.C.), Pete Olson (Texas), Steve Stivers (Ohio) and Steve Scalise (La.).

Meanwhile, New York’s state Legislature won’t finish reshaping new districts until well after the special election. The last time around, the districts weren’t finalized until the spring before the election, according to Kolpien.

But at this point, he said his boss and the other New York Members are focused on the looming special election.

“He’s just trying to be supportive however he can,” Kolpien said. “We’ll worry about 2012 in 2012.”

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