OK, so Democrat Bill Owens beats Conservative Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 Congressional race. Yes, I know NY-23 has been solidly Republican since the Civil War and it was about as safe a seat as a party could hope for. And really, I’m damn happy that Owens won (and a bit surprised), but I’ve been reading a lot of comments around the net this morning (Huffington Post, for example) and I think some Democrats and progressives are going a bit overboard on this.
I live directly south of this district so I am at least a little familiar with it. Although many folks tend to think of New York as a liberal/progressive state, once you get out of the cities, the main themes are conservative and independent. NY-23 is about as non-urban as it gets. Parts of it are downright desolate. My take is that voters didn’t like the idea of folks like Palin and Armey coming in to push Conservative Hoffman over Republican Scozzafava, particularly Armey’s comments referring to local concerns as “parochial” and trying to turn the election into a national referendum on Obama.
Independence and local issues are serious business in NY-23. But conservative ideology runs deep. Being ex-military no doubt helped Owens, along with Hoffman’s general cluelessness. This election result does not mean that even staunchly conservative areas have suddenly become progressive and completely reject teabagger foolishness. After all, uber-conservatives did manage to push out the moderate Republican and lost by only four points (less than Scozzfava’s 6% in spite of having dropped out, and rest assured that that will be the GOP spin: “Owens only got 49% of the vote, so more people actually rejected the Democrat”).
Bill Owens will be up for election in one year. The real test will be whether or not he can hold onto the seat.