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by Mike Hall, May 25, 2011

New York’s Congressional District 26 had been safely in Republican hands for more than 40 years. Not anymore.

Political observers say Democratic Kathy Hochul won the seat in yesterday’s special election because she promised to fight the Republican plan to privatize Medicare and cut Social Security while her opponent marched in lockstep with the House-passed Republican budget.

Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said that voters saw that Hochul would be “a strong voice in Congress to protect the health care and retirement security of Americans of all ages.”

She made it crystal clear that she opposes turning Medicare over to private insurance companies, reducing Social Security benefits, and allowing state governors to cut Medicaid support for seniors who cannot afford nursing home care.

Working families across upstate New York played a big role Hochul’s victory. Union volunteers made more than 20,000 member-to-member door knocks, 30,000 phone calls and handed out 30,000 worksite fliers for Hochul, who comes from a United Steelworker (USW) family and who vowed to fight for good jobs and to protect the right of workers to form unions.

Hochul had to win Independent and Republican votes to capture the seat in a district where former Rep. Chris Lee (R) who resigned in March won 68 percent of the vote last year.  She told her supporters last night:

We had the issues on our side. We can balance the budget the right way and not on the backs of our seniors.

The voters of this district have sent me to Washington because I said I’m willing to fight for them on Medicare, make sure the lobbyists pay for their fair share and get our budget under control. The question is: Did I have the confidence and faith of Republicans, Democrats and Independents who listened to our message loud and clear? We’re going to protect seniors; we’re going to protect the middle class and small businesses.

Hochul, who trailed far behind her opponent earlier the race, began gaining ground as voters became more aware of the radical Republican budget plan to turn over Medicare to private insurers would cost a typical 65-year-old an additional $6,359 a year in out-of-pocket health care costs by 2022.  Says Coyle:

These results show that health care and retirement security will be on the minds of many voters in the 2012 elections.  The Alliance for Retired Americans will continue to educate voters on both the issues and where the candidates stand.

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