Dec 05, 2011 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
District lines for New York’s 25th Congressional District will have changed by election day next year, but candidates have already declared their intent to join the race to be the district’s next representative.
2006: Jim Walsh, 3,417 more votes than Dan Maffei
2008: Dan Maffei, 37,158 more votes than Dale Sweetland
2010: Ann Marie Buerkle, 648 more votes than Dan Maffei
The sprawling district includes all of Onondaga and Wayne Counties, parts of Cayuga County and three towns in northeast Monroe County. Onondaga County remains the most Democrat-heavy of the areas, while the remainder of the district has leaned right, with voters predominantly voting Republican.
“The district has become much more evenly balanced in terms of party in recent years, due in part to demographic changes and in part due to the fact that it, like much of Upstate New York, has been moderate in its version of Republicanism,” said Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University.
The seat has been hotly-contested since 2006 when Democrat Dan Maffei first challenged Republican Jim Walsh, who held the seat for 16 years. Walsh won in 2006, but didn’t run for re-election in 2008 when Maffei won over Republican Dale Sweetland. Maffie lost his bid for re-election by a sliver to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle in 2010 — 648 votes separated the two in a race that netted more than 208,000 votes.
With a year to go, the race is heating up quickly as two Democrats have come forward to challenge Buerkle.
Brianne Murphy, a 31-year-old attorney from Tipperary Hill, last week announced her run for Congress. Should the district lines lie similarly, she could be pitted in a primary against Maffei, who announced his rematch against Buerkle this summer.
“I didn’t get in this race because of Dan Maffei. I got in this race because of central New York. He has run three times and lost twice, so I think he has a lot of challenges. I think Democrats in a primary are going to notice that. Voters are going to be excited to hear from someone new.”
— Brianne Murphy
Murphy, a political newcomer, says voters may be eager to see a new face on the primary ballot.
“I didn’t get in this race because of Dan Maffei,” she said. “I got in this race because of Central New York. He has run three times and lost twice, so I think he has a lot of challenges. I think Democrats in a primary are going to notice that. Voters are going to be excited to hear from someone new.”
The primary, which must be held between June and August for November’s election, would decide which party candidate would go on the final ballot.
“Until she qualifies to get on the ballot [for a primary], I’m not even thinking about it,” Maffei said. “I’ve been in enough horse races, I’m interested in looking at how we can actually change what we can.”
Until those district lines are drawn, neither Democrat candidate will speculate what the district could look like.
How the lines are drawn, however, will affect the tone of the race.
“Depending on who ends up with who will dictate how civil versus how heated this race will be,” Murphy said.
Some district possibilities could put Murphy and Maffei in opposite seats, should the county be split and merged with a neighboring congressional district.
“It will be a Central New York district, Syracuse will be a part of it, but trying to speculate which direction it will go is not what I am spending my time on,” Maffei said.
“Buerkle took her 648-vote win as some sort of a mandate to become a social crusader for these issues that aren’t a priority for central New Yorkers and I can not let that stand.”
— Dan Maffei
Reeher says Buerkle could be vulnerable in the coming election.
“This is her first term. She is clearly more conservative than the typical Republican in this region and Congress’s approval rating is in the basement,” Reeher said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that there would be more than one Democrat wanting to challenge her.”
Maffei is looking to rematch Buerkle. Their 2010 match left voters waiting for three weeks to find out the results until Maffei conceded. A difference of less than 1 percent separated the two.
“I need to hold Buerkle accountable for the kind of votes she has made,” Maffei said. “Buerkle took her 648-vote win as some sort of a mandate to become a social crusader for these issues that aren’t a priority for Central New Yorkers, and I cannot let that stand.”
Murphy, an Irish immigrant, is looking to take the seat in order to accurately represent Central New York, something she believes Buerkle has not done.
“My goal is to be a vocal advocate, a fighter for Central New York,” she said. “We need someone in Washington who is going to emulate our values, represent what we want, what we need and isn’t concerned about party politics.”