Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who supports marriage equality, achieved an upset victory Tuesday in a special election for an upstate New York congressional seat.
Hochul competed for the 26th district seat vacated when Republican congressman Chris Lee resigned in February after it was revealed that he sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman on Craigslist. State assemblywoman Jane Corwin appeared to hold an early advantage in the conservative district that stretches from Buffalo to Rochester, but voter dissatisfaction with the GOP's plan to overhaul Medicare and the presence of Tea Party candidate Jack Davis helped propel Hochul to a win.
According to The New York Times, "Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican's embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up."
Hochul won with 47% of the vote compared to 43% for Corwin and 9% for Davis, according to unofficial results reported by the Times.
The candidates did not devote much discussion to equality during the race, but their responses to a questionnaire posted last month by The Batavian indicate stark differences on the subject of marriage equality and the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Candidates were asked, "What is your position on marriage? Should the federal government involve itself on issues of who can marry whom? Should the federal government provide the same benefits to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples? Finally, should gay men and lesbians be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military?"
Hochul, an attorney endorsed by elected officials including U.S. senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, replied, "I don't think the federal government should involve itself on issues of who can marry whom, that needs to be determined by the states. I believe everyone should be afforded equal rights under federal law. I do support the civil institution of marriage for gay couples, with absolutely no requirements placed on religious institutions. Gay men and women, who want to fight to defend our freedom, should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military."
Corwin, who voted against a marriage equality bill in the state assembly, said that marriage "should be defined as the union between one man and one woman" and said that Congress should have waited for more input from military leaders last year before voting to proceed with "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.