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Voters in Genesee County are heading to the polls into this evening to choose the new congressional representative for New York’s 26th District.

The tight race is receiving national attention. Democrats are pushing hard for victory in a district which has historically voted Republican; Republicans meanwhile are clinging loosely to their voter base after Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul came out six points ahead in the final voter polls late last week.

Political scientist and GCC professor Derek Maxfield says the Medicare debate has been the number one factor in this race, whick takes place in a senior-laden district.

"They (seniors) are the very ones that are most concerned about Medicare – and here, that favors Hochul," Maxfield says. Hochul's platform has been to preserve Medicare as is. She demonizes Congressman Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, which Jane Corwin publicly supports. Hochul says it would provide insufficient vouchers for seniors to take to their health insurer to pay for services.

Maxfield also believes Hochul and the Democrats have hit a home-run with this district's other large demographic: rural farmers, farm employees, and farm supporters.

"I think we've seen people like (U.S. Senators) Schumer and Gillibrand showing their empathy and sympathy for local farmers," says Maxfield. "That has an effect here, and favors Hochul."

Maxfield also says the campaign was very dirty, though not the dirtiest he's seen before. Still, he empahsizes that mudslinging doesn’t necessarily favor the attacking party.

"The ad featuring Nancy Pelosi and the marionettes was a disturbing ad to me," says Maxfield.
The 30-second ad features an image of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi controlling Kathy Hochul and Independent candidate Jack Davis with puppet strings.

"But I can clearly see why Republicans used that: Nancy Pelosi is one of the most unpopular Democrats in the country," Maxfield says.

The GCC professor says the race has more national implications than local. He suspects that no matter the outcome, Republicans and Democrats will look for positive spin as they approach the upcoming elections in September and November, and a particularly worrisome budget battle for 2012-2013. 

Maxfield also predicts that voters on the home-front won’t notice much difference, no matter who gets elected.

"Politics is one of those things where the question, 'What have you done for me lately?' is very prominent," he points out. "And I wouldn't see that this district would gain anything out of (the election), necessarily."

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