Rocker and Doctor Are Neck and Neck
The race between Dr. Nan Hayworth, Republican candidate for the 19th congressional district, and incumbent Democrat John Hall might come down to a photo finish in the general election. With the potential for a significant Republican shift on Capitol Hill, political experts nationwide are keeping their eyes on tight races like New York’s 19th district. Until Hall defeated incumbent Sue Kelly in 2006, the seat had long been held by the GOP.
Hall, formerly of the 70s rock group Orleans, has been using his musical connections to his advantage. Last Saturday, Jackson Browne, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and singer of “Running on Empty,” performed a benefit concert at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie. Hall and Browne, founding members of Musicians United for Safe Energy, performed together in the 1980 concert film “No Nukes,” along with other rock legends such as Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor.
Douglas Cunningham, communications director for Hayworth, used the opportunity to take a shot at Hall. “The Bardavon is a great venue,” he told the Courier. “It’s just too bad that ‘No Nukes’ and ‘Running on Empty’ seem to be the key messages of the John Hall campaign.”
Although Hayworth is an ophthalmologist, she ran a radio ad about Hall’s hearing ability. Hayworth links the far-left Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, with Hall while repeatedly telling voters that “John Hall doesn’t hear you.”
“He sure hears Nancy Pelosi,” she says. “He has voted with her nearly 98 percent of the time.”
“If the GOP, led by John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan introduced legislation that protected middle-class families, created U.S. jobs, stopped the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas or lowered taxes on middle-income wage earners, I would vote with them,” Hall told the Courier. “The problem is they don’t.”
A Hayworth TV ad refers to Hall as “contagious,” and continues to hammer him on his votes for the stimulus plan and Obamacare. “John Hall has spending-itis,” the ad says, “a disease that causes reckless government spending and kills jobs.”
Although Hayworth, who says she is “pro-choice with stipulations,” might not fit perfectly into the Tea Party mold of social conservatism, she has been endorsed by the North Westchester Tea Party Patriots. “The Tea Party has the greatest agreement among members as far as the fiscal issues are concerned,” she told the Courier. “There is a diversity of views about issues that are considered more personal.”
The Tea Party is gaining momentum and popularity, spurred by mass dissatisfaction with Republicans and Democrats alike. Running as a fiscal conservative, Hayworth looks to capitalize on the rampant distrust of incumbents and government spending. “Our country’s economic problems are not due to us being taxed too little,” Hayworth says in another TV spot.
The Hall campaign is trying to paint her as a fringe candidate, out of touch with normal people. “In the museum of radical ideas, Nan Hayworth has her own wing,” says a Hall campaign ad. “[Hayworth is] considering a new 23 percent national sales tax on almost everything we buy: food, cars, and medicine.”
Cunningham told the Courier that comments Hayworth had made about possibly considering a “Fair Tax” are being taken out of context and turned into an “outright fabrication.” A “Fair Tax,” in the world of American economists, would be a 23 percent national sales tax, as the Hall ad says, but it would also involve the repeal of federal income taxes. Cunningham went on to say that Hall is following a national Democratic strategy template. “What the Democrats have done, is say that any Republican, anywhere in the country, who has spoken about a simplification of taxes … supports a 23 percent tax hike on everything,” he said. “It is just a fabrication.”
Hayworth was blindsided by the ad. “I’m new to politics. I understand it’s a rough game at times,” she said in a press release. “But I have to tell you, I find it hard to believe the ease with which John Hall continues to lie about where I stand on the issues.”
A Monmouth University poll has Hall out in front by a nose, leading 49 to 48 percent, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent. “This race couldn’t be any closer,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a press release. “Hayworth may be suffering some backlash with conservative social issue voters right now. Without another candidate on the ballot, though, they are likely to return to the Republican fold on Election Day.”
According to a RNN-TV/ Westchester County Association (WCA) Decision 2010 poll conducted by Iona College, Hall and Hayworth were tied at 42 percent, as of October 6. However, a Siena poll, conducted between October 5 and 10, has the newcomer Hayworth leading 46 to 43 percent.
Hall was elected to a second term in 2008 with 59 percent of the vote. However, the current political climate appears harsh for incumbents, especially Democrats, many of whom have been attempting to distance themselves from the Obama administration. According to RealClearPolitics, “Hall has been a reliably liberal vote, voting for almost all of the leadership’s initiatives.”
The Hall and Hayworth camps have battled not only in the public square and on the airwaves, but also in the courtroom. In September, Justice Michael C. Lynch of the Albany County Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Hall campaign questioning pro-Hayworth petition signatures from Independence Party members. “The decision means that Hayworth will keep the Independence Party line on the 2010 ballot, in addition to having the Republican and Conservative Party lines,” said Hayworth’s camp after the decision. “The vast preponderance of signatures for Hayworth, gathered by Independence Party members or notaries, was found to be completely proper, and within the bounds of the number needed to keep the line.”
“We respect Justice Michael C. Lynch’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the Independence Party line and proudly move forward to victory on the Democratic and Working Family Party lines,” said Hall campaign manager Patrick McGarrity in September.
However, the Hall camp took issue with a Hayworth press release that announces campaign manager John Hicks was vindicated by Lynch’s decision. “Hundreds of signatures were invalidated by the court, including every single one submitted by Hayworth campaign manager John Hicks,” McGarrity told the Courier. “Mr. Hicks collected signatures, which were submitted to the New York State Board of Elections. During his testimony his actions were admonished by the judge and the court ruled his submitted signatures invalid. That is hardly vindication.”
Nan Hayworth also holds the Conservative and Independence Party lines.