There are two special elections coming up in May. One is here in my Congressional district to replace Jane Harman. And it’s a top-two primary with 16 candidates, so it’s almost certain we won’t know the final result until a runoff in July. The other race is in NY-26, to replace Craigslist Chris Lee. That’s a fairly Republican seat, but Democrats in the area have been boosted by two things: 1) the presence of a this third party candidate, Jack Davis, that could split the conservative vote; 2) the presence of the Paul Ryan budget, which Democrat Kathy Hochul is using to pummel Republican Jane Corwin.

The most recent poll of the race shows that this is having an impact:

In the special election for the 26th Congressional District seat, Republican Jane Corwin currently has a small lead, with the support of 36 percent of voters. Democrat Kathy Hochul is supported by 31 percent, and independent Jack Davis, running on the Tea Party line, has the support of 23 percent of voters, according to a Siena (College) Research Institute poll of likely 26th CD voters released today.

Voters identified the federal budget deficit and jobs as the two most important issues they want their new Representative working on in Washington. Voters strongly support (58-36 percent) repealing the recently-enacted federal health care legislation. They strongly oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits to help close the deficit (59-38 percent), however, they strongly support increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (62-35 percent), and they are divided (48-47 percent) on increasing corporate taxes.

There’s actually a fourth-party candidate, Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast (the guy who made the Koch prank call to Scott Walker), who only got 1% support in the poll. Not sure what kind of impact he will have on the race. And I don’t know if Davis will hold a quarter of voters among Democrats, Republicans and independents, the way the poll shows now. With our first-past-the-post system, typically the third-party candidates lose support as the election nears.

This race is a test case, if a somewhat imperfect one because of the third party effort, on the potency of the argument against dismantling social safety net programs. Clearly, voters are on Hochul’s side on that issue, and she has been working to frame the race entirely around that. We shall see if that will carry the day. The election is May 24.