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September 09, 2008

Kryzan wins shocker for Reynolds seat

Despite being significantly outspent by her well-funded Democratic rivals, retired environmental attorney Alice Kryzan defeated two better-known opponents to win the Democratic nomination in retiring GOP Rep. Tom Reynolds’ district.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Kryzan won 42 percent of the vote against Iraq war veteran Jon Powers and self-funded businessman Jack Davis to win the nomination. Powers finished second with 36 percent, while Davis received 23 percent.

"Today, you sent a clear message: You want an independent voice in Washington, one that will focus on the issues, one that will put you before the Washington special interests and tired old-establishment politics," Kryzan said in a victory statement.

Powers began the campaign as the heavy favorite, winning endorsements from leading labor unions, all the county party officials and by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But he got locked into an expensive and negative tit-for-tat with Davis during the primary campaign, while Kryzan remained above the fray.

On a shoestring budget, Kryzan’s campaign did not send out a single direct mail piece – a staple of modern campaigns – and didn’t conduct any polling. She aired an ad in the campaign’s final days portraying her two male opponents fighting with each other, while she emerges as a calm, pragmatic voice.

“I approve this message because I’ve been a problem solver, a community leader and a real Democrat my whole life,” Kryzan said in the ad.

Another Kryzan ad offered damaging allegations against Powers, hitting him for using his “kids’ charity to line his own profits.” Powers had come under fire during the campaign for exaggerating his role and responsibilities with an Iraq children’s charity.

The charges clearly stuck against Powers, a the first-time candidate whose military biography was the centerpiece of his campaign.

Kryzan will now be facing  businessman Christopher Lee, who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination. He has already stockpiled over $750,000 in preparation for the November election.

Without their favored candidate, Democrats are a little more circumspect of their chances of picking up this Rochester and Buffalo-area district in November. Even though New York has become a reliable Democratic stronghold, this is one of the most solid GOP districts in the Empire State, giving President Bush 55 percent of the vote in 2004.

Down-state, in the Staten Island seat of scandal-plagued Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.), New York city councilman Mike McMahon handily defeated attorney Steve Harrison. McMahon begins the campaign as the clear frontrunner against former state Assemblyman Bob Straniere, who is disliked by the Staten Island GOP leadership.

And former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko defeated EMILY’s List-endorsed attorney Tracey Brooks, and will be the heavy favorite to succeed retiring Rep. Mike McNulty (D-N.Y.). Tonko will be facing GOP Schenectady County Legislator Jim Buhrmaster in November.