Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a western New York special election that emerged as a political testing ground for the ambitious GOP blueprint to reform Medicare.

Fueled by a late wave of commercials blasting Corwin over her support for the controversial House Republican budget plan, Hochul surged in a race that few initially expected her to prevail in.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul held a commanding 48 percent to 42 percent lead over Corwin. Tea party candidate Jack Davis received 9 percent.

Hochul’s against-the-odds win, national Democrats argued, proved the national unpopularity of the GOP proposal, given the district’s long history of supporting Republican candidates.

Republicans earlier in the day appeared to be bracing themselves for a loss in a race they were once seen as a lock to win. On Tuesday morning, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions offered a decidedly downcast assessment of the race in a closed-door caucus meeting, and urged fellow Republicans to push back on efforts to brand the race a referendum on Medicare.

Complicating the race was Davis, a wealthy industrialist and Democrat-turned-tea party candidate who spent nearly $3 million out of his own pocket on the race. He spent his candidacy warning the area’s blue-collar voters that they were losing their jobs to China.

Although some speculated that the entry of Davis was a spoiler for the race, and only served to take votes away from the Republican, polls conducted over the last two months show otherwise.  As support for Davis dropped, Hochul made almost identical gains, whereas Republican Corwin neither gained nor lost a significant amount.  Jane Corwin was destined to lose with or without a third-party candidate in the race.

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