Candidates picked in New York primaries

September 9, 2008 9:36:14 PM PDT
Democrats chose a congressional lineup Tuesday that they hope will inflict further damage on the state's reeling Republicans, picking candidates in a New York City district roiled by sex scandal and in a Buffalo-area race where a low-key candidate upset two big-spending rivals. Four competitive primary races were held on Tuesday, including two congressional seats that Democrats hope to snatch from Republicans. The GOP holds only 6 of the state's 29 congressional seats, and that number could dwindle further amid signs of Democratic strength.

In New York City, Democrats chose City Councilman Michael McMahon and Republicans nominated former assemblyman Bob Straniere in the race to succeed Republican congressman Vito Fossella, who decided not to run for re-election after a series of embarassing personal revelations.

McMahon won with 75 percent of the vote, while Straniere picked up nearly 59 percent.

If McMahon wins in November, Democrats will control all of New York City's congressional delegation for the first time in memory.

"I'm ecstatic," McMahon said. "We have an across-the-district victory tonight. We think we're in real good shape moving forward."

The Staten Island contest sprang to life in the spring after Fossella, a seemingly secure and promising politician, ran a red light in suburban Virginia and ended up wrecking his career.

Fossella was charged with drunken driving, and soon after he admitted to fathering a child in an extramarital relationship.

That set off a scramble in both parties. The GOP settled on a candidate, but he died unexpectedly. The party ended up with a primary instead, and it's unclear if the GOP can recover in time to hold onto the seat.

In Brooklyn, 13-term Rep. Edolphus Towns trounced Kevin Powell, a writer and activist best known as being a cast member of MTV's "Real World" inaugural season. Towns had 67 percent of the vote.

Powell, 42, sought to seize on the excitement Barack Obama has generated among black and young voters, and charged the 74-year-old Towns was outdated and out-of-touch after having represented the district for 26 years.

Towns responded by flexing his own political muscles, calling in favors from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top Democrats to show he can still deliver. Powell injected some celebrity support into the race himself, getting a boost from comedian Chris Rock and feminist Gloria Steinem.

In such a heavily Democratic district, the winner of the primary is virtually guaranteed victory in November.

Towns said he proved the naysayers wrong by working hard.

"I'm excited about the possibility of having a Democrat in the White House, with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. This is a good opportunity, and I'm excited about it."

In western New York's 26th district, Iraq war veteran Jon Powers and millionaire Jack Davis were upset by environmental lawyer Alice Kryzan, who had a run a relatively modest campaign while the other two candidates waged a bitter, expensive race.

Davis and Powers leveled tough charges against each other; Davis questioned whether Powers' volunteer work for Iraqi children was a failure, and Powers charged Davis would cut Social Security benefits.

Kryzan will face Republican Christopher Lee in the fall.

"I don't know that I really have a secret, all I can tell you is I've been out there talking the voters being the same person I've always been," said Kryzan. "There was a lot of negativity between my two opponents and I think at some level people did not like that and what they really wanted was somebody they thought they could trust."

In Albany's 21st district, former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko defeated former Hillary Rodham Clinton staffer Tracey Brooks and three other candidates in the race to succeed retiring Democrat Michael McNulty.