Rural election gets national spotlight

March 31, 2009 1:09:16 PM PDT
Not sure there was a "last time" the political eyes of the country were focused on a rural upstate New York Congressional district that includes parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Valley.

Not typically Ground Zero for political battles.

But it is today.

You may not have heard of Jim Tedisco or Scott Murphy -- the same way you probably hadn't heard of Kirsten Gillibrand either, before she was catapulted from obscure Congresswoman from the 20th District into the junior U.S. Senator from New York.

Gillibrand was appointed to replace Hillary Clinton, when the former First Lady became U.S. Secretary of State.

Now Tedisco and Murphy are squaring off in a special election to replace Gillibrand, in the first post-Obama Congressional election that has more at stake than just a 1/435th say-so in Congress. As one political reporter noted today, it's getting 435 times the normal attention.

The election has, for better or worse, taken on the tone of a national referendum on the first 70 or so days of the Obama Presidency. Not sure it's fair, but, as my dad used to say, there's no referee whistle in life. Or, in this case, in politics.

Tedisco is the Republican -- a state legislator and a conservative. Murphy is the Democrat -- a venture capitalist. Each of their respective parties have come out in full support of the candidates; President Obama has publicly endorsed Murphy.

Tonight at 11, we'll have the voting results.

Also at 11, our political reporter Dave Evans is in Albany, awaiting the vote on the new New York State budget. The $16 billion to $18 billion gap is supposedly closed, thanks to a slough of new taxes and fees, and host of service cuts. But thank heaven hundreds of millions in pork projects, embraced by the politicians who secured them for their districts, remain intact. Whew.

And our investigative reporter Sarah Wallace tonight has an amazing and disturbing story about life behind the walls at New York City's Rikers Island Jail.

They call it the "Gladiator School" -- and it's no school you want to enroll in.

Sarah's exclusive investigation is nothing less than a stunning unveiling of chaos within the correctional system, with inmates controlling the adolescent jail on Rikers, and at least one teenager, Christopher Robinson, killed inside. Sarah uncovers evidence that City corrections department officials were told at least a year and a half before Robinson was killed that violent extortion rings existed within the jail. Rings operated at the worst and were quietly condoned at the minimum by guards and officials.

It is a disturbing story by Sarah, tonight at 11. (CLICK TO WATCH A PREVIEW)

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.