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Editorials

June 26, 2014

In Our Opinion: Primaries' lesson was respecting the electorate

If there is a lesson to be learned from the results of Republican primaries Tuesday, it is this:

If your plan is to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the electorate, you had better be darned sure to double-check your math.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in New York’s 22nd Congressional District where incumbent Richard Hanna defeated tea party-backed Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney by a not-insignificant six-point margin.

We suppose Tenney, who had previously impressed us as a thoughtful public servant, could be forgiven for buying into the concept that most moderate Republicans wouldn’t bother voting, leaving a highly motivated, if quite small, far-right minority to have an outsized effect on a low-turnout primary.

What we — and apparently many mainstream 22nd District GOPers — couldn’t forgive was the way in which Tenney’s jingoist, boilerplate campaign went about trying to appeal to that lowest common denominator.

Not that Hanna — and particularly outside groups supporting him — didn’t cross the line on occasion, too. Both sides resorted to throwing the “L word,” in this case, “liberal,” hither and yon to tar their opponents in a district so conservative that Democrats aren’t running anyone against Hanna.

Tenney, hoping to replicate the tea party upset of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, was aided by the Conservative Party, conservative radio and television hosts and two columns in the National Review that were highly critical of Hanna.

We are fully aware that politics is a contact sport, but for Tenney’s campaign to ignore issues that would really affect her constituents and instead harp on such buzzwords as amnesty (known to most people as immigration reform), abortion, tax-and-spend liberal and RINO (Republican In Name Only), was bad enough.

But where we believe Tenney made her most serious mistake was in buying into the tea party’s uncompromising, “our way or the highway” approach to governing, or rather, not governing. When she condemned Hanna for his willingness to reach across the aisle to Democrats, she made a major miscalculation.

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