With barely five days to go before New York's June 24 primary, speculation is mounting as to whether Rep. Richard Hanna is going to the next Republican U.S. House member after Virginia's Eric Cantor to lose renomination.
While House Majority Leader Cantor's loss was fueled largely by his support on immigration reform and extending the debt ceiling — both issues that angered tea party Republicans — two-termer Hanna has many more positions hostile to conservatives.
More significantly, Cantor was defeated by an obscure college educator, David Brat, while Hanna, 63, faces a well-known conservative figure in State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney.
According to The Washington Post, Hanna voted with House Republicans 85 percent of the time in his first year in Congress. Just 11 of his GOP colleagues have a lower percentage of support. The New Yorker is one of only six Republicans who has not signed the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and is one of only a handful of Republican office-holders to support same sex marriage.
Most recently, the Utica lawmaker has irked conservatives by opposing cuts to the budget of National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood, and was one of two Republicans earlier this year who opposed delaying the budget containing Obamacare. He is also the lone GOP House member from New York who does not support the investigation into the 2012 Benghazi tragedy.
"Hanna should quit the act and seek the Democratic nomination instead," New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told the Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel last month. (There actually is no Democratic candidate in the Empire State's 22nd District).
With her voting record in the state Assembly rated 96 percent by the New York State Conservative Party, attorney and businesswoman Tenney was widely touted as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor.
In choosing to take on a sitting congressman of her own party, she quickly lined up the backing of the Susan B. Anthony List, the New York State Right-to-Life Committee, and the conservative SHE-PAC. Also weighing in strongly for the insurgent Tenney is Carl Palladino, the Republican nominee for governor in 2010.
In the twilight weeks of the contest, supporters of the embattled Hanna are obviously nervous. Much as a nervous Cantor campaign attacked opponent Brat as a "liberal college professor," the incumbent's backers are deploying a similar strategy against Tenney.
A $500,000 media broadside from the American Unity PAC — a project of multimillionaire same-sex marriage advocate Paul Singer — recently attacked Tenney for "voting against tax cuts." But the votes were for the state budget bills, submitted as a whole rather than as separate tax provisions.
"The tea party has all too often suffered from less than impressive, less than electable candidates, but Claudia Tenney is neither," historian and author David Pietrusza, who knows New York Republican politics, told Newsmax. "It's not surprising Richard Hanna feels endangered and has been compelled to expend so much in denigrating her formidable record.
"One of the lessons of the Cantor debacle should be not to laughably smear your conservative challenger as a liberal. Mr. Hanna must not be reading the papers," Pietrusza said.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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