In just a few minutes I will be heading to the polls to cast my vote in today's special election. There isn't a whole lot on the ballot here in Jackson County, Missouri. I will get to vote on whether to repeal a special tax that helps to pay for programs and law enforcement that combat drug abuse. I will also get to vote on the issuing of bonds to pay for structural improvements for Kansas City's schools.
Around the country there are a number of elections worth watching. In Maine, voters are heading to the polls to vote on whether or not to repeal a decision allowing Gay Marriage. In New Jersey there is a hotly contested Governor's race between incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie. In the Virginia Governor's race, Republican Bob McDonnell is expected to defeat Democrat Creigh Deeds.
However, the hot contest to watch today is taking place in New York's 23rd congressional district. A vote is being held today to fill the congressional seat vacated when Republican Congressman John McHugh accepted Barack Obama's invitation for him to serve as Secretary of the Army. Until very recently, it was a three way race in NY-23 between Democrat Bill Owens, Republican Dede Scozzafava, and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. While Owens has raised five times what Hoffman has raised from within his own congressional district, Hoffman has received a boost by being endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Hoffman has close ties to the "tea-bagger" movement which calls for slashing taxes and small government.
This race took a surprising turn when Scozzafava suspended her campaign, left the race, and strongly endorsed Owens. To say that NY-23 has a history of backing moderate Republicans would be a gross understatement; this congressional district has seated Republicans since 1871! Last November McHugh was re-elected to a 9th term while the congressional district voted for Obama over McCain in the Presidential election. The amount of time pundits have spent analyzing this race is probably more indicative of not having many elections to cover than of this contest being a bellwether of things to come. But, this race does raise some interesting questions: Would Scozzafava and Hoffman have split the votes of moderate to conservative Republicans giving Owens a better shot at victory? How much is Scozzafava's endorsement of Owens worth?
While the "tea-baggers" will make a big deal if Hoffman wins, a victory by Hoffman does little more than keep the balance of Democrats and Republicans (256-177) in Congress intact. A victory by Owens would add a Democratic seat in a highly unlikely district.
If you have a chance to vote today, make sure you go. Even if there is not a race or an issue that stirs your passion still go and participate in our democracy.