The race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will have a major effect on local races: It will increase turnout.
That was one of two facts nearly all elected officials, their challengers and party figures could agree about Thursday in a telephone survey.
“As long as the national polls are close, that will generate a good, strong turnout, which is a positive for down-ballot races, because it gets the base out,” said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.
“My race would always be affected by a presidential election because of the increased voter turnout,” said Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson.
“Of course, the majority of voters in my district are Republican,” he added.
And that’s the second point of consensus: Large turnouts favor Republicans in this region.
“My biggest thing is getting folks to the polls,” said Levi Spires, Magee’s challenger in the 11th Assembly District. “And it’s a Republican district, so I get more Republicans to the polls.”
“I know that the turnout is going to be great, which is good for Otsego County and good for the Republican candidates on our line,” said Sheila Ross, chairwoman of the Otsego County Republican Committee.
Some Democrats concede the point, too, even with Obama leading Romney in nearly every national poll.
“Well, we’re 2-1 Republicans,” Delaware County Democratic Chairwoman Cynthia Lockrow said. Obama “didn’t carry the county in 2008, but he did carry a couple of our larger towns. So, there are no surprises, based on the demographic.”
And there ends the unanimity. Even the polls are subject to partisan interpretation.
“I have looked at the polls, but I don’t believe the polls,” Ross said.
“I think he’s going to win big in New York state,” Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said. “I think we’re much better off than we were four years ago. … I think he’s going to have coattails, and I think he’s going to pull in a lot of candidates also.”
“Certainly, the presidential race gets polled, it seems, every day by everybody,” said Julian Schreibman, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. “So, to me, what I can gauge it on is just talking to voters, and voters don’t want the agenda that Mitt Romney is presenting.”
But candidates apparently hear different sentiments from constituents.
“You get a lot different impressions knocking on doors, talking to people, than what you hear in the polls,” Spires said. “You see a big disconnect. So I tend not to believe the polls.”
Jimmy Miller, a Democratic challenger to Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, speculated that the opinion polls might influence Republican voters in opposite and unpredictable ways.
They could come out in droves, energized by Romney’s underdog status and animus toward Obama, he said, or “they could sit back and not come out because they look at New York as a foregone conclusion that it’s going to be a Democratic state.
“Either way, that could affect the local races.”
A Republican hasn’t carried New York in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan ran for a second term in 1984 and won 49 of the 50 states.
Lopez said he hadn’t been paying close attention to the national polls, instead focusing on local issues.
“I think to the extent that the electorate is engaged … I actually welcome that,” he said. “I think a lot of us who are grateful for the freedoms we have, including the freedom of election certainly become frustrated when we hear about only a fraction of our electorate turning out.
“So I’m encouraged from the standpoint that years like this more people are engaged, more people are paying attention, more people become part of the process of deciding our nation’ future, our local future. I welcome that engagement.”