On a map, New York’s 20th Congressional District looks like a skinny salamander that runs west along the Hudson River, with one large foot that suddenly juts out toward Binghamton. It was created during the 2002 redistricting and was safe Republican territory from then until 2007, when Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand beat an incumbent who was thought to be safe in a nail-biter.
As a conservative Democrat, Ms. Gillibrand was a good fit for the rolling farm country and old manufacturing towns that make up the 20th. She was in favor of gun rights and against more liberal immigration laws. In 2008, she was easily reelected, then recently named to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she became Secretary of State.
Republicans were determined to win the seat back. Mr. Steele called it “incredibly important.” The Republicans fielded state Assembly minority leader Jim Tedisco as a candidate. While he didn’t actually live in the district, he was a well-known Republican leader in the area and started with name recognition and money.
When the race began, Assemblyman Tedisco was up 20 points. As the campaign progressed, however, national issues began to take center stage, and as they did, Mr. Murphy’s poll numbers started rising. Murphy criticized Tedisco for initially refusing to take a stand on Obama’s stimulus package, for example. Tedisco eventually came out against it.