Media Meme on NY-23 Dead Wrong, and the NY Times Can Prove It

Update/Clarification [Nov. 10]: This issue is muddied a bit by redistricting and its effects on the geography of congressional representation. Swing State Project in June 2009 noted that "Almost two-thirds of the population of the current district (62%) live in territory" in the New York 23rd "that has not elected a Democrat since 1890 or earlier." However, a sizable part of the district (38%) includes parts of counties that as late as 1976 and 1978 voted Democratic in congressional races.

If you've heard it once, you've heard it 1,000 times: the New York 23rd Congressional District (NY-23) has had a Republican incumbent since the 1870s. It's a helpful talking point for mainstream media types bent on portraying the Hoffman loss in the district last night as evidence of how the Republican mainstream has moved away from conservatism.

The only trouble with the talking point is it is patently false and the New York Times can prove it. (h/t's Stephen Gutowski)

From the 1990 obituary for one Samuel Stratton:

He was the third-most senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee when he announced in 1988 that his failing health prevented him from running for a 16th term.

He was first elected to the House in 1958, becoming the only Democrat in 42 years to be sent to Congress from what was then the 32d Congressional District in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area.

Despite several redistrictings in a predominantly Republican area, he was returned to Congress with ease every two years and became dean of the New York delegation in January 1979. At his retirement, Mr. Stratton represented the 23d District.

Stratton retired in 1989 and was replaced by another Democrat, Michael McNulty, who held the seat from 1989-1992. Pursuant to redistricting, McNulty ran for and won election as the representative from New York's 21st district in 1992. Liberal Republican Sherwood Boehlert ran for and won election to NY-23 in 1992 and was succeeded by moderate John McHugh (R) after Boehlert was redistricted to the 24th district in 2002.

It appears this is one case where the mainstream media are wrong and Wikipedia is right.

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