Hanna defeats Tenney in GOP primary for 22nd District

Jun 25, 2014

Rep. Richard Hanna is all but guaranteed a third term in the House of Representatives after he beat back a challenge from the political right in Tuesday's Republican Party primary.

Hanna, R-Barneveld, came out on top in a challenge from the more conservative Claudia Tenney, a state assemblywoman. She said Hanna was too moderate.

With no Democrat stepping up to run, Hanna should coast to victory in the November general election to represent the 22nd Congressional District for a third term. The district spans from Oswego County to the Southern Tier and includes the cities of Utica, Cortland and Binghamton. 

Rep. Richard Hanna watches Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney concede on television.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

About 28,600 of the district's 160,000 registered Republicans voted in Tuesday's primary. Hanna called the fact the election was virtually decided during the primary, "the nature of the beast."

Those 28,623 votes are nearly twice as many than voted in the primary two years ago, and is a strong turnout for a primary. Hanna secured about 53 percent of the vote, or 15,056 votes, in unofficial results.

The race attracted national attention and outside funding, especially after incumbent Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, was stunned in a primary earlier in the month.

"We knew we had to work harder to be successful today, so none of it's a surprise to us," Hanna said.

Hanna was backed by the National Rifle Association, but has supported gay and women's reproductive rights.

Tenney ran as an anti-tax conservative. She cultivated a base among New York’s anti-gun control movement, a group mobilized by last year’s strict new gun control law, the NY SAFE Act.

Tenney also rallied support late in her campaign from national conservative figures, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, radio host Laura Ingraham and the conservative website Breitbart.

After losing by six points to Hanna, Tenney says courting support from media figures was part of her strategy from the beginning.

Votes in the 22nd Congressional District GOP primary are tracked on a white board.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

"We were really hoping to get more of the push from the national media on the race and they didn’t come in until last week,” she said. 

Hanna had a fundraising advantage of 8-to-1. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a single Super PAC, the Republican gay rights group American Unity, spent $600,000 on ads opposing Tenney.

After conceding defeat late Tuesday, Tenney refused to endorse Hanna, saying he flooded the airwaves with dishonest ads.

"I mean the TV ads, there had to be 100 ads a day," she said. "My mother finally watched the golf channel. I was surprised after all that he was still able to win, I thought people were really turned off by it."

Tenney says she received pro-Hanna flyers in the mail almost every day. And, on the Saturday before the election, she received the first one in her favor, from a national group she had never heard of.

In his victory speech to a few dozen supporters at Piggy Pat's restaurant in New Hartford, Hanna spoke of a need for a more tolerant Congress.

"I was raised in a world where ordinary people could do exception things, unusual things, wonderful things," he said. "I want to live in a world where ordinary people can do extraordinary things again."

He said Congress is broken to a point that it's frozen.

"It’s broken not because of our lack of ideas, or lack of opportunity," he said. "It’s broken because we have a lack of will to work together, to compromise, to understand that in a pluralistic society, we have to work to create peace first, tolerance second."