Why Brooks Lost

Despite all the efforts of Republican talking heads to make this race into something it wasn’t, Louise Slaughter crushed Maggie Brooks last night, winning 57% of the vote. Aside from the fact that the math was always against Brooks, her weak, cookie-cutter, DC Republican/Fox News campaign sealed her fate.

After watching a few weeks of the Brooks campaign, and seeing that Louise Slaughter has more energy and wit that many politicians decades younger, I pretty much lost interest in this race. The reason was simple: Slaughter’s attacks on Brooks, though perhaps exaggerated, were essentially true, local and relevant. Maggie clearly has an issue with some bad hires in the county, and her response in the first debate, which was that she had been “disappointed” by those who work for her, did nothing to assure voters that she’d learned from her mistakes.

Brooks’ main charge against Slaughter, the $716 million Medicare lie, was useless in practice because it was easily refuted and voters have becomeĀ inuredĀ to booga-booga Mediscare tactics. The rest of her campaign was the standard anti-incumbent campaign. The press releases were, frankly, laughable. Apparently Brooks’ staff thought repeating “entrenched Washington insider” would carry the day. I don’t know who they polled on that one, but from what I can tell, Rochesterians are intelligent enough to know that having the chair or ranking member of one of the most powerful committees in Congress might have some benefit, even though Congress does meet in that awful place, the District of Columbia.

I always wondered why Brooks chose to run this year. Slaughter will inevitably retire at some point, perhaps even in 2014. It’s far easier for a Republican to win here in a non-Presidential year, since the turnout in the solidly Democratic parts of the city is far lower. I assume the reason was her perception of the risks of running now versus later.

Risk is a funny thing. Brooks’ run was apparently a reaction to the possibility that some other Republican might sneak in and ride the supposed anti-Obama tidal wave and snatch up this seat. But it’s clear today that Brooks’ attempt to throw down a marker for this seat involved another, bigger risk. Before last night, a lot of Republicans thought that Maggie’s wins in the off-year, low turnout County Exec elections was an indicator that she’d be able to win any county-wide election. That fantasy has finally been put to bed, decisively. Before last night, Republicans thought that ROBUTRAD, Maggie’s husband’s job and the rest had all been processed and forgiven by voters. That was half right: the voters processed it, but they sure didn’t forgive.

When 2014 rolls around, Brooks will probably have another shot at this district. If she takes it, everyone will know that she’s not invincible in a county-wide election, and that she comes to the race with a lot of baggage. That’s a worse position than she was in the day she announced earlier this year, so it’s clear that she didn’t do herself any favors by running in 2012.