“If you look at New York’s 22nd District, it is a moderate district by nature,” Brindisi said. “The entry of Assemblywoman Tenney adds some more interest to the district. She’s a very divisive figure, and I think Washington has enough people who are unwilling to work together. The last thing we should do is send another person like that.”
But Brindisi admitted that he would have a tough time defeating Hanna, even though the district is one of the most competitive in the country. Brindisi said the incumbent “has been successful so far in that district. He has more of a moderate voting record and represents the views of the district.”
Hanna and Tenney ran one of the most hard-fought House primary races in the country last cycle, but Democrats couldn’t capitalize, failing to even get a candidate on the ballot. Tenney only lost by a 7-point margin, even though Hanna outspent her by about a 5-to-1 margin—not including a wave of outside money from groups that back moderate Republicans.
Tenney stands to build on her 2014 performance if any major conservative outside groups decide to back her this time, knowing that she can run a credible campaign. The Club for Growth did not respond to requests for comment, but spokesman Doug Sachtleben said before Tenney’s announcement that the group is watching the race.
Hanna won’t face Tenney without assistance in 2016: The National Republican Congressional Committee is backing him, and the Republican Main Street Partnership and American Unity PAC both have told National Journal his race is a top priority. But it’s unlikely he’ll have the same kind of financial advantage he had last year, which is good for Democrats, said Philip Klinkner, a professor of government at Hamilton College.
“At the very least, Hanna spends a lot of money in the primary,” said Klinkner, a Democrat.
And Hanna himself may have gifted a line of attack for Tenney for the upcoming election after arguing in a radio interview last month that the House special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks were a partisan witch hunt designed to go after Hillary Clinton.
“There was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton,” Hanna said.
Tenney said her conservative record poses a threat to Hanna because in a Republican primary, voters don’t want their representative to defend the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee.
“People say, ‘Well, you shoot from the hip.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I do shoot from the hip, but I defend Republican principles,’” Tenney told National Journal in an interview last month, before entering the race. “I don’t take shots at Republican principles when I shoot from the hip.”
That could help Tenney in a Republican primary, but not necessarily in the general election. The same goes for her focus on social issues: She attacked Hanna last cycle for supporting Planned Parenthood and same-sex marriage. Brindisi said that presents an opportunity for Democrats if Tenney wins the Republican primary.