BUFFALO, N.Y. — Democrats picked off a heavily Republican upstate New York congressional seat Tuesday in a special election that became a referendum on Medicare and may have blunted further GOP efforts to cut popular entitlement programs as a way to close the federal deficit.
Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul defeated Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, capturing 47 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Corwin, to win the seat in the 26th Congressional District. A wealthy tea party candidate, Jack Davis, took 9 percent.
The rural-suburban district between Buffalo and Rochester is one of New York’s most conservative and has been held by a Republican — including national names like Jack Kemp — for years. But Corwin saw her early lead dissolve after coming out in favor of a Republican budget plan that would cut billions from Medicare, the government health plan for seniors.
Hochul’s victory gave a lift to Democrats still reeling from an electoral drubbing last November that cost the party control of the House. It also bolstered their resolve to push back on GOP efforts to cut Medicare and other entitlements — efforts that have drawn support among some tea party members but are widely opposed by independent voters.
California family finds mountain lion in garage
HESPERIA, Calif. — A California father of five rooting around his garage for what he thought was a raccoon or other small critter was suddenly face-to-face with a mountain lion.
Jesse Taylor’s wife called 911 Tuesday morning after he discovered the big cat in the garage of their home in Hesperia, a Mojave Desert community about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The Victorville Daily Press reports neighbors had seen the mountain lion roaming the area since Friday.
California Fish and Game, Hesperia Animal Control and San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials showed up, tranquilized the cougar and released it in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Canada’s Liberal Party names interim leader
TORONTO — Canada’s once dominant Liberal Party named an interim leader Wednesday after a crushing defeat in elections earlier this month.
Bob Rae, a high-profile, former New Democrat premier of Ontario, was chosen over Montreal Parliament member Marc Garneau, a soft-spoken, one-time astronaut.
The Liberals, who ruled Canada for much of the last century, suffered a crushing defeat in the May 2 election in which they came in third behind the traditionally weaker New Democratic Party. Rae left the NDP for the federal Liberals in 2005.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a coveted majority, allowing him to pass legislation without the opposition’s approval. The Liberals, meanwhile, dropped to 34 seats from 77 seats in the 308-seat Parliament, its worst defeat ever. Party leader Michael Ignatieff resigned.
NATO pushes Taliban back in east Afghan district
KABUL, Afghanistan — Airborne NATO and Afghan soldiers expelled Taliban fighters Wednesday from a government building they occupied in a remote eastern district and forced them to flee to surrounding mountains, a local official said, the latest fighting in a region bordering Pakistan’s lawless tribal area.
The quick strike came in the Nuristan province in the country’s east. The NATO-Afghan force pushed Taliban fighters back after they seized control of half of the district, kicking them out of the government building just a few hours after they overran it, Gov. Jamaludin Badar said.
As coalition forces came under fire, they called in airstrikes, killing at least 10 Taliban fighters, NATO said in a statement.
Though NATO declined to comment on the troops used in Wednesday’s battle, they likely were U.S. soldiers, as NATO’s eastern regional command is composed mostly of American forces. An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said 100 commandos flew there with NATO forces and planned to remain on the ground through the fighting.
NATO said the battle was still going on late Wednesday afternoon.