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.

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