[img_assist|nid=85|title=Kieran Lalor and Fred Thompson.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=188]Congressional challenger Kieran Lalor thought this was going to be an easier campaign.
He's a Republican Iraq War veteran running in a Hudson Valley district that voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry 53-45, and he's challenging incumbent freshman Democrat John Hall who, in 2006, ousted a Republican incumbent with less than 6,000 votes. Hall is an anti-nuclear activist and formerly the lead member of the 1970s arena rock band Orleans, best known for such hits as "Still the One."
With two wars going on, Lalor should be at least giving Hall a major challenge, but Congressional Quarterly rates the district "Democrat favored."
Lalor's running into the same problem on a local level that has troubled John McCain nationally: voters are worried about the economy, and foreign policy has taken a back seat.
"The Iraq war didn't even come up," said Lalor spokesman Chris Covucci, describing the candidate's recent 70-minute interview with the editorial board of the Westchester Journal News.
"Since [Hall] took office in 2006, everything has gotten worse," Covucci went on. "The only thing that got better was the surge in Iraq, and he opposed it."
In a somewhat desperate attempt to rebrand the candidate (again, shades of McCain), Lalor's campaign filed more than 6,000 signatures with the State Board of Elections to create a new party line called "Energy Security Now."
"That was a way to connect to people and to speak about that issue," said Cuvocci.
It didn't work out. Hall's supporters claimed the petitions didn't comply with state law and filed a lawsuit. Lalor's campaign disputed the charge, but withdrew the petitions anyway, saying the candidate would rather spend money exposing Hall's energy record than on expensive legal proceedings.
Now, Lalor's campaign is trying to link Hall to the George W. Bush.
"Hall's most significant vote was on the Bush bailout," said Covucci. "John Hall voted for that, twice."
Lalor, Covucci said, is an independent actor.
"I think there's probably a lot of disappointment with the Bush presidency," he said. "But with that said, the general disappointment is with Washington. Our point is Kieran is a different kind of candidate."
He noted that former Republican Governor George Pataki, and the district's former Congress member, Sue Kelly, supported other candidates in the primary before Lalor prevailed.
And where is Lalor in relation America's most famous self-described maverick, John McCain?
"It is a majority Republican district, and Republicans are more energized because of Sarah Palin, but we don't think about that a lot," Covucci said. "It's beyond our control. I wouldn't say we really position him with respect to the McCain-Palin ticket."