Washington Democrats are waiting to see if the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District becomes a competitive three-way race, which would boost their chances of picking up the seat previously held by Republican Chris Lee.

A rift among conservatives helped Democrats win the special election in New York’s 23rd district in November 2009, and there’s the potential for something similar to happen in this race. Republican Jane Corwin faces competition for conservative votes from businessman Jack Davis, who picked up the endorsement of the Tea Party Coalition on Thursday. Still, Democrats aren’t yet convinced that Davis is competitive enough to give their nominee, Kathy Hochul, an edge in the conservative-leaning district.

“Kathy and I are going to be talking in about another week, so we can make an evaluation on the race,” said Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Last time I met with her, two weeks ago, I said, ‘check in in two weeks. Let’s get a lay of the land and make determinations from there.'”

Meanwhile, Davis’s campaign believes there’s an opening for an independent candidates after the region has seen steady population and economic decline under traditional party leadership. “This is not a replay of New York 23,” said Curtis Ellis, a spokesman for Davis. “This is an opening for a third party.”

Davis, a wealthy industrialist, has run for Congress before as a Democrat and a Republican. Earlier this year, he sought the GOP’s nomination in the special election set for May 24. When he was rebuffed, he gathered enough signatures to run on the “Tea Party” line.

“We are in this to win this, this is not about splitting a vote to be a spoiler,” Davis said.

Washington Republicans aren’t taking any chances with the race and have plans to campaign aggressively for Corwin.

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said this week he's set to travel to upstate New York at the end of the month for a fundraiser and campaign rally with Corwin. House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes Juan Williams: GOP fumbles on healthcare The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ohio) will attend a similar event in May, according to Sessions.

That could prove counterproductive, according to Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), who won the 23rd district special election race and still holds the seat. “I’m a little bit surprised that they’re sending up Mr. BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes Juan Williams: GOP fumbles on healthcare The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE and Mr. Sessions, at this point,” he said. “I think that may look good for our candidate.”

Owens said party labels aren’t particularly helpful in that part of northern New York. “I think people really do look at the nature of the individual, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

During his first campaign, Owens said he didn’t reach out to Washington Democrats for help.

“My feeling was that I wanted to be in charge of my own campaign, and we were running my own show,” he said. “So I didn’t really ask anybody to come up. I think that’s actually a call that has to be made by the candidate. Different people are appropriate in different districts.”