Scozzafava Too Liberal for New York Conservatives

The Republican nominee for Congress in the soon-to-be-open 23rd District of New York came under harsh fire from conservatives last week for her past acceptance of support from a third party considered “a wholly-owned subsidiary of ACORN.”

State Assemblywoman Deidre “Dede” Scozzafava, the New York House candidate has been re-elected several times on the ballot line of the Empire State’s far-left Working Families Party, one of whose co-founders is ACORN. (ACORN head Bertha Lewis, who was much in the news last week, doubles as vice chairman of the Working Families Party).

Caught in the middle was House Minority Leader John Boehner who was simultaneously raising support for Scozzafava and trying to defund ACORN.

“I think this [cutting off ACORN] will have a chilling effect on their election activities and anyone that has a relationship with them [ACORN],” Boehner told his colleagues following the House vote by 347-to-75 to deny federal funds to ACORN.  

When I mentioned Scozzafava’s ties to the ACORN-run WFP, Boehner political operative Don Seymour insisted this did not change his boss’s support for her or his desire to have a Republican succeed Rep. (and incoming Secretary of the Army) John McHugh in the special election likely to be held November 3rd.  

“. . .Mr. Boehner takes very seriously his job of making sure we have Republican candidates who fit their districts, and can compete and win all across the country,” Seymour told me, “We think Dede Scozzafava will be a strong voice for our men and women in uniform, and for curbing spending and getting control of the debt in Washington.”

In a ten-county district that has been Republican since the Civil War, Democrats tapped attorney William Owens for the race and the Conservative Party has given its ballot line to businessman Doug Hoffman, who lost the blessings of GOP chieftains to Scozzafava.  (New York is one of six states that permits “fusion voting,” or permitting votes cast for a candidate appearing on multiple ballot lines to be counted for that one candidate; thus, New York is home to several minor parties — the Independence Party on Row C, the Conservative Party on Row D, and the WFP on Row E — that “cross-endorse” major party nominees for office).

Founded in 1998, Working Families Party has focused on Democrats and this “enabled it to accumulate surprising influence over Democratic officials, yanking them left on economic issues like the minimum wage, which the party was instrumental in helping to raise in New York State, in exchange for its support.”  (American Prospect Magazine, May 2006).

But sometimes, the byzantine world of New York’s multiple parties and their “cross-endorsements” lead to “strange bedfellows.”  In ’04, liberal GOPer Scozzafava was re-elected after also appearing on the WFP ballot line with Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry.  Last fall, she won again and shared the WFP ticket with Barack Obama.

Now, with the special election for McHugh’s seat likely to be held November 3, will Scozzafava become the first Republican U.S. House hopeful to run with the ballot line of the Working Families Party — whose co-founders include veteran leftist organizers Dan Cantor and Bob Master, the United Auto Workers and ACORN?

When I mentioned  the endorsement of the WFP in the House race, Scozzafava spokesman Matt Burns told me “there has been no discussion of this.”  Asked about the party’s ties to ACORN, Burns said that had Scozzafava been in Congress during the vote last week, “she would have voted to defund ACORN.”  He added that she has “straight As” from the National Rifle Association and voted against Democratic Gov. David Paterson’s “bloated” budget this year (Burns conceded there were other issues on which the Republican has problems with conservatives in her party:  she is pro-abortion, voted for gay marriage and, while not endorsing the controversial “card check” provision in the Employee Free Choice Act, she does support “reform in workers’ ability to organize” — a stand not too different from that of AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka when he said he could support EFCA without card check).

Regarding Scozzafava’s ties to the WFP and the recent attacks from Hoffman and the Conservative Party, Burns and other Republicans in upstate New York reminded me that this is a “first,” that since 1998, more than eighty Republican candidates have sought office running with both the Conservative and WFP ballot lines.

“Yes, and when I have learned about candidates who have the Conservative Party endorsement and then allow themselves to be corrupted by accepting the Working Families endorsement, I try to strip them of our ballot line,” New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told me, “Running with the WFP and our line is totally unacceptable.”

Long sent me the packet the Conservative Party sends candidates who want its endorsement, which begins with a specific warning not to pursue the WFP ballot line:  

“Perhaps candidates should be reminded that those who are seeking our endorsement would have a problem supporting our legislative program if they are also seeking the endorsement of the ultra-liberal Working Families Parties.  Also, you should be aware of the fact that the Working Families Parties has a questionnaire that specifically ask if a candidate is seeking the Independence or Conservative Party Line and discourages them from accepting either line. “

Repeating his line that the WFP is a “wholly-owned subsidiary of ACORN,” Long also pointed out that “ACORN and the WFP share the same office building in downtown Brooklyn.”  

In conceding that he has not always been successful in stripping WFP-backed state legislative candidates of the Conservative line, Long quickly noted that “no one who ever ran for Congress and had our endorsement took or even sought the WFP endorsement.”

Given the Working Families Party’s ties to ACORN and the furor over tax dollars to the community action colossus, it will be interesting to watch whether Dede Scozzafava pursues their endorsement once again.