Gizzi on Politics September 28, 2009

Will GOPer Take the Line Of ACORN-Run Party?

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

Caught in the middle was House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio). As he was leading the charge in the House last week to halt all further federal funding of ACORN, Boehner was also lining up support for State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the GOP House candidate in New York who 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 head Bertha Lewis. Much in the news last week, Lewis doubles as vice chairman of the Working Families Party.  

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

“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 the ten-county 23rd, a district that has been Republican since the Civil War, Democrats have 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.  

WFP Line is “Unacceptable,” Says Conservative Party’s Long

Founded in 1998, the Working Families Party has focused on Democrats and this, said liberal American Prospect Magazine (May 2006), “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.”  

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.  

When I mentioned the endorsement of the WFP in the House race, Scozzafava spokesman Matt Burns told me that “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, however, that there were other issues on which the Republican candidate 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, does support “reform in workers’ ability to organize.”  

Regarding Scozzafava’s ties to the WFP, Burns and other Republicans in upstate New York reminded me that this is not a “first,” that since 1998, more than 80 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 a sample of 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 asks if a candidate is seeking the Independence or Conservative Party line and discourages them from accepting either line.”  

Given the Working Families Party’s ties to ACORN and the furor over all the scandals with the community-action colossus, it will be interesting to see whether Dede Scozzafava pursues ACORN’s endorsement once again.  

Rule 16-C Returns In Michigan

Despite so much being written about Ronald Reagan these days, one of the most dramatic moves of his 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford is barely discussed: the attempt by the Californian’s campaign to change the party rules at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City and require candidates for President to name their vice presidential running mates before the balloting.  

With challenger Reagan slightly trailing the incumbent President in the number of delegates needed for nomination, campaign manager John Sears crafted the idea of Reagan’s naming then-Sen. Richard Schweiker (R.-Pa.) as his running mate weeks before the convention. Sears also conceived the idea of amending the party’s Rule 16-C that govern the procedure for nominating vice presidential candidates.  

“It followed that if [Ford] could be compelled to announce his running mate, regardless of who he was, it would lose him votes,” Sen. Paul Laxalt (R.-Nev.), Reagan’s campaign chairman, wrote in his memoirs. “Many felt this would be a radical departure from traditional procedure and might cost us votes. Others of us contended, as we had in the Schweiker case, that we had no alternative. We had to try to change the rule.”  

They did and failed.  

Going against Reagan, the Mississippi delegation, by a shocking 31-to-28 rollcall, voted to oppose the change to 16-C on the convention floor and it was defeated. The rest, as they say, is history.  

33 years later, a Rule 16-C-type controversy has resurfaced in the race for governor of Michigan. Earlier this year, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land surprised some observers by announcing she would not seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2010. She also endorsed Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard in the crowded primary for the Water Wonderland’s top job, from which Democratic incumbent Jennifer Granholm is “termed out” after eight years.

Last week, Land stunned both supporters and opponents by announcing she is “so pleased to join [Bouchard’s] team officially as his pick for lieutenant governor.”

The problem with this concept of a “team-up” is that historically, both major parties select only a nominee for governor in a primary and the remaining statewide offices — lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and Supreme Court candidates — are chosen by state conventions after the primary. In fact, this procedure for filling out state tickets is in the Michigan Constitution of 1963.  

Both Bouchard and Land are considered strong conservatives. Both hail from vote-rich Republican counties, Bouchard from Oakland (suburban Detroit) and Land from Kent (Grand Rapids). If Bouchard wins the GOP primary, the convention could choose Land as his running mate. Or it could choose someone else.  

The other Republican candidates for governor are State Atty. Gen. Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, industrialist Rick Snyder, and State Sen. Tom George. Democrats are expected to nominate Lt. Gov. John Cherry for the top job.