Will 'Capital-C Conservative' Win NY-23 November 3rd?

It’s just possible that the winner of the special election in New York’s 23rd U.S. House district could be a conservative businessman running on the Conservative Party line. 

“People are getting fed up with both major parties and [liberal Republican nominee] Dede [Scozzafava] has a lot of baggage up there,” a prominent Washington DC business lobbyist told me on Sunday.  That apparently is benefitting Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in his bid for the upstate New York seat that Republican Rep. John McHugh left to become secretary of the army.  

The same day I had this discussion CPA and insurgent candidate Hoffman held two events in the southeast part of the 23rd district, which is the size of Connecticut and Vermont combined.  As Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan later explained, “The folks who came to these events and promised to help Doug were not necessarily Republicans but ‘tea party folks.’  They’re mad at the major parties and they like the idea of a small businessman and political outsider who opposes bailouts and tax increases.”  As to whether any actual Republican officials will publicly abandon Assemblywoman Scozzafava to support Hoffman, Ryan told me: “I’m sure, but they are all wondering who’s going to the first in the water.”

On Tuesday (October 13), the special House race actually came up at the daily press briefing at the White House.  When Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that the President had “some days blocked off for stops” for Democratic candidates, he was asked whether they were for candidates for governor of Virginia and New Jersey.  He replied “Those are two of the races. Sure.”  When he was asked about New York-23, Gibbs said “That’s the third.”

One quipster wondered whether Obama would be stumping for Democratic nominee and attorney Bill Owens or for liberal GOPer Scozzafava, who is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, for the Employee Free Choice Act and a past recipient of support from ACORN..  

The next day, Democrat Owens answered the quip, as he arrived in Washington and was scheduled to meet with Obama and later attend a fund-raising event hosted by Nancy Pelosi.  In Rob Ryan’s words, “Owens needs all the help he can get.  His trip to Washington just proves Doug’s point that he’s a Nancy Pelosi puppet.”

How Mad Are GOPers — and the Tea Partyers?

These are just snapshots of a bigger picture—namely, the special election in New York-23 as a national barometer of both the tea party movement and voter disgust with the proverbial “politics as usual.”  It may also show the degree of anger from the increasingly conservative Republican grass-roots over the choice of liberal GOPer Scozzafava, who was nominated by ten Republican county chairmen in a process that could inarguably be dubbed “exclusive.”

According to a just-completed survey conducted by the Club for Growth (which is supporting Hoffman), Scozzafava leads with 20% of the vote district-wide followed by Conservative Hoffman and Democrat Owens with 17% each.  

Could a political upset be in the works, one of the magnitude of Conservative James Buckley’s election to the Senate in 1970 and James Griffin election as mayor of Buffalo on the Conservative line in 1977?

There are other recent developments that confirm the political sun, moon and stars might realign in three weeks.  According to Politico,  Scozzafava is being outspent by both Owens and Hoffman and, in fact, has spent only $26,000 so far on television advertising in the sprawling district.  Owens has spent $303,000 on TV advertising and Hoffman $124,000.  

The National Republican Congressional Committee has weighed in for the liberal Scozzafava and spent about $355,000 in TV spots on her behalf, but the Republican National Committee under Chairman Michael Steele “hasn’t put up a cent, not even the obligatory $5000,” one GOP campaign operative told Politico.

Scozzafava’s latest moves have accentuated an apparent shift by conservative Republicans to Hoffman.  As Hoffman garners endorsements from conservative notables such as former presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Gary Bauer, Scozzafava has been endorsed by the state’s largest teachers union, the Central New York Trades Council, and national pro-abortion groups.  (“And Dede has just been endorsed by the National Rifle Association,” noted Scozzafava spokesman Matt Burns).

Every member of the House Republican Leadership – with one exception – has backed Scozzafava. That one, Indiana conservative Mike Pence, has refused to endorse Scozzafava or donate to her campaign.

As the increasingly turbulent House race reaches its climax, the three candidates are poised to meet with editorial boards in such local periodicals as the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and the Plattsburgh Press Republican.  As for debates, well, Hoffman has offered to debate anywhere and at any time but Owens and Scozzafava have not reached an agreement on a format.

“Look, if you talk to either of their campaigns, just tell them to set something up anywhere in the district and Doug will show up,” Ryan told me, “This is just one more case of how the tow parties can’t get their acts together.  We’ll see what the voters think of that next month.”