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Why Did 'Defunct Dede' Desert To Dem?


“He went out the way he came in — no class!”

John Kennedy’s withering post-mortem on a political opponent was being used increasingly by Republicans in and outside New York’s 23rd District about liberal Republican U.S. House hopeful Dede Scozzafava. Twenty-four hours after she announced she was suspending her campaign in the three-candidate special election, Assemblywoman Scozzafava abandoned an early pledge of neutrality and endorsed Democrat Bill Owens over the Conservative Party nominee, Doug Hoffman.

Scozzafava’s sudden decision to “bat for the other side” came as national party leaders such as Republican National Chairman Michael Steele and House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) had issued statements of praise for the liberal GOP hopeful for standing down and permitting them to rally to Conservative Hoffman.

After her endorsement of Owens, however, Scozzafava was not getting much praise from her own party.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, the 2006 GOP nominee for governor, told me upon hearing the news of Scozzafava’s desertion to Democrat Owens.

Faso, who was minority leader when Scozzafava was first elected to the assembly a decade ago, said her liberal issue positions that led conservative GOPers to support Hoffman — pro-abortion, pro-card check, pro-gay marriage — could make the assemblywoman more comfortable with Owens.

Other New Yorkers attributed Scozzafava’s switch to lesser ideals.  Historian David Pietrusza, an upstate New Yorker, suggested strongly that Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could have offered something to the assemblywoman who sits in a caucus of Republicans that amounts to less than a third of the legislative house.

“There is precedent for Silver welcoming people in,” Pietrusza noted, “When [Republican Assemblyman] Fred Thiele [of Suffolk County] announced he was switching to the Independence Party earlier this year, the Democrats made it clear they would welcome him and he would be very, very comfortable with the Democrats.  I could see her being targeted by Tea Partiers and being tossed out of her Assembly seat in a GOP primary next year I’ll bet she could see it too.”