Monday, November 02, 2009

Right-Wing Takeover of GOP Solidified By Scozzafava's Withdrawal From N.Y. Race

Republican Candidate Pulls Out a Day After Right-Wing Group Pulls Dirty Trick With TV Ad 'Praising' Her Liberal Stances on Abortion and Same-Gender Marriage; With Less Than 24 Hours to Go Before Voters in Upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District Go to the Polls, Can Democrat Bill Owens Prevent the Right's Takeover Of a District That Obama Carried a Year Ago?

Dede Scozzafava talks at a podium.

Conceding defeat to the Far Right: Republican Dede Scozzafava announced Saturday that she had halted her campaign in Tuesday's House special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, after pre-election polls showed her losing badly to Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman -- and a day after a right-wing group pulled a dirty trick by airing a last-minute TV ad praising Scozzafava as "the best choice for progressives," citing her support for abortion rights and same-gender marriage. Scores of right-wing out-of-state groups, including the Club for Growth and the Republican Trust Political Action Committee, have thrown their support behind Hoffman -- a stunning demonstration of the right-wing domination of the national GOP. (Photo: AP)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, November 2, 2009)


In a stunning victory for the right-wing "Teabagger" movement's all-out jihad to purge the Republican Party of its last remaining moderates and Northeastern liberals, GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava announced Saturday that she was dropping out of the campaign for Tuesday's hotly-contested special election in upstate New York's 23rd congressional district.


Scozzafava -- citing polls showing her badly trailing both Democratic candidate Bill Owens and Conservative Party nominee Douglas Hoffman -- said that she was pulling out of the nationally-watched contest because her campaign lacked the money to respond to a last-minute blizzard of TV and radio ads by right-wing, out-of-state groups backing Hoffman and attacking both Owens and Scozzafava.

Her withdrawal announcement also came just a day after an ostensibly pro-Scozzafava TV ad hit the airwaves, urging liberal voters to support her candidacy, specifically citing Scozzafava's support for abortion rights and same-gender marriage -- which are both anathema to hard-line social conservatives who form the backbone of the GOP's still-shrinking voter base.


In a sometimes-emotional press conference, Scozzafava told reporters that "The reality that I've come to accept is that in today's political arena, [is that] you must be able to back up your message with money -- and as I've been outspent on both sides, I've been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record.

“It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support," she said. "Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so. I am and have always been a proud Republican.”

Scozzafava's decision to pull out came just hours after the release of a Siena Research Institute poll showing that her support had crumbled since September.

The poll, conducted from Tuesday through Thursday of last week, showed Owens holding a razor-thin one-point lead over Hoffman, 36 percent to 35 percent. Scozzafava trailed far behind at 20 percent, with only nine percent of voters still undecided.

The results marked a dramatic reversal from the end of September, when Scozzafava led with 35 percent, owens second at 28 percent and Hoffman trailing with 16 percent.

Many observers attribute Scozzfava's reversal with the blizzard of attack ads against her by the Club For Growth and other right-wing groups, including the highly combative National Republican Trust Political Action Committee -- which became notorious last year for its last-minute fusillade of attack ads against Obama that brought up the president's controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, in open defiance of GOP nominee John McCain's strict ban on his campaign bringing up the now-retired minister, out of fear of being accused of "race-baiting."


Scozzafava's fate, however, may have been sealed on Friday, when a last-minute TV ad hit the airwaves that appeared, at first glance, to be an endorsement of the liberal Republican, calling her "the best choice for progressives."

The ad, which claimed to have been produced and paid for by a group calling itself "Common Sense in America LLC," praised Scozzafava for her support of Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package. But then it also lauded her support for abortion rights and cites her as "the only candidate who supports marriage equality" -- same-gender marriage -- as a rainbow flag, a universally recognized symbol of the gay community, appeared in the background behind a pair of wedding rings.

Within hours after the ads began airing, "Common Sense in America LLC" -- not to be confused with the conservative media watchdog Common Sense America or with the libertarian group Common Sense For America -- was quickly exposed as a front group for billionaire Arkansas businessman Jackson T. (Steve) Stephens, Jr., a board member of the right-wing Club for Growth -- which is heavily backing Hoffman.

Stephens, president and CEO of the Little Rock, Arkansas-based pharmaceutical company ExOxEmis, Inc. and a longtime contributor to conservative Republican candidates, personally donated $4,800 -- the legal maximum under New York state election law -- to Hoffman’s campaign, and is one of the Club for Growth’s leading donors, according to records on file with the Federal Election Commission.

A trace of the telephone number for "Common Sense in America" displayed near the end of the ad turns out to be that of the Little Rock headquarters of ExOxEmis.


The 23rd Congressional District in the northeastern portion of the state, is a sprawling area that includes all or parts of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties. It includes the cities of Ogdensburg, Oswego, Plattsburgh (part of the Greater Burlington, Vermont metropolitan area) and Watertown. The district includes most of the Adirondack Mountains and the Thousand Islands region, and borders Canada to the north.

Local TV and radio stations across the district -- from Syracuse to Burlington -- have been saturated for the past two weeks with campaign attack ads in a frenzied blitzkrieg by right-wing groups to the prevent the House seat vacated by John McHugh from going to either Owens or Scozzafava -- but have concentrated their fire most heavily on Scozzafava.

McHugh, a popular moderate Republican who easily won re-election by a 65 percent landslide last year, stepped down in June after he was nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of the Army, but wasn't confirmed by the Senate until September. Before moving to the Obama administration, McHugh was the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

McHugh's departure from Capitol Hill left the 29-member New York House delegation with only two Republicans. A Hoffman victory in tomorrow's special election would be a major upset, in that Republicans are nearly invisible in the two regions of the country -- the Northeast and the West Coast -- where Democrats dominate not only their congressional delegations, but also the regions' state legislatures and governorships.

Moreover, Republican officeholders in the Northeast -- because Democrats so thoroughly dominate the region -- have, out of electoral necessity, been more moderate than Republicans in the rest of the country, particularly on social issues.


Scozzafava's apparent defeat is the most dramatic display yet of what appears to be a nationwide attempt by the hard-line right-wing "tea party" movement to purge the GOP of all of its last remaining moderates and Northeastern liberals. The movement asserts that Scozzafava, because of her support for abortion rights and same-gender marriage, is far too liberal and does not belong in the party.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele appeared to give at least tacit approval Friday to the purge, telling that a Hoffman victory is essentially a Republican Party victory. “You’ve got two Republicans running in that race. My upside is that one of them will likely win,” Steele said. “We want to be supporting the one that wins.”

In Missouri, Liz Lauber, running in the Republican primary to unseat five-term Republican incumbent Representative Todd Akin, made support for Hoffman a major campaign issue last week, issuing a direct challenge to Akin to endorse and donate money to the Conservative Party nominee -- which Akin promptly did.

A spokesman for Akin, however, insisted that the congressman's endorsement was not a response to Lauber's challenge, but rather to "calls received from constituents asking where the congressman stood on the race."

Spokesman Steve Taylor told The Washington Times that "It would be difficult to surpass the lawmaker when it comes to conservative credentials -- he has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union and has routinely voted to limit the size of government."

In Florida, moderate Republican Governor Charlie Crist is being challenged in the 2010 GOP Senate primary by conservative Marco Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House or Representatives, who has made an issue of Crist's outspoken support for the president's economic stimulus package.

But Rubio could be hurt by another hot-button issue among conservatives -- immigration.

Rubio is a Miami-born Cuban-American contesting for the Senate seat that was vacated by another Miami-born Cuban-American: Mel Martinez, who resigned in August for what he said were "personal reasons,' but amid widespread rumors that Martinez had become disillusioned with the GOP after a falling-out with hard-line right-wing nativists within the party over immigration during his tenure as GOP's general chairman from November 2006 until he quit that post in October 2007.

The nastiness over the immigration issue, which has sometimes flared into thinly-disguised anti-Latino bias, has caused a deep rift to develop between the GOP and Latino voters, including the conservative, longtime Republican-friendly Cuban-American community in southern Florida -- and may have been, although he won't admit it publicly, a contributing factor in Martinez's resignation.

(Crist appointed George LeMieux to serve out the remainder of Martinez's term. LeMieux declared he would not seek a full six-year term in his own right.)


With Scozzafava now out of the race -- although her name will remain on the ballot -- the question immediately arises: Can Owens draw enough support from moderate Republicans and independents in the district turned off by Hoffman's social views -- and his strong backing from hard-line right-wing outsiders -- to stop him tomorrow?

With polls showing the race too close to call, a last-minute push by top Democratic heavyweights for Owens -- including an Election Eve campaign swing through the district today (Monday) by Vice President Joe Biden -- is certain to add to the drama.

And in a new round of TV and radio ads, liberal groups, including Accountable America, attempt to tie Hoffman to the Wall Street financial crisis. Meanwhile, has launched a fundraising drive to defeat Hoffman, who the group says represents "teabaggers and hate groups."

It could be a very long night on Tuesday.

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Volume IV, Number 83
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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