New York candidates test tea-party ef­fect

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KARA ROW­LAND

The prospect of a tea-party ef­fect has both par­ties eye­ing next month’s spe­cial elec­tion in up­state New York as Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike try to gauge the fall­out from the anti-gov­ern­ment fer­vor that swept the na­tion this sum­mer.

Doug Hoff­man, a con­ser­va­tive run­ning as a third-party can­di­date, is adding in­trigue to the race to re­place Repub­li­can Rep. John M. McHugh by try­ing to tap the elec­torate’s anger and over­come long odds to up­set the es­tab­lish­ment candidates, Repub­li­can Assem­bly­woman Dede Scoz­zafava and Demo­crat Bill Owens.

Mr. Hoff­man’s mes­sage is sim­ple: no more bailouts, no more tax in­creases and no more tril­lion­dol­lar deficits.

“Peo­ple are fed up with the two ma­jor par­ties, and they want some­one who’s go­ing to take some action,” said Hoff­man spokesman Rob Ryan. He says “anger, anger and anger” over both par­ties is giv­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Party can­di­date legs and dou­ble-digit polling num­bers.

Mrs. Scoz­zafava’s camp dis­misses crit­i­cism of her con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials as largely ir­rel­e­vant, stress­ing that the bot­tom line is that she can win. The most re­cent Siena poll of likely vot­ers had her in the lead at 35 points com­pared with 28 for Mr. Owens and 16 for Mr. Hoff­man.

“If con­ser­va­tives at the end of the day are looking for a vi­able can­di­date who is go­ing to vote to have [Mi­nor­ity Leader] John Boehner be speaker of the House, she’s a vote for John Boehner,” spokesman Matt Burns said, not­ing that Mr. Boehner has said he would work to ap­point her to the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee if elected — a cov­eted seat in a district that in­cludes Fort Drum.

For its part, Mr. Owens’ cam­paign ap­pears con­tent to sit back and watch his op­po­nents duke it out for the seat Mr. McHugh va­cated to be­come Pres­i­dent Obama’s Army sec­re­tary.

“We’re fo­cused on what it is we are do­ing, and that is talk­ing to vot­ers about Bill’s record of job cre­ation and what he can do for up­state New York as a mem­ber of Congress,” said spokesman Jon Boughtin said.

En­dorse­ments in the three­way con­test cut across party lines, un­der­scor­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween the candidates as much as the anti-gov­ern­ment push-back that’s ben­e­fit­ing Mr. Hoff­man. The House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship, along with the party’s cam­paign arms, is back­ing Mrs. Scoz­zafava, who also re­ceived per­haps-un­wel­come sup­port from the founder of the Daily Kos, a lib­eral po­lit­i­cal blog.

Mean­while, Mr. Hoff­man counts for­mer se­na­tor and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Fred Thomp­son and the con­ser­va­tive Club for Growth among his sup­port­ers. In ad­di­tion, Red- State.com, the in­flu­en­tial rightwing blog, has slammed Mrs. Scoz­zafava for her past in­volve­ment with the state’s Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party, which has ties to the con­tro­ver­sial com­mu­nity group ACORN.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee bris­tles at Mr. Hoff­man’s cam­paign, with a spokesman ar­gu­ing that he’s “run­ning a smoke-and-mir­rors cam­paign that has ab­so­lutely no path to victory and is based en­tirely on Wash­ing­ton-based en­dorse­ments that carry no weight among vot­ers in cen­tral and north­ern New York.”

NRCC spokesman Paul Lind­say said Mr. Hoff­man doesn’t even tech­ni­cally live in the district and also said Mr. Hoff­man had promised to back the Repub­li­can can­di­date be­fore with­draw­ing that sup­port and de­cid­ing to run.

“At the end of the day, we could not be more pleased that Dede is the only can­di­date who pos­sesses the prin­ci­ples and cross-party ap­peal that is needed to win in this swing district,” Mr. Lind­say added.

In­deed, Mrs. Scoz­zafava is get­ting hit from all sides. A spokesman for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee said at­tempts to “repack­age her can­di­dacy as fis­cally re­spon­si­ble are fail­ing mis­er­ably.”

“Assem­bly­woman Dede Scoz­zafava has in fact voted to raise or ex­tend taxes 190 times and se­cured hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in earmarks while serv­ing in Al­bany,” Shri­pal Shah said.

It’s un­clear to what ex­tent the New York race could pro­vide a glimpse of what’s to come in dis­tricts where anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment, par­tic­u­larly over fis­cal and spending is­sues, is of­ten aimed at Repub­li­cans as much as Democrats. Mark Barie, founder of the lo­cal Up­state New York Tea Party, said “there’s a great deal of con­cern, and it cuts across party lines.”

“This mes­sage of less taxes and less gov­ern­ment and less spending res­onates widely, es­pe­cially with the se­niors, es­pe­cially with young fam­i­lies,” Mr. Barie said. “They’re scared out of their mind that by the time they’re go­ing to re­tire there’s noth­ing left.”

Mr. Barie’s group, which formed about four weeks ago, held a candidates fo­rum over the Oct. 3-4 week­end that drew 200 peo­ple. Mrs. Scoz­zafava and Mr. Hoff­man were there; Mr. Owens’ cam­paign can­celed at the last minute, cit­ing a sched­ul­ing con­flict. While the tea-party group is not en­dors­ing a can­di­date in the race, Mr. Barie said he per­son­ally prefers Mr. Hoff­man’s po­si­tions on the is­sues.

“He should get up and say like he did last night, ‘Look at me, I am not a politi­cian, I can’t do the ban­ter like a sea­soned pro­fes­sional can; I’m just like you — I’m a fa­ther, I’m a grand­fa­ther, I’m a busi­ness­man, I’m a CPA, and this doesn’t make sense,” he said.

GETTY IM­AGES

The seat of for­mer Rep. John McHugh is up for grabs in New York.

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