GOP backs hope­ful called ‘more lib­eral’ than Dem

Tea party bri­gade pushes third­party can­di­date

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER AND KARA ROW­LAND

Repub­li­can of­fi­cials turned to a con­ser­va­tive icon and in­voked an anti-tax pledge Oct. 15 to sal­vage the slump­ing cam­paign of a New York con­gres­sional can­di­date com­pet­ing with a more con­ser­va­tive third-party chal­lenger, part of an on­go­ing bat­tle be­tween the fis­cally hawk­ish “tea party” move­ment and the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee (NRCC) se­cured an en­dorse­ment from for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich for the party’s nom­i­nee, Dede Scoz­zafava, and got her to sign a “tax­payer pro­tec­tion” pledge to for­tify her con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials af­ter polls showed her los­ing ground to Conser va­tive Party can­di­date Doug Hoff­man.

The Repub­li­can Party is des­per­ately try­ing to hold on to the seat va­cated by John M. McHugh, a nine-term Repub­li­can in­cum­bent who re­signed when he was se­lected by Pres­i­dent Obama to be sec­re­tary of the Army.

“The spe­cial elec­tion for the 23rd Con­gres­sional District is an im­por­tant test lead­ing up to the mid-term 2010 elec­tions,” Mr. Gin­grich wrote in an en­dorse­ment let­ter. “Our best chance to put re­spon­si­ble and prin­ci­pled leaders in Wash­ing­ton starts here, with Dede Scoz­zafava.”

The Wash­ing­ton Times ob­tained a copy of the let­ter, though an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of the en­dorse­ment had not been made on Oct. 15.

A new Siena Re­search In­sti­tute poll re­leased Oct. 15 found Demo­crat Bill Owens, a Platts­burgh lawyer and po­lit­i­cal neo­phyte, lead­ing the race for the first time, 4 per­cent­age points ahead of Mrs. Scoz­zafava and 10 points ahead of Mr. Hoff­man in the tight­en­ing three-way con­test.

A spokesman for Mr. Owens said the Demo­crat’s lead is less a re­sult of Repub­li­can in­fight­ing and more a prod­uct of the can­di­date’s record.

“While polls come and go, this lat­est one demon­strates that vot­ers are re­spond­ing to Bill’s record on job cre­ation and his plans to con­tinue that work in Congress,” Owens cam­paign spokesman Jon Boughtin said. “That record and Bill’s plans to con­tinue that work in Congress on be­half of up­state New York will re­main our cam­paign’s fo­cus mov­ing for­ward.”

Some rank-and-file House Re- pub­li­cans pri­vately say they have writ­ten off Mrs. Scoz­zafava’s chances in the Nov. 3 spe­cial elec­tion.

The mem­bers say she is a weak can­di­date who can’t rally the district’s con­ser­va­tive vot­ers, echo­ing com­plaints of Repub­li­can-al­lied ac­tivist groups who com­plain that the pro- choice Mrs. Scoz­zafava is more lib­eral even than her Demo­cratic op­po­nent.

Mr. Hoff­man is tap­ping the anger of the tea party ac­tivists — the move­ment that gained na­tional at­ten­tion this sum­mer with protests against ru­n­away gov­ern­ment spending and debt — by cast­ing doubt over the con­serva- tive cre­den­tials of the pro-choice Mrs. Scoz­zafava, who sup­ported Mr. Obama’s $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus.

The poll re­sults in­di­cate that his strat­egy is work­ing. The Siena sur­vey showed him with 23 per­cent of the vote, a gain of 7 points in just two weeks, while she fell 6 points to 29 per­cent. Mr. could split the Repub­li­can and Con­ser­va­tive vote and hand the elec­tion to Mr. Owens — in a district where Mr. McHugh won 65 per­cent of the vote just two years ago.

The dy­namic of an es­tab­lish­ment-en­dorsed Repub­li­can can­di­date fac­ing an in­sur­gent at­tack from the right is play­ing out in abee and for­mer Sen. Fred Thomp­son of Ten­nessee, have an­nounced their sup­port.

“I think it’s a com­bi­na­tion of peo­ple see­ing what the two ma­jor-party candidates are all about and what they’re see­ing is busi­ness as usual in Wash­ing­ton,” Hoff­man cam­paign spokesman Rob Ryan said. “The vot­ers

“The spe­cial elec­tion for the 23rd Con­gres­sional District is an im­por­tant test lead­ing up to the mid-term 2010 elec­tions,” Mr. Gin­grich wrote in an en­dorse­ment let­ter. “Our best chance to put re­spon­si­ble and prin­ci­pled leaders in Wash­ing­ton starts here, with Dede Scoz­zafava.” The pro-choice Mrs. Scoz­zafava sup­ported Pres­i­dent Obama’s $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus.

other states as well.

Florida Gov. Char­lie Crist has the back­ing of the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee in his run for the open Se­nate seat in 2010, but for­mer state House Speaker Marco Ru­bio has stayed in the pri­mary race and won sup­port from such prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tives as for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and po­lit­i­cal strate­gist Karl Rove.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, Sen. Arlen Specter ear­lier this year de­fected to the Democrats in the face of a strong Repub­li­can pri­mary chal­lenge from con­ser­va­tive for­mer Rep. Pat Toomey, a Repub­li­can

“I think it’s a com­bi­na­tion of peo­ple see­ing what the two ma­jor-party candidates are all about and what they’re see­ing is busi­ness as usual in Wash­ing­ton,” Rob Ryan, cam­paign spokesman for Conser va­tive Party chal­lenger Doug Hoff­man, said. “The vot­ers are tired of that and I think that’s why you have a third-party can­di­date right in the mid­dle of this bat­tle mak­ing it into a horse race.”

Owens’s sup­port rose 4 points to 33 per­cent.

“With just 10 points separat­ing the three candidates, this is likely to be a very tight — and fiercely fought — cam­paign right through Elec­tion Day,” pre­dicted Siena poll­ster Steven Green­berg.

If cur­rent trends hold, Mrs. Scoz­zafava and Mr. Hoff­man and for­mer head of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is back­ing his run.

The same play­ers are flock­ing to Mr. Hoff­man, a busi­ness­man with no po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The Club for Growth is pour­ing $250,000 into his cam­paign and a pair of one-time Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls, Mr. Huck- are tired of that and I think that’s why you have a third-party can­di­date right in the mid­dle of this bat­tle mak­ing it into a horse race.”

Mrs. Scoz­zafava’s cam­paign did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Rep. Pete Ses­sions, chair­man of the NRCC, pre­dicted Mrs. Scoz­zafava will woo back con­ser­va­tive vot­ers with Mr. Gin­grich’s en­dorse­ment and by sign­ing a no-tax pledge from Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form, a group that had crit­i­cized Mrs. Scoz­zafava for not sign­ing.

“They haven’t seen this and it just hap­pened to­day,” the Texas Repub­li­can said Oct. 15.

Mr. Ses­sions pointed out that Mr. Hoff­man ini­tially pur­sued the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion be­fore ac­cept­ing the state Con­ser­va­tive Party nod.

“We se­lected the best can­di­date,” he said. “[Mr. Hoff­man] just did not show as well. He did not have the best ideas, and Dede’s ahead.”

Still, one House Repub­li­can fol­low­ing the race ex­pressed con­cern that Mrs. Scoz­zafava is not run­ning on both the Repub­li­can and Con­ser­va­tive Party lines, as Repub­li­can nom­i­nees have done in the past.

“The con­ser­va­tive line means some­thing in New York and it is trou­bling when the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee can’t get the con­ser­va­tive line,” said the law­maker, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause he did not “want to be in the mid­dle of it.”

“It will be a chal­lenge for the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee to pre­vail there,” the mem­ber said.

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Es­tab­lish­ment man: Newt Gin­grich

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