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Archive for Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Right costs GOP N.Y. seat

November 11, 2009

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Who is Dede Scozzafava?

If you believe Rush Limbaugh, she’s a “liberal woman.” Columnist Michelle Malkin called her a “radical leftist.” There’s “nothing Republican” about her, according to the New York Post editorial board.

Scozzafava was the Republican candidate for Congress in New York’s 23d District. Under fire from the right, which was backing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, Scozzafava quit the race just days before the election. She endorsed Democrat Bill Owens, who won last week.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a prospective GOP presidential candidate, outlined some of the right’s issues with the state legislator. Scozzafava, he told me, “supports card check. She voted to raise taxes in New York. She supported the stimulus bill. She supported bank bailouts. She supported a number of other, kind of, budget-busting proposals. The New York Post called her a profligate taxer-and-spender.”

On Thursday, I asked Scozzafava if she recognized the candidate that Limbaugh, Malkin, Pawlenty and others had maligned.

“Absolutely not,” she answered. “I know who I am. I’m not sure where they received a lot of the misinformation that they have on me. But I voted with my Republican leader 95 percent of the time in the State Assembly. I think that’s a pretty good percentage.”

The woman I spoke with at length Thursday afternoon sounded nothing like the granola-munching, tax-and-spend liberal I heard so much about these last few weeks. A supporter of John McCain in 2008, Scozzafava is the head of her party’s policy review committee and a floor leader in the State Assembly. She had a succinct answer when I asked her to classify herself: “I’m a Republican.”

“This is my party, too,” she insisted. “There are a lot of moderate people — Republicans, like me — and I’m hearing from an awful lot of them. And I think the Republican Party needs to know if they don’t have room for us and they don’t want us working with them, we’re going to find a way to work against them.”

She acknowledged that many in the GOP would differ with her support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. But she maintained that she approached those views from a conservative vantage point — a respect for individual liberties.

Her gun-rights bona fides, meanwhile, are beyond reproach. She received an A rating from the National Rifle Association in each election since 2002 (A-plus in 2000) and supported the New York Gun Owners of America in 100 percent of the relevant votes in 2002.

Between 2000 and 2008, she adopted the perspective of the New York National Federation of Independent Businesses 68 percent of the time. (Her most recent rating was 75 percent.)

She also riled the federation by declaring her support for the Employee Free Choice Act, anathema to fiscal conservatives and business leaders. Her state’s largest union, the New York State United Teachers, endorsed her, as did several others, including the local United Auto Workers.

As for the ACORN connection that many alleged, Scozzafava told me she not only had “nothing to do with ACORN” but she also was sponsoring legislation to strip the organization of its funding.

One Democratic ad said she “voted for more taxes and fees for you 190 times.” Scozzafava told me those were local sales-tax extensions requested by counties — meaning they weren’t tax increases at all. (The local paper of record, the Watertown Daily Times, confirmed that.)

She described herself as pro-Israel and pro-defense spending. Diplomacy, she told me, is only effective if bolstered by a strong defense budget. Iran? “It’s hard to put a peace branch out when you’re dealing with a regime like that,” she said.

In short, Scozzafava is more of a mixed bag than a liberal.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for conservatives and tea-party Republicans. They latched onto Hoffman, whom the Daily Times said was “running as an ideologue.”

And to what end? On Friday, Owens became the first Democrat to represent the district in decades.

On Thursday, I asked former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had called Scozzafava’s nomination a “train wreck,” whether the GOP was better off with Owens headed to Washington. “No, not at all,” he said. “The danger of pushing third-party candidates is that you end up with a Democrat rather than a less-than-desirable Republican.” He would rather have seen Hoffman nominated from the start.

The reality is that Scozzafava won the GOP nomination after four hearings that were open to the district’s 11 county chairs, committee members and elected officials. Hundreds had the chance to judge eight prospective candidates, Scozzafava said.

But rather than listen to those local leaders, who thought a mixed-bag state legislator best reflected the sprawling Northeastern district, many on the right backed a third-party ideologue better suited for a House race in Alabama. They would rather lose than support an ideologically impure fellow Republican.

“If people took the time to really know who I was, they would have a Republican member of Congress today,” Scozzafava told me.

I agree. Unfortunately, the Limbaugh-Malkin-Hoffman ticket didn’t, and a reliably Republican district was handed over to the real liberals.

Comments

Brent Garner 5 years, 1 month ago

No, Mr. Smerconish, the right did not cost the GOP that seat. What happened, if you are too blind to see it, was that conservative people took issue with the annointed candidate selected by the inside the Beltway GOP heirarchy who place more importance on whether an "R" is in front of the name than upon other points. It is indeed telling that Mr. Hoffman, without substantial GOP support managed to poll as well as he did. If he had enjoyed the support of the moderate, stand for nothing GOP establishment he would have been running on the GOP ticket, not the Conservative Party ticket. No, Mr. Smerconish, the folks of NY23 basically told Washington GOP that the inside the Beltway guys can not impose candidates.

ivalueamerica 5 years, 1 month ago

It would be dishonest to ignore the significant split in the GOP between the fiscal conservatives and the religious conservatives.

The focus on abortion, gay marriage has turned off many moderates and increased the independent roles for years. When push comes to shove, they usually still vote republican, but that line is getting thinner as clearly seen in the last election.

The party should be more diverse if it is to remain strong, otherwise, it will be continue splitting itself apart for some time.

The other option would be to have a christian right party and a fiscal conservative party, which would open for a libertarian party and I have no idea in reality how that would play out in our system of government as we are so moored in a 2-party system for so long, but it would all shake out.

It would probably be good for us as it would FORCE us to start working together, finding compromise instead of being on the stuck us vs. them model of party governance.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 1 month ago

Dear Leader helped the GOP win the governor's office in NJ & VA.

RiverCityConservative 5 years, 1 month ago

President Obama has to take responsibility for those governorship losses on his watch. I agree with viewers who say the liberal base of the Democratic Party stayed home because he's not pandering to them as much as they liked to imagine he was in the 2008 campaign. Far right wingnuts (as Joe Klein and Jon Alter call them) have hijacked the Republican Party. I still say Obama is the best president we've had in several decades. He's gotten to work quickly and his policies are "slowly" starting to pay off for the economy, our civil society, and our country in the family of nations. "Yes we can."

Rex Russell 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes Tom, they should. For once we agree on someting.That will be the death spiral for the GOP. I encourage them to marginalize themselves as much as they can. Then after that slow death,we can go back to being the party a fiscal responsibily, government not interfering in our personal lives and privacy, as minimal taxation as possible, and sound SENSIBLE leadership. Whether that be led by the moderate cast-offs from that debacle, or a new moderate type party. Let the separation begin.

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