NY 23rd District Elects Democrat, 1st in 100 Years


Has No Life - Lives on TB
This is last Sunday's (11/1) Frank Rich OP ED on the subject.

The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York

Published: October 31, 2009
BARACK OBAMA’S most devilish political move since the 2008 campaign was to appoint a Republican congressman from upstate New York as secretary of the Army. This week’s election to fill that vacant seat has set off nothing less than a riotous and bloody national G.O.P. civil war. No matter what the results in that race on Tuesday, the Republicans are the sure losers. This could be a gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats through 2010, and perhaps beyond.

The governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia were once billed as the marquee events of Election Day 2009 — a referendum on the Obama presidency and a possible Republican “comeback.” But preposterous as it sounds, the real action migrated to New York’s 23rd, a rural Congressional district abutting Canada. That this pastoral setting could become a G.O.P. killing field, attracting an all-star cast of combatants led by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, William Kristol and Newt Gingrich, is a premise out of a Depression-era screwball comedy. But such farces have become the norm for the conservative movement — whether the participants are dressing up in full “tea party” drag or not.

The battle for upstate New York confirms just how swiftly the right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult that is as eager to eat its own as it is to destroy Obama. The movement’s undisputed leaders, Palin and Beck, neither of whom has what Palin once called the “actual responsibilities” of public office, would gladly see the Republican Party die on the cross of right-wing ideological purity. Over the short term, at least, their wish could come true.

The New York fracas was ignited by the routine decision of 11 local Republican county chairmen to anoint an assemblywoman, Dede Scozzafava, as their party’s nominee for the vacant seat. The 23rd is in safe Republican territory that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in decades. And Scozzafava is a mainstream conservative by New York standards; one statistical measure found her voting record slightly to the right of her fellow Republicans in the Assembly. But she has occasionally strayed from orthodoxy on social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage) and endorsed the Obama stimulus package. To the right’s Jacobins, that’s cause to send her to the guillotine.

Sure enough, bloggers trashed her as a radical leftist and ditched her for a third-party candidate they deem a “true” conservative, an accountant and businessman named Doug Hoffman. When Gingrich dared endorse Scozzafava anyway — as did other party potentates like John Boehner and Michael Steele — he too was slimed. Mocking Newt’s presumed 2012 presidential ambitions, Michelle Malkin imagined him appointing Al Sharpton as secretary of education and Al Gore as “global warming czar.” She’s quite the wit.

The wrecking crew of Kristol, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the government-bashing Club for Growth all joined the Hoffman putsch. Then came the big enchilada: a Hoffman endorsement from Palin on her Facebook page. Such is Palin’s clout that Steve Forbes, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor (and presidential aspirant), promptly fell over one another in their Pavlovian rush to second her motion. They were joined by far-flung Republican congressmen from Kansas, Georgia, Oklahoma and California, not to mention a gaggle of state legislators from Colorado. On Fox News, Beck took up the charge, insinuating that Hoffman’s Republican opponent might be a fan of Karl Marx. Some $3 million has now been dumped into this race by outside groups.

Who exactly is the third-party maverick arousing such ardor? Hoffman doesn’t even live in the district. When he appeared before the editorial board of The Watertown Daily Times 10 days ago, he “showed no grasp” of local issues, as the subsequent editorial put it. Hoffman complained that he should have received the questions in advance — blissfully unaware that they had been asked by the paper in an editorial on the morning of his visit.

Last week it turned out that Hoffman’s prime attribute to the radical right — as a take-no-prisoners fiscal conservative — was bogus. In fact he’s on the finance committee of a hospital that happily helped itself to a $479,000 federal earmark. Then again, without the federal government largess that the tea party crowd so deplores, New York’s 23rd would be a Siberia of joblessness. The biggest local employer is the pork-dependent military base, Fort Drum.

The right’s embrace of Hoffman is a double-barreled suicide for the G.O.P. On Saturday, the battered Scozzafava suspended her campaign, further scrambling the race. It’s still conceivable that the Democratic candidate could capture a seat the Republicans should own. But it’s even better for Democrats if Hoffman wins. Punch-drunk with this triumph, the right will redouble its support of primary challengers to 2010 G.O.P. candidates they regard as impure. That’s bad news for even a Republican as conservative as Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose primary opponent in the Texas governor’s race, the incumbent Rick Perry, floated the possibility of secession at a teabagger rally in April and hastily endorsed Hoffman on Thursday.

The more rightists who win G.O.P. primaries, the greater the Democrats’ prospects next year. But the electoral math is less interesting than the pathology of this movement. Its antecedent can be found in the early 1960s, when radical-right hysteria carried some of the same traits we’re seeing now: seething rage, fear of minorities, maniacal contempt for government, and a Freudian tendency to mimic the excesses of political foes. Writing in 1964 of that era’s equivalent to today’s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Society’s “ruthless prosecution” of its own ideological war often mimicked the tactics of its Communist enemies.

The same could be said of Beck, Palin and their acolytes. Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode. They drove out Arlen Specter, and now want to “melt Snowe” (as the blog Red State put it). The same Republicans who once deplored Democrats for refusing to let an anti-abortion dissident, Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, speak at the 1992 Clinton convention now routinely banish any dissenters in their own camp.

These conservatives’ whiny cries of victimization also parrot a tic they once condemned in liberals. After Rush Limbaugh was booted from an ownership group bidding on the St. Louis Rams, he moaned about being done in by the “race card.” What actually did him in, of course, was the free-market American capitalism he claims to champion. Limbaugh didn’t understand that in an increasingly diverse nation, profit-seeking N.F.L. franchises actually want to court black ticket buyers, not drive them away.

This same note of self-martyrdom was sounded in a much-noticed recent column by the former Nixon hand Pat Buchanan. Ol’ Pat sounded like the dispossessed antebellum grandees in “Gone With the Wind” when lamenting the plight of white working-class voters. “America was once their country,” he wrote. “They sense they are losing it. And they are right.”

They are right. That America was lost years ago, and no national political party can thrive if it lives in denial of that truth. The right still may want to believe, as Palin said during the campaign, that Alaska, with its small black and Hispanic populations, is a “microcosm of America.” (New York’s 23rd also has few blacks or Hispanics.) But most Americans like their country’s 21st-century profile.

That changing complexion is part of why the McCain-Palin ticket lost every demographic group by large margins in 2008 except white senior citizens and the dwindling fifth of America that’s still rural. It’s also why the G.O.P. has been in a nosedive since the inauguration, whatever Obama’s ups and downs. In the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, only 17 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans (as opposed to 30 percent for the Democrats, and 44 for independents).

No wonder even the very conservative Republican contenders in the two big gubernatorial contests this week have frantically tried to disguise their own convictions. The candidate in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is a graduate of Pat Robertson’s university whose career has been devoted to curbing abortion rights, gay civil rights and even birth control. But in this campaign he ditched those issues, disinvited Palin for a campaign appearance, praised Obama’s Nobel Prize, and ran a closing campaign ad trumpeting “Hope.” Chris Christie, McDonnell’s counterpart in New Jersey, posted a campaign video celebrating “Change” in which Obama’s face and most stirring campaign sound bites so dominate you’d think the president had endorsed the Republican over his Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine.

Only in the alternative universe of the far right is Obama a pariah and Palin the great white hope. It’s become a Beltway truism that the White House’s (mild) spat with Fox News is counterproductive because it drives up the network’s numbers. But if curious moderate and independent voters are now tempted to surf there and encounter Beck’s histrionics for the first time, the president’s numbers will benefit as well. To the uninitiated, the tea party crowd comes across like the barflies in “Star Wars.”

There is only one political opponent whom Obama really has to worry about at this moment: Hamid Karzai. It’s Afghanistan and joblessness, not the Stalinists of the right, that have the power to bring this president down.

This column has been updated from the version that appears in print to reflect the fact that Ms. Scozzafava suspended her campaign on Saturday morning.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/opinion/01rich.html?scp=2&sq=Frank Rich&st=cse


Has No Life - Lives on TB
Conservative Loses Upstate House Race in Blow to Right

Published: November 3, 2009
SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. — Democrats won a special election in New York State’s northernmost Congressional district Tuesday, a setback for national conservatives who heavily promoted a third candidate in what became an intense debate over the direction of the Republican Party.

Douglas L. Hoffman, a previously unknown accountant from Lake Placid, ran as a Conservative, and drew the backing of social and fiscal conservatives like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

The Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, led with 49 percent of the vote, while the Conservative Party candidate, Douglas L. Hoffman, had 46 percent.

Just before 12:30 a.m. Mr. Owens stepped up to a lectern at an American Legion Hall in Plattsburgh, his hometown, and urged residents of the district to put aside the partisan fighting that characterized the race.

"The challenges that we face are not Democratic or Republican," he said. "They are not liberal or conservative. They're challenges that Americans face and that we will overcome with American resolve."

Mr. Hoffman spoke to a deflated crowd of about 50 in a hotel ballroom here soon after midnight on Wednesday and said he had called Mr. Owens to concede.

“Thank you to every single person out there that joined my team and fought back for America,” Mr. Hoffman said. “This one was worth the fight. And it’s only one fight in the battle, and we have to keep fighting.”

The district has been a Republican stronghold for generations, and the party has represented parts of it since the 19th century.

The battle became one of the most closely followed races in the nation, drawing in some of the biggest forces in politics in both parties. Republicans who viewed the race as a test of the party’s most deeply held conservative principles — including Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska; Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a presidential hopeful; and grass-roots groups that have forcefully opposed Democratic economic and health care policies — rallied behind Mr. Hoffman.

Democrats threw muscle behind the race as well, eager to avoid a potentially embarrassing defeat as President Obama’s approval ratings have softened and efforts to portray them as the party of big government and deficit spending appear to be sticking. A win in the Republican-leaning 23rd Congressional District would provide Democrats with a welcome boost, while a loss would reinforce the notion that the party is struggling.

The seat became vacant after President Obama appointed its long-serving Republican congressman, John M. McHugh, as secretary of the Army.

Leading conservative voices — including The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and The Weekly Standard and the talk show personalities Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck — took on the Republican nominee, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who supports gay rights and abortion rights and had embraced some Democratic economic policies like the federal stimulus package. They labeled her as too liberal.

The attacks on Ms. Scozzafava eventually took their toll, and she stunned her party over the weekend first by withdrawing from the race and then by urging her supporters to vote for Mr. Owens, a 60-year-old lawyer from Plattsburgh.

But the ballots had already been printed, and early results showed her picking up 6 percent of the vote. It was unclear how many of those were protest votes, and how many simply did not know she had left the race.

The White House became closely involved in the efforts to boost Mr. Owens’s candidacy in the final days of the campaign. They orchestrated an effort that persuaded Ms. Scozzafava to endorse Mr. Owens. Vice President Joseph R. Biden rolled through the district on Monday to support Mr. Owens.

But the race was perhaps most notable for the fissures it opened in the Republican Party. Ms. Scozzafava, who was selected as the Republican nominee by the 11 leaders of the county committees that comprise this vast district along the Canadian border, was excoriated by Washington’s conservative establishment almost as soon as she was nominated.

Ms. Scozzafava united social and fiscal conservatives from across the country firmly behind Mr. Hoffman, a previously unknown 59-year-old accountant from Lake Placid — which is not in the district.

The Club for Growth, a group that promotes limited government and lower taxes, spent about $1 million promoting Mr. Hoffman. Social conservative organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion, and the National Organization for Marriage, which fights same-sex marriage laws, joined forces in support of Mr. Hoffman. They printed literature, made phone calls and flooded the district with volunteers from across the country.

“This is probably the most amazing coalition-building I’ve seen in a long time — probably decades,” said Marilyn Musgrave, a former Republican congresswoman from Colorado who now works with the Susan B. Anthony List and came to New York to campaign for Mr. Hoffman.

On Tuesday morning, Ms. Musgrave stood in frigid weather for several hours outside a state office building in downtown Watertown with a group of home-schooled students passing out blue fliers that read, “Doug Hoffman shares our values!”

Ms. Musgrave said the overwhelming conservative embrace of Mr. Hoffman would show leaders in Washington that political bases should not be taken for granted. “Don’t just assume we’re yours.”



Veteran Member
Palin's side loses again. The woman has flash and a loud base, but her side is not winning. Sure, she is bringing valuable issues to the table and the election was fairly close. Solutions, we need solutions, not just nyah, nyah, nyah, the other side is screwed up.


Democrat Owens beats Conservative Hoffman who Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh supported

Wednesday, November 4th 2009, 12:41 AM

The 23rd district seat drew national attention when Sarah Palin supported Conservative Doug Hoffman (l.), forcing Dede Scozzafava out of the race and leaving Bill Owens (r.) as the winner.

Limbaugh, Palin urge right wing to step up efforts to purge moderates from Republican Party

What Made Doug Hoffman? From phantom to phenom in NY's 23rd

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. - Conservatives who won a nasty battle to carry the GOP banner in upstate New York lost the war Tuesday night - surrendering a congressional seat held by Republicans for more than a century.

Conservative Party insurgent Doug Hoffman, whose candidacy became a cause for Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, conceded defeat to Democrat Bill Owens. With 88% of precincts counted, Owens led 49% to 45.5%.

"This is only one fight in the battle, people" Hoffman told disappointed supporters. "Let's keep the fight going."

It was a stunning conclusion to a special election to fill a vacant House seat in the far northern reaches of the state that became the unlikely scene of a Republican Party civil war.

"Upstate New York hasn't received this much attention since an event in 1980," Owens joked in his victory speech, alluding to the underdog U.S. Olympic hockey team's gold-medal win at Lake Placid. "I am not the 'Miracle on Ice.'"

"We were never supposed to be in this race to begin with," said June O'Neill, former state Democratic Party chairwoman, citing a Republican registration advantage of 40,000 voters.

Owens' win was a rare bright spot yesterday for President Obama, who sent Vice President Biden to Watertown on Monday to stump for him.

Right-wing activists had already claimed a moral victory by forcing Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava to quit the race. They denounced the pro-choice, pro-gay rights assemblywoman as too liberal.

But the risk was always that they would drive just enough moderates to the Democrats' side - like Scozzafava herself - to lose.

Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long insisted, "We would do it all over again" because Scozzafava did not deserve rank-and-file GOP support.

"The Republican Party lost the seat by picking and allowing and funding a candidate that wasn't really even in any way shape or form respectful of republican policies and principles," he said.

The "Tea Party" movement that gained attention during town hall protest last summer is already drawing bull's-eyes on other moderate Republicans' backs around the nation.

And Democrats think that will weaken their rivals heading into the 2010 elections.


This race should prove once and for all that there is no difference between the two major parties!!

The "R" and the "D" ganged up on the third party conservative.

It made no difference which traitor won, just that the conservative was dealt with!!


Has No Life - Lives on TB
Conspiracy theories aside, people tend to vote for candidates that most closely approximate their own views and values. I have a hard time believing that anyone voted for or against any candidate in NY 23rd in order to 'deal with' a conservative candidate endorsed by outsiders.



Contributing Member
Trends have to be broken sometime. While it was disappointing to me to see a conservative lose, I don't think that having a dem as a place holder in for 1-year isn't that big of a victory.

The more a read about Hoffman, he too was unprepared for the local issues when he first entered the race (which I think was only 30-days ago). He was looking at this as a national race based on his frustration with both parties not really giving people choices. Both parties are the same anymore.

I believe the reason that Scozzafava got the 6% that she did, was people went in and voted straight republican ticket. Whether they intended to still vote for her or not.

I hope that in 2010 all incumbents are swept out of office.


Has No Life - Lives on TB
I didn't exactly gloat to see the fratricide in NY's 23rd district; I thought it might give pause to those who are trying to drag the GOP further to the right. I'm old enough to remember liberal Republicans. I'd be happy to see one again.

Rich thought that a win for the conservative in that race would be great for Democrats in that it would provide encouragement to the extremist right-wing of the GOP and thereby alienate the non-extremist voters who would then feel more comfortable with the D party.

That didn't happen. In the case of NY's 23rd, enough of the voters were more comfortable with the D candidate to add to the majority in the US House of Representatives. How that might play out in a year is anyones guess.