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Conservative Doug Hoffman forces GOP choice out of Tuesday's House race in N.Y. (Updated)

(UPDATE: An update has been added below.)

Under pressure from conservative forces within her own party, Dede Scozzafava, the regular Republican nominee in the interim House race for New York's 23d District, suddenly withdrew from the race today.

Though endorsed by the Republican National Committee and big GOP establishment names like ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Scozzafava had fallen to third place in polls of the upstate longtime Republican district next to the Canadian border.

Her retreat came in the face of a vigorous campaign by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who was backed by Sarah Palin, Dick Armey and Fred Thompson, among others.  .

Republican House candidate Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman

Her surprise move sets up a two-man showdown in just 72 hours between Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens in a slick attempt by Obama White House strategists to add another seat to their party's overwhelming House majority, 257-178.

The president had appointed the Republican incumbent, John McHugh, as secretary of the Army, hoping to use a special election and the president's 52% popularity there last fall to break the GOP's historic hold on the district that runs back to the 19th century.

Initially, Hoffman's insurgent challenge of the moderate Scozzafava's selection by state party county chairmen looked to split Republicans and guarantee an Owens victory.

But in a local reflection of the nationwide intra-party Republican struggle between conservatives and what they call RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), Hoffman's support and money have surged lately. A recent Siena poll showed him at 35%, Owens at 36% and Scozzafava trailing at 20%, with a 4-point margin of error.

In her surrender statement, Scozzafava, a moderate who had close union ties and more liberal social views, said she

...had been outspent by both sides but declined to endorse either survivor.

(UPDATE: Sunday: Not that there's any political bad blood or anything, but today the Republican ex-candidate changed her mind. She endorsed the current Democrat candidate instead of the Conservative candidate now backed by her old Republican Party. And on Monday Vice President Biden has found time in his schedule to campaign locally for Owens.)

However, national party chair Michael Steele immediately endorsed Hoffman and promised full party resources to help him in the campaign's final three days. He said:

This selfless act of releasing her supporters provides voters with the opportunity to unite around a candidate who shares Republican principles and will serve the interests of his constituents in Congress by standing in opposition to the liberal policies of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.

Effective immediately, the RNC will endorse and support the conservative candidate in the race, Doug Hoffman. Doug’s campaign will receive the financial backing of the RNC, and get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Bill Owens on Tuesday.

I appreciate the hard work Dede put into her campaign, and for understanding the political reality of this race. By releasing her supporters she has gracefully placed the Party before her own self interest, and for this she deserves enormous credit and respect.

"The age of party leaders picking people is over," Gingrich told Politico Saturday.

A ready, Conservative third-party choice may make the New York state district unique in terms of local GOP bases rebelling against Republicans perceived as too liberal.

But even if the Democrat wins, the results Tuesday won't significantly change the situation in the House, where Democrats control a huge majority. The political significance comes in the ongoing struggle for the ideological heart of the GOP party, which has been in disarray since its unquestionable defeat last November.

Conservatives say that came because the party had become a pale imitation of spend-a-lot Democrats and was not true to its smaller government, less spending roots.

The emergence last spring, for example, of the tea party movement, which caught Washington party leaders by surprise, is another reflection. As is the third party conservative challenger in New Jersey's gubernatorial contest Tuesday who could draw away sufficient unhappy Republican voters from Chris Christie to re-elect Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine.

The Obama administration's ambitious spending plans and projected deficits beyond the comprehension of most civilian calculators have only served to intensify those fiscal concerns among many Republicans.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Related items:

Sarah Palin breaks with Republican Party to endorse NY conservative

It's Conservative vs Republican in NY's 23rd

Photo: Associated Press (Scozzafava and Hoffman).
Comments () | Archives (6)

The comments to this entry are closed.

She has acted more like a Democrat than a Republican. Her husband is very active in his union. We need the two party system to keep the politicians in line, and will need it until we can all grow up and do what is good for EVERYONE; not just the special interests that have supported a particular candidate. I wish Hoffman well.

Actually, this turn of events is good for the state of New York. We have had leftists in power for generations and welcome CHANGE for once anyway we can get it. Although California is in bad shape, New York is not that far behind due to these policies. We have spent ourselves into near poverty and this is at least a ray of sunshine ! We can only hope that this is a trend and not an aberration

Check out classy note from Sarah Palin's Facebook page:

A Time to Unite
Today at 5:48pm

I want to personally thank Republican Dede Scozzafava for acting so selflessly today in the NY District 23 race. Now it's time to cross the finish line with Doug Hoffman so that he can get to work for District 23 and the rest of America.

With Congress poised to overhaul one-sixth of our economy with so-called health care “reform” (which is really a government takeover of health care) and with plans to enact a cap-and-tax bill just as our economy struggles to recover, Doug Hoffman will be a voice for fiscal responsibility and common sense in Washington.

We need candidates like Doug now more than ever. In these final days of the campaign, it's vital that Doug continue to receive the enthusiastic support of those who want to bring common sense to Washington. Let’s help make it happen! You can help Doug by visiting his official website today and offering your support:

- Sarah Palin

She is a REAL LEADER. Sorry, but Newt, Huckabee and ESPECIALLY AWOL ROMNEY just don't make it as leaders.

Hucabee wasn't part of Newt's rino group.

GOP - teabaggers only need apply. Keep marginalizing yourselves, maybe the Republican Party will just go away for good. After all, its not like they have any ideas at this point anyway.


Now we know beyond a shadow of doubt, Scozzafava was not a conservative Republican. Pro abortion, pro gay marriage, pro taxation, pro union open voting, pro increase in taxes and now one can add to her portfolio pro democrat endorsement.

I remain amazed that several Republicans like Newt Gingrich supported her until the very end. Rush Limbaugh was totally correct on his analysis of Scozzafava and her RINO label. He is also correct when he repeats on numerous occasions that for the Republicans to win they must abandon this moderate and bipartisan nonsense. We face a democrat, liberal, take no prisoners strategy. It's time we proclaim our conservatism boldly and openly without apology or equivocation. Let us proudly defend,

A strong national defense,
An end to debt expansion and increased taxes.
A strong pro life and defense of traditional marriage act,
Continued proclamation of American freedom and individualism,
An effort to enforce the criminal laws already enacted,
An all out effort to promote the private sector and removal of unnecessary government regulation,
Greater promotion of individual freedom and small business entrepreneurship,
Promotion of a job creation and restoration program which minimizes taxes and government controls,
Elimination of unnecessary health reform proposals which can add trillions to the national debt long term,
The elimination of unconstitutional czars,
Elimination of illegal immigration and restoration of our borders,
Increased support for our military establishment and forces, and victory in military conflicts,
Renewed pride and support for the U.S. at home and abroad,

We need a renewal of conservative, constitutional principles of freedom and the pursuit of liberty and happiness. If we Republicans are to govern in the future it will only be with the consent of the American people, realizing a life long commitment to conservatism. The lobbyists must be replaced with the voices of average voters who want their country back. There can be no substitute for victory in 2010 and 2012.
Dr. Phillips


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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