Apparently dumping your party’s endorsed candidate in favor of a more ideologically pure alternative can have some consequences. Dede Scozzafava, the Republican who quit a special election for New York’s 23rd Congressional District on Saturday, turned around on Sunday and endorsed Democrat Bill Owens over independent conservative Doug Hoffman, the darling of the right wing base.
You know me, and throughout my career, I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent. I have stood for our honest principles, and a truthful discussion of the issues, even when it cost me personally and politically. Since beginning my campaign, I have told you that this election is not about me; it’s about the people of this District.
It is in this spirit that I am writing to let you know I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same… In Bill Owens, I see a sense of duty and integrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship. He will be an independent voice devoted to doing what is right for New York. Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.
Please join me in voting for Bill Owens on Tuesday. To address the tough challenges ahead, we must rise above partisanship and politics and work together. There’s too much at stake in this election to do otherwise.
The Tea Party crowd that had been pushing Hoffman had rejoiced Saturday after Scozzafava quit; the Republican National Committee, which had stuck behind the GOP candidate, formally endorsed Hoffman instead, and right-wing blogs were crowing. (At RedState, bloggers wondered why Rep. Pete Sessions hadn’t quit as chairman of the House GOP’s campaign arm yet.) Scozzafava, who had a long political career in the district, was seen by many conservatives in the rest of the country as a traitor to their cause — mostly for the unforgivable error of being a moderate on some issues, and for having accepted an endorsement from the liberal Working Families Party years before. Hoffman, in contrast, doesn’t even live in the district. But he’s anti-choice, against gay marriage and generally suits conservative notions about who should be representing the GOP in Congress (even if he may or may not suit that particular district’s notions of that).
How the endorsement will affect Tuesday’s results is a little unclear. Scozzafava didn’t have much support in recent polling, and the conventional wisdom had been that Hoffman should win with the GOP field cleared. But most of Scozzafava’s supporters like Obama and dislike Hoffman. Add to that the fact that Scozzafava’s name is still on the ballot, and what will happen on Election Day is anybody’s guess. Either way, the results shouldn’t be seen as much of a referendum on national politics; Democrats haven’t won the House seat in that district for years.