As I noted in a post Friday, I used to live in NY23, a sprawling district in Upstate NY that’s been Republican since the 19th century; but while Republican, the area is hardly conservative.Â Its’ very moderate and often difficult to tell Democrats and Republicans apart.Â These are good people; salt of the earth types who work hard, demand honesty and want the best for their kids.Â The main economic engine driving that part of Upstate NY is the massive 10th Moutain Divison of the US Army and a bunch of federal earmarks that help dairy farmers and support the Adirondack Park. The next notable product that comes from this part of the country are those Pine Tree Car Fresheners from Car Freshener, Inc. of Watertown.
The Republican candidate, selected from 11 GOP county commissioners from this district, Dede Scozzafava, announced yesterday that she’s dropping out of the race in favor of a hardcore, right wing carpetbagger who the largest newspaper (a very conservative daily in Watertown NY) says has an appalling lack of knowledge of local issues.Â But this race is more about displacing moderates and independents who might vote Republican.Â Doug Hoffman, the conservative right winger running for this district, doesn’t represent view of the the moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who make up the majority of this district. But should he win, he’ll have to continue getting government earmarks to keep propping up the economy of this district which is the antithesis of what conservatives want.
Conservatives are so out of touch with this district that Scozzafava has endorsed her Democratic opponent, Bill Owens, who isn’t much more liberal than she is. Hoffman called her a turncoat and I’m sure the Conservati will brand her a new Benedict Arnold even though she best represents the interests of her constituents and has similar political views of her neighbors than the carpetbagger that Hoffman is.Â Here’s Scozzafava’s statement:
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.
It’s not in the cards for me to be your representative, but I strongly believe Bill is the only candidate who can build upon John McHugh’s lasting legacy in the U.S. Congress. John and I worked together on the expansion of Fort Drum and I know how important that base is to the economy of this region. I am confident that Bill will be able to provide the leadership and continuity of support to Drum Country just as John did during his tenure in Congress.
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 Watertown Times (note: I played on their softball team in the mid-80’s), a right leaning newspaper and the largest one in the district, today endorsed Owens.Â Hell has frozen over.Â This would be like Steven Greenhut backing Larry Agran for any office, including dogcatcher.Â Here’s that the Watertown Times said:
“The Watertown Daily Times initially endorsed Ms. Scozzafava as the best-qualified candidate in the race. We still think she is. However, in suspending her campaign she released her supporters’ commitment to her. That left voters to choose between Mr. Owens and Mr. Hoffman.
Of the two, Bill Owens is by far the superior and only choice.
The Democratic candidate has demonstrated a willingness to listen to people about ways in which he could help the district as their representative in Washington. Mr. Owens has remained focused on the economy and job creation throughout his campaign. At the same time, he has shown an understanding of the military, a keen desire to help dairy farmers, an ability to work with labor unions and an eagerness to learn more about the vast, 11-county district that he hopes to represent.
Mr. Owens seems to approach politics and challenges with an open mind, a generous spirit and a can-do attitude. He has conducted a dignified campaign in comparison to Doug Hoffman.
Mr. Hoffman is running as an ideologue. If he carries out his pledges on earmarks, taxation, labor law reform and other inflexible positions, Northern New York will suffer. This rural district depends on the federal government for an investment in Fort Drum and its soldiers, environmental protection of our international waterway and the Adirondack Park, and the livelihood of all our dairy farmers across the district, among other support. Our representative cannot be locked into rigid promises and policies that would jeopardize these critical sectors of our economy.
For a member of Congress, there may be a time to promote reform in Washington, but there is also a time to work within a system that best serves the people you represent.
It is frightening that Mr. Hoffman is so beholden to right-wing ideologues who dismiss Northern New Yorkers as parochial when people here simply want to know how Mr. Hoffman will protect their interests in Washington.
Frank RichÂ of the NY Times captured the notion while Republicans might win this battle, they’ll lose the war.Â Here’s his column from today’s paper.
From the column:
Who exactly is the third-party maverick arousing such ardor? Hoffman doesnâ€™t even live in the district. When he appeared before the editorial board of The Watertown Daily Times 10 days ago, he â€œshowed no graspâ€ of local issues, as the subsequent editorial put it. Hoffman complained that he should have received the questions in advance â€” 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 Hoffmanâ€™s prime attribute to the radical right â€” as a take-no-prisoners fiscal conservative â€” was bogus. In fact heâ€™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 Yorkâ€™s 23rd would be a Siberia of joblessness. The biggest local employer is the pork-dependent military base, Fort Drum.
The rightâ€™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. Itâ€™s still conceivable that the Democratic candidate could capture a seat the Republicans should own. But itâ€™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. Thatâ€™s bad news for even a Republican as conservative as Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose primary opponent in the Texas governorâ€™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 Democratsâ€™ 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 weâ€™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 eraâ€™s equivalent to todayâ€™s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Societyâ€™s â€œruthless prosecutionâ€ 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 â€œmelt Snoweâ€ (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.