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Eleven Guys in a Pizzeria and New York’s 23rd District

November 6, 2009
Hoffman for Congress

Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman

Editor’s Note: See NewsReal’s additional commentary on the elections here, here, here, here, and here.

District 23 in New York encompasses 11 counties in the most northern part of the state. Most of the district is further north than Toronto, Canada.  It’s geographically large, about the size of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined. Much of it overlaps the beautiful and enormous Adirondack Park, the largest State or Federal park in the lower 48 states.

District 23’s land mass is approximately 1/3rd of New York State’s. Its population is only 1/29th. In a state where Barack Obama outperformed John McCain by 28 points, District 23 elected Republican Congressman John McHugh, now Obama’s Secretary of the Army.  A Republican has represented the district since there was a Republican party. The last non-Republican elected to Congress was a member of the Whig Party. Of course, Obama’s choice of McHugh was not a cynical political choice made by Rahm Emmanuel, but one based on bipartisan merit alone. But cynical politics is not new. Losing this district was.

The Democratic victory was a disaster for the Republican Party. A small disaster — after all, it is only one district among 435 in the US– but a disaster never the less. It is also one where “lessons will be learned.” If those lessons are the wrong ones, then a small disaster will become a larger one. I already gave my pre-election opinion in Palin, the “Amiable Duncess”. I favored Hoffman. And while I still wish he won, I did not know what a bad candidate he was. That is not an excuse, just a statement of fact. The late Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, famously quipped that “all politics was local”. In fact, that was told to him by his father when he lost his very first election. He lost it because he spent all his campaigning in precincts other than his own. Had he won his own precinct he would have won the election. He learned then, that first and foremost, a politician must be attuned to the issues most close to his constituency. From there, a foundation can be built.

But Hoffman was utterly clueless about District 23 issues as was demonstrated in his absurd interview with the Watertown Daily Times . He also could barely string two sentences together coherently, thus giving credibility to the accusation he was a simple puppet of “outside” conservative interest groups.

The Conservative movement understandably was displeased with the choice of Dede Scozzafava. She had flirted with switching parties. She would fit in well with the Democratic Party as her unprincipled support of Owens proves. But some believe, incorrectly, that her candidacy lacked legitimacy. Or that she was chosen, as Karl Rove so dismissively said on “Hannity,” by “eleven guys in a Pizzeria.”

For a detailed account of the actual process, one can start here at the TCOT website . Each of the 11 counties polled their committeeman back in July. She won a plurality, but not a majority. Hoffman had virtually zero support among the entire district’s committeeman. After hearing him speak in public several times, it is not that surprising.  Scozzafava had 45% of the committeeman vote and two other more “conservative” candidates split the remaining 55%.

The chairwoman of the largest county used her authority to switch one of the “Conservative” candidates’ votes to Scozzafava to break the deadlock. This is the so called backroom deal. Special elections are rare, but the process was perfectly normal. New York State has a Conservative Party and once elected a Senator from that ticket (William Buckley’s brother James in the early 1970s). Funded by several national Conservative groups and supported by well known names such as Palin, Pawlenty and Thompson, Hoffman became a candidate on the Conservative party ballot. He was running 10 points behind Democrat Owens in the polls with Scozzafava a distant 3rd. Former Senator Dick Armey of Texas was Hoffman’s handler, so it seemed. When it became clear that Scozzafava could not win, the GOP forced her out, and she pulled a “Specter.” The Hoffman supporters were feeling vindicated as polls (commissioned by them) showed Hoffman well ahead. But then he lost. There are dozens of “counter-factuals” being proposed as to why this is not really a loss. But it is. The “nationalization of a local election” experiment failed. Tip O’Neil’s father appears to have gotten it right.

What “lessons” were learned? From reading some of the triumphalist ravings of the Hoffman camp, one would think they actually won the election. They look as ridiculous as NY Jets coach Rex Ryan after a defeat, explaining to the rest of the NFL why it needs to be afraid of them. It is a joke. The Hoffman defeat shows that “after the fact third party-ism revolt” run by people outside districts does not work. They lost in a district which had been Republican since the 1800s. How is that good? There are always people who indulge in irritating triumphalist thinking, but that is after a victory, not defeat. This defeat is an utter humiliation for the Hoffman supporters in my view. They turned a once Whig district into a Democratic one. That takes ingenuity.

Some commentators have actually called this the equivalent of the 2010 primary and actually want the verbally and intellectually challenged Hoffman to be this district’s candidate next year. They must be kidding. “Earth to fellow Conservatives,” forget about District 23 before it morphs into Area 51. They did fine without you for 150 years. You lost. Go home. There are 434 other equally important elections less than 12 months away. Work hard for your candidates in your district and others. But don’t pretend you “won” anything or taught anyone a “lesson.” You didn’t. You simply lost.

Editor’s Note: Visit Michael Rulle’s Blog Here. See his previous NewsReal commentaries here.

  1. Swemson permalink
    November 6, 2009 1:08 pm

    I agree that this was a serious loss, but I believe there’s more to the story than we’ve heard thus far…

    I smell the familiar stench of Rahm Emmanuel’s Chicago style dirty politics, and suspect that the entire last minute withdrawal and endorsement of the democratic candidate was a setup that originated in the west wing.

    We should keep a close eye on Scozzafava and the chairwoman of the county who used her authority to make her the candidate, to see what comes their way in the coming months, in terms of new governmental positions or lucrative job offers… This just doesn’t smell right to me…

  2. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 6, 2009 1:31 pm

    I agree with swemson something is really rotten a big part of the stench starts with Scozzafava. Had she been elected what damn difference would it have made? She was worse than the democrap. This seat can be won next year by a real conservative.

    Where you been hiding Swemson?

    • Swemson permalink
      November 6, 2009 1:46 pm

      I haven’t been hiding at all…

      I’ve been working on my series about the global warming hoax for Newsreal for the last week or so, the first Part of which started this past Sunday, 11.01.09 on Newsreal. At the bottom, there’s a link to Part 2, and Part 3 will be posted shortly.

      Frankly I was surprised not to see YOU amongst the commenters. 🙂

      • Jack Hampton permalink
        November 6, 2009 1:53 pm

        Okay. I will check it out.

  3. Karl White permalink
    November 6, 2009 4:35 pm

    Gosh. I’m not surprised by comments from pundits outside our NY 23rd district with a small-minded agenda to sell. The fact is, we elected Mr. Owens to represent We the People. The registered majority here remain Republican. The far-right Conservative agenda does not appeal here, because we respect individual rights.

    • Swemson permalink
      November 6, 2009 5:07 pm

      I hate to tell you this my friend, but you seem to have forgotten what it really means to be a Republican in the traditional sense of the word.

      To say that you voted for a democrat because you respect individual rights is simply absurd…

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 7, 2009 5:34 am

      We the people did not elect him by much but by about the number that was voting for the far left canidate Scozzafava. By the way who was the Far right canidate I did not see any of his campaign?

    • In the Know permalink
      November 7, 2009 7:29 am

      Seeing as how Owens was not elected by 100 percent of the district, I would say that a majority of your neighbors disagree with you. It’s amazing how lefties assume that they have a “mandate” when they win by a very slim majority. Your views do not represent even 50 percent of the voters in the recent “special” (oh yeah it was special all right) election.

      • Jack Hampton permalink
        November 8, 2009 3:19 am

        In the Know
        That is a very good point I would still like to know who the far right candidate was. Hoffman was what is considered a nominal conservative an every day person with main stream views. Just who the hell has the media decided is far right! People that believe in the God of Abraham that it is wrong to kill an unborn child because it might be and inconvenience or that Governments primary role is the defense of the nation, and being proud of your country? Is it people that believe you do not spend tax money on foolishness and you do not spend more than you have? Is it people that still believe marriage is between one man and one woman and that two people lying together of the same sex is just as sinful as adultery or when the angels visited Gomorrah and Lott and God order the angels to destroy the city. Or are you far right if you believe in law and order and believe you have the God given right to own a gun protect yourself and your family and understand that5 your chance of survival is not good while you wait for a police officer to come with a gun to save you. Most often they do not get there in time. They arrive collect evidence and try and capture and help prosecute the killers. Is this what passes for far right now? Well hell fire and gladiolas I have been a far right person all my life and I guess most other people ar4e as well.

      • Dutch Uncle permalink
        November 10, 2009 7:19 pm

        >>It’s amazing how lefties assume that they have a “mandate” when they win by a very slim majority.

        Gee whiz. And what would you call the Republican presidents who loudly proclaimed they had a “mandate” when they won by very slim popular votes? Even Reagan’s record electoral vote wouldn’t pass the filibuster rule in the popular vote.

        EVERY politician who wins claims a landslide. It’s part of the job.

        • Jack Hampton permalink
          November 11, 2009 4:21 am

          Dutch Uncle
          Reagans victories were absolutely landslide elections most certainly his defeat of mondale.
          His defeat of Carter was fairly huge as well Carter called it really early knew he was done.
          Also I believe McGovern just carried one state. Yea Reagans win was a real landslide.

  4. David Fierce permalink
    November 7, 2009 6:52 am

    This article does not shed enough light on why there was a plurality of committee men in Scozzafava’s corner in the first place. Someone needs to flush out the details to why there such HUGE incompetence in the nominating process. OK, Hoffman is a poor choice, but why have Scozzafava put forward?

  5. November 7, 2009 8:11 am

    The lesson learned was that if the Republican party is going to regain prominence in Washington and throughout the country they had better get rid of the moderate tag.
    They can start by backing conservative canditates when possible.
    The Republican party also must replace its moderate leadership with conservative leaders if they want support fron the parties base, the parties conservative base.

  6. rosine ghawji permalink
    November 7, 2009 8:15 am

    The era of voting for the party you belong to without looking at the candidate seems to be over in most parts of this country. Republicans must select their candidate very carefully if they want to keep the majority. Corruption is so well spread in both parties that it is very difficult to separate the good from the bad.
    People are fed up with corruption and are now doing their homework, looking at the past of a candidate more than listening to the promises. .

  7. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 8, 2009 2:56 am

    Hoffman may not have been the most eloquent candidate but he seemed to be honest and he looked a little nerdy I will take that and honesty any day over the left dishonesty and socialist tendancies.

Comments are closed.