Washington Prowler

Losing It Over Scozzafava

Not a good day for NRCC chairman Rep. Pete Sessions.

By 10.8.09

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National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) lashed out at conservative Republican colleagues during a meeting on Capitol Hill Wednesday when asked why the NRCC chose to back liberal, ACORN supported candidate Dede Scozzafava, in the upcoming special election to succeed Rep. John McHugh in New York's 23rd Congressional District

Sessions was called out by conservative members of the caucus, and challenged when asked why NRCC resources -- cash and personnel -- were being used for Scozzafava. "We have a conservative running in this race, and the Republican Party is not with him," says a conservative House member who attended the meeting. "There are a number of us who are profoundly embarrassed by this race, and while we don't blame Pete, we do blame the NRCC staff for apparently not doing its job."

Sessions, according to sources, angrily responded to the criticism, though not directly defending Scozzafava. According to NRCC staff, Scozzafava was viewed as the "most cooperative" candidate of a group put forward by local Republican Party bosses in the 23rd District. "She wasn't going to be a loose cannon and the money was happy with her," says one NRCC source, saying that "money" referred to a pool of high-dollar donors with ties to former New York Governor George Pataki. "Ideally, we wanted someone who could self-finance, but we didn't have anyone like that," says the NRCC source. "Then we went with someone who would have a natural pool of donors; [Scozzafava] met that criteria."

Scozzafava's candidacy is getting so much attention because a conservative Republican, Doug Hoffman, is now challenging her, running as the New York Conservative Party candidate in the race. Hoffman was rejected by the Republican Party of New York, which chose not to contact Conservative Party leader Michael Long for input on the pick. Such input is usually sought, to ensure that the Republican candidate will also be able to run on the Conservative Party line on the ballot.

Hoffman has already been endorsed by the Club for Growth, Gary Bauer, and former Sen. Fred Thompson. According to sources in Washington, a number of conservatives have been pressuring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to step up and support Hoffman, both financially and with an appearance, but that Gingrich has thus far rejected those requests without an explanation. David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union was said to be calling around to various conservative organizations, encouraging them to support Hoffman and not support the NRCC in further efforts.

In New York, meanwhile, aides close to Hoffman said they were poised to make several announcements in the coming days that "will change the dynamics of the race," according to one aide. "We have conservatives across the country who really believe we can win this with the right team in place and the right kind of support, and we believe that it's all coming together."

Regardless of the outcome of the race, it appears that looking to 2010, Rep. Pete Sessions will be examining the staff of the NRCC and making changes to ensure that a Scozzafava doesn't happen again.

According to Republican National Committee sources, a poll on the 23rd District race paid for by the NRCC and due to be released on Monday has been withheld due to a poor showing by the Republican candidate. An NRCC denied that the poll was being held back, but was being reviewed for "margin of error issues."

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