The Spectacle Blog

NY-23: Conservative Party Stands With Hoffman; Will GOP Listen?

By on 5.12.10 | 10:34PM

Since Doug Hoffman's electrifying campaign in last fall's wild three-way special election in upstate New York (see "Battle Cry in the North Country"), other candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the GOP nomination for the seat now held by Democrat Rep. Bill Owens. Among those candidates is Matt Doheny.

Jude Seymour of the Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times reports that Conservative Party chairman Mike Long says he's committed to supporting Hoffman this fall and that Doheny missed his chance last year:

Michael R. Long, state Conservative Party chairman, said he asked Mr. Doheny's "handlers" to tell the hopeful that if he had interest in running against moderate Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava in the 23rd Congressional District last fall, the third party would support his candidacy.
"The answer I got was: ‘No, he doesn't want to alienate the Republican Party,'" the chairman recalled Wednesday. "He was in the mix as one of the guys I would have supported against Dede Scozzafava. He chose to play the inside baseball game."
Mr. Hoffman, a Lake Placid accountant, took the party's offer instead, using the line to push a social and fiscally conservative platform that received considerable support during the special election. He finished a close second to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, with Ms. Scozzafava far behind.
"Matt Doheny failed at that defining moment," the chairman said.
Mr. Hoffman, he added, showed "courage" and "earned" the party's endorsement and line again in this year's race. Mr. Doheny, Watertown, and Mr. Hoffman will face each other in a Republican primary. If Mr. Doheny prevails, there will again be a three-way race. . . .
Mr. Long's specific objection was that Mr. Doheny had donated $2,400 - the maximum allowed by law - to Ms. Scozzafava on Oct. 10. . . .

Scozzafava notoriously quit the race the weekend before Election Day and endorsed the Democrat, Owens. She has since declared she will not seek re-election to the state assembly. But that's history, whereas the possibility of another three-way election is present-tense.

To grasp the problem now facing the GOP in NY-23 requires an understanding of New York's multi-party system. In addition to the Democratic and Republican parties, several other minor parties have ballot lines, and for a major-party candidate to pick up the endorsement of a minor party can be crucial in a close election. Last year in NY-23, for example, there were five parties on the ballot: Owens was on two lines (Democrat and Working Families parties), Scozzafava was on two lines (Republican and Independence) and Hoffman was on the Conservative line. If Hoffman wins the GOP nomination, he'll be on at least two lines, and could win the Independence Party endorsement, as well.

Mike Long has made the argument that no Republican can win NY-23 without the Conservative Party's endorsement, and he is adamant that the endorsement will go to Doug Hoffman this fall. So the question now is: Does the New York GOP wish to repeat last year's disastrous attempt to prove Mike Long wrong?

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