Former North Country Congressman Bill Owens has returned to the Adirondack Foundation’s Board of Trustees. At the same time, the foundation has bid farewell to longtime Trustee Peter Paine of Willsboro.
Owens, who lives in Plattsburgh, was one of the community foundation’s founding trustees, originally serving on the board from 1997 to 1999. » Continue Reading.
Democratic Representative for New York’s 21st congressional district Bill Owens has announced that he will not seek reelection. The 21st district is the state’s largest and most rural. It includes most of the North Country, as well as the northern suburbs of Syracuse. Owens was the first Democrat to represent the region since 1873.
In 2009, Owens, then registered as an independent, was chosen by the Democratic Party to run in a special election to fill the House seat vacated by incumbent Republican John McHugh, who was appointed Secretary of the Army. Originally, Owens faced Republican Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Doug Hoffman who had failed to get the Republican Party nomination in favor of the more socially liberal Scozzafava.
High-profile conservatives, including Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh were vocal in their support for Hoffman, who also had the support of the Tea Party. Under increasing pressure from conservatives Scozzafava dropped out of the race just days before the election. The Watertown Daily Times, which had originally endorsed Scozzafava, switched its endorsement to Owens and on the same day Scozzafava endorsed Owens. Owens won 49 percent; Hoffman 45 percent, and Scozzafava six percent. » Continue Reading.
I’m about to muse about the 2012 elections. And yes, I am fully aware that those elections aren’t happening until the next time we see an NFL team suit up and take the field (I’m already working under the assumption that there won’t be a season this fall – it helps, a little).
Watertown banker Matt Doheny made it known last week that he will run, again, for New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat Bill Owens, and it’s starting to feel like Owens is defending his seat on a yearly basis. Doheny gave Owens a run for his money last fall but fell short in the end – only a few thousand votes separated them.
Many political observers blamed Doheny’s loss on Saranac Lake accountant Doug Hoffman, who challenged him in the GOP primary and lost. Hoffman tried a third party bid on the Conservative line, but pulled out of the race weeks before the election.
Despite his decision to exit the race, more than 9,000 Hoffman supporters cast votes in his favor. It’s a crude way to do the math, but if you hand those votes to Doheny, he’s flying back and forth to Washington instead of Owens.
Doheny touts himself as a fiscal conservative, but was noticeably more moderate on social issues – perhaps explaining the lingering support for Hoffman on Election Day.
Hoffman had tea party support from the beginning, with hordes of volunteers teaming up with the Upstate New York Tea Party to pound the pavement across northern New York.
But after the primary, UNYTEA’s chairman, Mark Barie, endorsed Doheny, noting it was important to rally around one candidate. The rest of his organization was slow to follow suit, but in the end, most of the group got behind Doheny.
Following the election, there were two distinct lines up thought on the so-called “Hoffman effect.”
On one side, you had people like Jefferson County lawmaker Carolyn Fitzpatrick, a Republican:
“Matt didn’t lose this race. Doug Hoffman lost this race for the Republicans,” she said at the time. “I only wish that Doug Hoffman had come out, stood on stage and campaigned with Matt and said, ‘I support him.’ But that didn’t happen.”
On the other side, there were those who believed the Republican Party in NY-23 failed to roll out a candidate who represented the region’s conservatism. (Read more on the fallout/reaction from last year’s NY-23 race here and here).
And that GOP divide isn’t likely to go away next year.
The national media reported Kathleen Hochul’s victory as a voter referendum on the GOP’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-style program. Hochul, a Democrat, beat out Republican Jane Corwin in a fairly conservative district.
But the national media zeroed-in on the Medicare issue – in fact, a lot of reporting failed to mention Jack Davis, the tea party candidate, who most likely pulled votes away from Corwin.
Here’s what I’m wondering: is Doheny’s early announcement an attempt to rally the GOP and keep this a two-way race? Or is it just that, an early announcement for a candidate who wants to get the ball rolling?
Your thoughts are welcome.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Jude Seymour is joining the Doheny camp. Seymour wrote a great political blog for the Watertown Daily Times (All Politics is Local) and is currently wrapping up at WWNY television.
Seymour will serve as deputy campaign manager and spokesman for Doheny.
Photo: Matt Doheny (Courtesy Doheny For Congress).
The Watertown businessman and Republican candidate in this fall’s 23rd Congressional District election wants to debate Doug Hoffman before the September 14 primary.
Doheny doesn’t want one debate, either – he wants 11, one for each county in the district.
“This is a critical election year,” Doheny wrote in a letter sent to Hoffman. “Republicans, indeed all the people in the North Country, the Adirondack region and central New York deserve to hear from both of us as we discuss and debate the issues, so they can make the best decision on Election Day.” Doheny has locked-up endorsements from nine out of the 11 county GOP committees; the remaining two have opted to not endorse a candidate.
Hoffman has Conservative Party support and is being backed by the Upstate New York Tea Party (UNYTEA).
Both men are gunning for the seat currently held by Congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh.
Hoffman’s spokesman, Rob Ryan, said the candidate welcomes the opportunity to debate Matt Doheny.
“It will be interesting to discuss job creation in the North Country, cutting waste and the size of federal government in Washington and Mr. Doheny’s strong support of his liberal friend, Dede Scozzafava, in last November’s election,” he said.
Illustration: Doug Hoffman’s concession speech last November by Almanack contributor Mark Wilson.
New York’s congressional delegation ranks sixth in the nation for its votes on key clean energy and environmental legislation according to the the national League of Conservations Voters’ 2009 National Environmental Scorecard. For 30 years, the National Environmental Scorecard has been used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health and energy issues.
The 2009 Scorecard includes 11 Senate and 13 House votes dominated by clean energy and climate but also encompassing other environmental issues such as public lands, water and wildlife conservation. In New York, 20 House members and both senators earned a perfect 100 percent score in 2009 – more than two thirds of the delegation. U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, representing the 26th District in Western New York, had the lowest score in the state, at 14 percent. New York’s average House score was 88 percent, up from 81 percent last year. New York’s average House score ranked sixth in the U.S. Scott Murphy of the 20th Congressional District earned a score of 88; John McHugh (previously of the 23rd CD) scored 67 with his congressional replacement Bill Owens garnering 100 percent so far. The New York delegation scores are as follows. The full 2009 National Environmental Scorecard can be found at www.lcv.org/scorecard.
In a last minute move Republican Candidate Dede Scozzafava, who only yesterday withdrew from Tuesday’s election for the 23rd Congressional District, has announced that she is throwing her support to her Democratic opponent, Bill Owens. Scozzafava withdrew after garnering only 20 percent in the latest poll—she has said that she does not have the money to wage the all-out media effort required to close the gap. In endorsing Owens over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, Scozzafava cited the Democrat’s independence. “I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent,” Scozzafava wrote to her supporters today. “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.”
Following Scozzafava’s withdrawal on Saturday the National Republican Congressional Committee, who had backed Scozzafava, announced that it would put it’s full efforts behind Doug Hoffman.
On Saturday, when Dede Scozzafava’s campaign bus turned into a pumpkin, it came as a shock but not a surprise to North Country political observers. The unpredictable five-month, three-party campaign to fill the vacated House seat of Army Secretary John McHugh was elevated in its early stages to a war of surrogates for political forces both at the state and national levels, according to a close observer of New York GOP politics. The source—speaking on background—said Scozzafava’s attempts to court organized labor (specifically her support for the Employees’ Free Choice Act) was responsible more than any other issue for attracting the political action committee Club for Growth to the campaign of Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman. The money and advertisements that followed “put Dede in a position where she never had a chance to define herself.”
Former Democratic Rural Conference Chairman Stuart Brody, who lost a bid to become his party’s nominee in this election, agrees that outside attention and campaign contributions had a distorting effect on the race: “Money often obscures the message.”
While the National Republican Congressional Committee (which took charge of the Scozzafava campaign in September) was framing the contest as a referendum on Democratic policies and leadership in Washington, and the conservative media were building the Hoffman campaign into a referendum on both Democrats and centrist Republicans, New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was using the insurgent Hoffman campaign to bend the State GOP ideologically to the right. “Mike Long feels he has something to prove,” according to the Republican Party observer.
And if Thursday’s defection to Hoffman’s camp of former Governor George Pataki notched a victory for the Conservative Party leader, Stuart Brody believes that “what Mike Long thinks means nothing. . . . Ultimately, the North Country is moderate. Folks think for themselves.”
Asked how he sees Scozzafava’s withdrawal effecting Tuesday’s result, Brody departs from the conventional wisdom that Hoffman will benefit. In step with his faith in the independent mindset of the North Country electorate, he feels that a portion of Scozzafava supporters, particularly those driven by organized labor interests, will find their way to Democrat Bill Owens.
Our Republican Party observer points out that it may be too late for the move to produce a large-scale change, citing the layout of the ballots on which Bill Owens holds line A, followed by Scozzafava on lines B and C, followed by Doug Hoffman on line D.
As for Wednesday, the lack of a Republican candidate does not guarantee any less intense an effort to impound and count and recount the ballots. With so much at stake from every angle, a close outcome at the polls will assuredly give way to a recount phase as long as (and exceeding the cost of) the campaign itself. Ask any of your next door neighbors of NY-20.
And the day after a victor finally emerges? The seat will be up for grabs again in less than a year; a mid-term election is already well under way in most districts. Former candidate Stuart Brody anticipates that a Democratic winner will be immediately challenged by Republicans. In the event of a Hoffman victory, Brody expects that a number of Democrats will step forward to challenge the Conservative—a number which may include himself.
In a move that has the potential to shift the outcome of the coming election for the 23rd Congressional District spot once held by fellow Republican John McHugh, Dede Scozzafava has announced that she has suspended her campaign. Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman, has not yet given her support to either of her opponents, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, or Democrat Bill Owens. A Siena poll released today has Owens at 36 percent of likely voters, Hoffman at 35 percent, and Scozzafava at 20 percent. “In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be. The reality that I’ve come to accept is that in today’s political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money,” Scozzafava wrote in a statement to supporters.
Say you’re a cartoonist, and you own a bar at the intersection of October and November. And once a year at this season two patrons—Halloween and Election Day—walk in and sit down just a couple barstools apart. They never really talk. They just show up, year in and year out. Despite their vast differences in age, temperament, cultural tradition, and costume, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that these misfits were destined to be together. And for the rest of your career you will devote one day a year to drawing a cartoon that somehow marries the two. Some of these cartoons work out better than others. This may be a promising year if your bar is located in New York’s 23rd congressional district. Few house races in memory can match this year’s special election for Halloween parallels. Consider the following features:
• A Democratic candidate who looked a lot more like a Republican before he put on the traditional donkey costume; • A Republican candidate who looks like a liberal to moderates, and looks like an Elvis impersonator to conservatives; • A Conservative candidate with a devilish grin;
Throw in a candidate endorsement from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey in a cowboy hat and candidate bodies which mysteriously disappear the day of scheduled debates, and you have good raw material for a frightful cartoon.
Of course, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always next year.
Consider the Existentialist dilemma of the candidates seeking New York’s 23rd Congressional District seat. You may recall Existentialism from high school French class or a movie date in college: the hard-to-pin-down philosophy supported largely on the precepts that 1) Orthodoxies and doctrines are meaningless 2) We all live for the moment and determine our fate by our choices, and 3) We’re all doomed anyway, so what the heck. Toss in words like “ennui” and “angst” and you’ve pretty much covered it.
Anyway, on June 2nd, when John McHugh accepted President Obama’s nomination to become Secretary of the Army, he triggered a five-month-long campaign to fill his House seat, a campaign which will end at the polls on November 3rd. The abbreviated schedule means that the traditional binary and sequential format of American campaigns—an ideological race (left v. right) in the primaries followed by a partisan race (R v. D) in the general election—must be fought concurrently. As a consequence, the race for the 23rd features a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage Republican who falls somewhere to the left of the opposing “centrist” Democrat, who was never really a Democrat before and doesn’t even mention the word all that often, and a Conservative who falls just to the left of a Viking on social issues. Contemporary political dogma will not help the disoriented voter in this election.
The foreshortened calendar has also served to concentrate the negative advertising in the race. While the regionally-recognized candidates need to define themselves (more by their actions than their party affiliations) across the sprawling district, they (and their surrogates) are already spending more time and money undefining each other—complete with ominous tones, distorted voting records and unflattering likenesses.
Perhaps the most resonant existential element of the 23rd CD race is the utter futility of the goal itself. Whoever wins the right to represent New York’s northernmost citizens will immediately have to gear up a defense of the seat in 2010, a tough job, with or without an extended recount. The 2010 election coincides with the decennial census, and the expected loss of two New York congressional seats in the ensuing redistribution. The choice of which districts to eliminate during reapportionment will fall to a state legislature that owes nothing to whichever rookie legislator occupies the seat.
In short, the best scenario that the victor of the November 3rd special election can hope for goes something like this: Beneath heavy Washington skies, following swearing in to the remainder of the 111th Congress, the Distinguished Representative, along with a few other members from terminal districts in Ohio and Pennsylvania will convoke the Jean-Paul Sartre Caucus at a cafe somewhere off DuPont Circle. Over espressos and Gauloises they will grimly deconstruct the lyrics of “Born to Run,” shrug twice, then disappear forever. C’est la vie.
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