Republican gangs of New York wage civil war

Attempts by Republicans to go “Obama-lite” have backfired disastrously, says Toby Harnden in Washington

Telegraph [UK]
31 Oct 2009

New York state’s 23rd District, which juts into Canada and is bordered by the People’s Republic of Vermont, would seem an unlikely battleground for the heart, soul and future of the Republican party.

It is, however, home to the United States Army’s 10th Mountain Division, which has distinguished itself in Afghanistan, and for this latest conflict there has been no shortage of reinforcements.

On Tuesday, the 23rd’s voters will turn out to decide who will be their next member of the House of Representatives. The contest was set up by President Barack Obama when he picked John McHugh, the district’s moderate Republican congressman, to be his Army Secretary Army.

Instead of a quiet, local election taking place, Republican big guns like Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich – all potential 2012 presidential candidates – have weighed in and the 23rd is awash with outside cash funding attack ads.

Eleven county Republican chairs decided to select Assemblywoman Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava, who backs abortion rights, favours gay marriage and supported Mr Obama’s economic stimulus plan, to run to succeed Mr McHugh. Local rules meant that there was to be no primary.

Although Republicans have held the 23rd’s House seat since 1871, Tuesday’s election was never going to be a cakewalk. President George W. Bush won narrowly in the 23rd in 2000 and 2004 but Mr Obama was a five-point victor there a year ago.
The local Republican bosses feared that the district was trending to the Left and that a conservative candidate might alienate swing voters. What has happened, however, is what conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has described as a “teachable moment”.

Incensed by being passed over by the party bosses, a diffident businessman called Doug Hoffman decided to run as a Conservative Party candidate. He shouldn’t have had a prayer but polls indicated he was neck and neck with Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate. Mrs Scozzafava, in third place and sinking fast, pulled out of the race on Saturday, all but guaranteeing Mr Hoffman will be elected.

The article continues at the Telegraph.

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