RNC-backed Scozzafava drops out of NY #23 Congressional race

The move comes on the heels of a new poll that showed Republican Dede Scozzafava had fallen behind her two competitors in a race too close

October 31, 2009

Republican state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava has suspended her campaign for upstate New York’s 23rd Congressional District seat, giving a possible boost to Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman against Democrat Bill Owens, Fox News has confirmed.

The move comes on the heels of a new poll that showed Scozzafava had fallen behind her two competitors in a close race.

The special election is Tuesday, and political analysts believe upstate New York could be a preview of congressional races nationwide in 2010 and 2012 as Republican leaders struggle to rebuild, redefine and regain control of Washington.

The Siena College poll has Owens picking up 36 percent of the vote, while Hoffman has 35 percent. Scozzafava has 20 percent, with nine percent of voters undecided.

It’s a turnaround from the first Siena poll on the race in September, which had Scozzafava leading, followed by Owens and Hoffman.

Scozzafava’s team pulled the plug on the campaign after viewing the Siena poll, sources told Fox News, adding that there was no pressure from the National Republican Congressional Committee or the Republican National Committee.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for the NRCC, said Scozzafava will now release her supporters to vote for Hoffman.

That endorsement will set in motion phone banks, voter e-mails and other NRCC ground operations for Hoffman, GOP sources told Fox News, adding that the NRCC may also provide money for TV and radio ads if any slots are available and the campaign needs them.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions announced their endorsement for Hoffman shortly after Scozzafava dropped out of the race.

“He is the only active candidate in the race who supports lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and opposes Nancy Pelosi’s agenda of government-run healthcare, more government and less jobs,” they said.

“We look forward to welcoming Doug Hoffman into the House Republican Conference as we work together for the good of our nation,” they added.

Scozzafava, in a letter to supporters published by the Watertown Daily Times, attributed her decision to her poor standing in the polls and a lack of money.

“In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be,” she wrote.

“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 — and as I’ve been outspent on both sides, I’ve been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record,” she said.

Scozzafava didn’t endorse either of the remaining candidates, opting instead to allow her supporters make their own choice.

“It is my hope that with my actions today, my party will emerge stronger and our district and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations,” she said.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a written statement that he “respects” Scozzafava’s decision that will allow the RNC to endorse and support Hoffman.

“This selfless act of releasing her supporters provides voters with the opportunity to unite around a candidate who shares Republican principles and will serve the interests of his constituents in Congress by standing in opposition to the liberal policies of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi,” he said.

In a written statement, Owens praised Scozzafava for her record and commitment to her principles before taking aim at Hoffman.

“Voters have a clear choice on Tuesday: they can elect to go back to the George Bush economic agenda, or they can vote to move forward,” he said. “While Doug Hoffman is solely committed to continuing tax cuts for the wealthy which will add $500 billion to the deficit, protecting tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas, and privatizing Social Security, I will fight to turn the page on that agenda.”

The district has been a Republican stronghold since the Civil War. Republican John McHugh held the seat for years until President Obama chose him in June to serve as Army secretary.

Scozzafava was the pick of local party leaders and prominent GOP conservative Newt Gingrich to replace McHugh. But her support of abortion rights and gay rights had put her on the defensive.

Meanwhile Hoffman, a wealthy accountant, has been gaining support from big Republican backers, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson.

“He’s not a career politician,” Thompson said in an ad for Hoffman. “Doug’s like us. A concerned neighbor who’s just had enough.”

“I feel that the Republican nominee doesn’t reflect the Republican ideals and values,” Hoffman said. “As a lifelong conservative — Ronald Reagan Republican — I’ve always been taught that less government and less taxes and less spending and protecting our personal freedoms and helping free enterprise survive and flourish — that’s what the Republican Party stood for.”

But some Republicans had accused Hoffman of being a spoiler who could steal enough votes from Scozzafava to allow the first Democrat in generations to win the region.

Fox News’ Carl Cameron, Major Garrett, Rick Levanthal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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