Being Right: The Battle for Real Conservatism

John Lyon

Although it is an off year for national elections, Upstate New York is consumed by a special Congressional election that is garnering nationwide attention. The election is in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which covers much of rural New York. Most notably for Colgate, the district includes all of Madison County. While Barack Obama carried the district in the 2008 election, it continues to lean Republican. Moderate Republican John McHugh represented the district for nine terms. However, after winning in the 2008 election, McHugh vacated his seat to become Secretary of the Army under President Obama. Thus, Governor David Paterson mandated that a special election be held on Tuesday, November 3rd to fill the House seat.

It is this special election that has generated national recognition. The Democratic Bill Owens is a Plattsburgh, New York lawyer. Owens has received considerable support from the Obama administration and prominent Congressional Democrats. He is a Nancy Pelosi Democrat who pushes the Obama party line. The Republicans sought to find a moderate candidate that would draw in conservative Democrats. The New York State party bosses came up with Dede Scozzafava of Gouverneur, New York. This is where the fun begins. Scozzafava has proven to be more and more liberal over the course of the election, and the core of the Republican Party is outraged by her policies.

The counts against Scozzafava are many. She has served in the lower house of the New York State Legislature, the Assembly, for the last ten years. In this period, Scozzafava voted for the Assembly’s numerous tax increases that have destroyed business activity in Upstate New York. She supports abortion in all cases. She supports same-sex marriage, which puts her to the left of President Obama. During her Assembly election campaigns, the Working Families Party endorsed Ms. Scozzafava. The Working Families Party, the modern equivalent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, also endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 election and has close ties to the political activist group ACORN. Scozzafava has also received the endorsement of the New York State United Teachers, an organization aimed mainly at destroying the education system in New York. She is a professional politician with no sense of business life in Upstate New York. Her background gives no indication that she supports any Republican initiatives. If a Conservative had to choose between Bill Owens and Dede Scozzafava in the special election, Owens would be the better option.

The failure of the Republican Party to nominate a Conservative candidate has created two-candidate, one platform bloc in the election. Thus, the field has opened for a third-party candidate named Doug Hoffman. Hoffman was passed over for the Republican nomination. Once he discovered how liberal Scozzafava’s policies really were, Hoffman defected and launched his own campaign on the Conservative Party ticket. Hoffman is a businessman from Lake Placid, New York who supports lowering taxes, wants to reduce government spending and opposes government-run health care. Hoffman also opposes gay marriage and is an ardent pro-lifer. In essence, Hoffman aligns himself with the traditional Republican platform that the Republican candidate in the race opposes.

Hoffman is siphoning Republican votes away from Scozzafava, and he has run within ten points of both main party candidates throughout the campaign. In the most recent polls, Hoffman has pulled ahead of Scozzafava and Owens. Polling numbers show Hoffman at 31 percent and Owens and Scozzafava trailing with 27 and 20 percent, respectively. The low percentages for all three candidates and the high number of undecided voters indicate that the race is still wide open. Yet there is a definite chance that Hoffman can win the election.

In the United States, or any other single-member, simple plurality system, it is very rare for a third party to pose any challenge in national elections. Voters will not back a candidate outside the two-party system because they do not perceive him or her as being a viable winner. In spite of this phenomenon, Doug Hoffman is leading the race in the special election outside of the two-party system. He is doing so for one simple reason: Hoffman is not actually a third party candidate. He is a second party candidate in a race where the two main parties have converged onto one platform. Anyone who believes there is any real difference between Scozzafava and Owens is blinded by partisanship. Both support the liberal agenda of President Obama. Hoffman provides the only option in the race for true

modern Conservatives.

The 23rd Congressional District exposes the current problem with the Republican Party. The GOP has not been able to run candidates that appeal to the party base. It is more concerned with finding candidates that are “elect-able” and less concerned with finding candidates that stand for traditional party values of the free market. When Doug Hoffman wins on November 3rd, he will provide a wakeup call to Republican leaders. The only “elect-able” candidates for the Republican Party are those who stand true to the Conservative values. For today’s America, Conservative principles of free market and liberty resonate deeper than ever.