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Scozzafava Quits; Hoffman and Owens Have Furious Run To The Finish

Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava did something that was unthinkable just weeks ago.  Saturday morning, she quit the race for Congress from the 23rd district, a race that she was favored to win when the Republican party made her its candidate.

Scozzafava gave in to the reality of polls, the most recent of which was revealed on Saturday, showing Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Doug Hoffman in a virtual tie.  She also obviously gave in to the will of her party, which appears to have decided that if she can’t win, then Hoffman must.

“It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so,” she wrote in a letter to supporters released Saturday morning. “On Election Day my name will appear on the ballot, but victory is unlikely.”

She did not urge her supporters to vote for Hoffman, who has attacked her relentlessly during the campaign.  A statement from Republican leaders of the House, however, was direct: ““With Assemblywoman Scozzafava suspending her campaign, we urge voters to support Doug Hoffman’s candidacy in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.”

A statement from Owens’ campaign on Scozzafava’s departure was gracious, calling her “an honorable public servant for years now and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her commitment to her principles.”

Hoffman’s statement was more aggressive, not mentioning Scozzafava and saying he’d been right to say it was a two-person race. Owens and his supporters, the statement said, “are flooding the district with troops and they are flooding the airwaves with a million dollars worth of negative ads. They are throwing mud; they are trying to stop me.”

The Siena Research Institute poll, released Saturday morning, gives Owens a 36-35% lead over Hoffman, with Scozzafava at 20%.  Just four weeks earlier, Scozzafava held a 35-28% lead over Owens, with Hoffman’s 16% showing looking like the typical outcome for a third party candidate. (Details on the poll here.)

But Hoffman became a cause for national conservatives, who poured money and support into his campaign.  His numbers rose as he flooded the airwaves with commercials.

Owens has also enjoyed a fat bank account and has used it to keep his numbers rising steadily, if by smaller amounts than Hoffman.

Hoffman, according to the Siena poll, does the best among the three candidates in the southern part of the district.  Oswego County makes up the vast majority of that region.  It’s one  reason Hoffman opened a campaign office in Fulton this past week and was scheduled to make three campaign stops in Fulton and Granby on Saturday, two of them with moderate ex-Governor George Pataki.

Hoffman pulls 44% of the vote in the Siena poll in Oswego, Madison and Oneida counties.  Owens has a strong lead in the far northern counties that are closest to his Plattsburgh home, while Scozzafava holds the plurality of voters in her home area of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties.

“Who will win is too close to call, however, 37 percent of voters, irrespective of who they’re supporting, say they think Owens will win, compared to 22 percent who think Hoffman will win and 20 percent who think Scozzafava will win,” Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said.  The poll and Greenberg’s comments came before Scozzafava’s decision to quit the race.

A major focus of the race will now be wooing Scozzafava’s supporters, most of whom are Republicans but tend to favor Owens more than Hoffman, according to one poll. (Edited — see comments below.)

A local of the United Auto Workers union, which had been backing Scozzafava, is now supporting Owens.  The New York State Independence Party also shifted its support to Owens, though the Jefferson County branch of the party changed its backing to Hoffman on Friday.

The two men have a wild last few days ahead.  Monday, Hoffman will take part in a rally featuring country music star John Rich of the duo Big & Rich, while Owens campaigns with Vice President Joe Biden.

3 Comments

  1. Obviosly Doug Hoffman has taken a good reading of the pulse of the people as evident by his recent surge in the polls. He’s built a head of steam that put him dead even with liberal democtat Bill Owens and forced the ultra-liberal republican nominee out of the race putting him in excellent position to walk away with the the victory. One question for reporter Dave Bullard. You say one poll suggests that more republicans favor democrat Owens. Which poll was that? Please provide us a link. Thank you.

  2. Brett:

    That sentence was based on a misreading of the Research 2000 poll (one of the problems with high speed reporting in the internet age). The poll asked for the second choices of Hoffman supporters, not Scozzafava supporters.

    The sentence has been edited and a note left to this correction.

    Thanks, Brett, for finding that.

    -Dave

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