The bizarre race for Congress from Oswego County and the North Country takes its final twists today.
Doug Hoffman and Bill Owens race to the finish line accompanied by political and entertainment celebrities, in a contest that has become as much about the future of the Republican party as it is about our local representative to Congress.
Both campaigns were energized by Republican Dede Scozzafava’s surprise decision Saturday morning to quit the race. Hoffman immediately received the backing of the Republican party hierarchy, along with the support he’d already gotten from national conservatives. Owens picked up the pace of his campaigning as well, hoping to scoop up more of Scozzafava’s voters.
Saturday, Scozzafava stayed neutral, telling her supporters to vote as they saw fit.
But Sunday, after Owens issued a gracious statement honoring her run and Hoffman issued a statement that didn’t mention her at all, and as labor unions that had backed her began to line up behind Owens (including a labor group run by her husband), Scozzafava stepped off the sideline.
“I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not in the cards for me to be your representative, but I strongly believe Bill is the only candidate who can build upon John McHugh’s lasting legacy in the U.S. Congress. John and I worked together on the expansion of Fort Drum and I know how important that base is to the economy of this region. I am confident that Bill will be able to provide the leadership and continuity of support to Drum Country just as John did during his tenure in Congress.
In Bill Owens, I see a sense of duty and integrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship. He will be an independent voice devoted to doing what is right for New York. Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.
Please join me in voting for Bill Owens on Tuesday. To address the tough challenges ahead, we must rise above partisanship and politics and work together. There’s too much at stake in this election to do otherwise.”
Owens thanked Scozzafava for her backing, while Hoffman’s campaign denounced her for “betray(ing) the GOP. She endorsed a Pelosi Democrat who will spend more, tax more, and push the liberal agenda that is dragging down this nation.” Hoffman’s campaign called her a sell-out.
Republicans, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Scozzafava’s own former spokesman (who works for the national Republican party), expressed disappointment in her decision and supported Hoffman.
The race had highlighted the split inside a Republican party between conservatives and moderates.Ã‚Â Scozzafava’s candidacy had been seen as a victory for moderates, because of her support for abortion, same-sex marriage and the Obama stimulus plan.
But conservatives bucked the party and lined up with Hoffman.Ã‚Â Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was the most prominent of a host of conservatives to lend backing.
Republicans in the House of Representatives promised to get Hoffman a seat on the House Armed Services Committee if he’s elected.
Hoffman stumbled on the military issue. He promised to refuse all earmarks, but Owens pointed out that earmarks (money in the federal budget that is controlled by an individual Congressman for local purposes) saved and expanded Fort Drum near Watertown, the region’s largest employer and source of economic growth.
Today, Hoffman appears at an evening get-out-the-vote rally with former Presidential candidate and actor Fred Thompson and with John Rich of the country music duo Big & Rich.
Owens holds an early rally with Vice President Joe Biden, then hits the road for some final handshaking stops.