So the Democrat won in NY23 yesterday. Very interesting turn of events leading up to it. The Republican candidate, Dierdre Scozzafava, faced with a third place finish, decided to drop out of the race. Then she started getting the phone calls.
Now the White House and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC – the group of politicians responsible for electing Democrats to the House) are always keen to get another House seat. So they started working over Scozzafava. Reportedly the first call came from Steve Israel. He’s part of the DCCC and a House representative from nearby Long Island. He paid her a visit, gave her “the talk”. He was there representing not only the DCCC but the White House and Obama himself.
Then came Sheldon Silver, who is the speaker of the New York Assembly (see: speaker of the state lower house), who spoke to Scozzafava. He is the most powerful state politician, not just Democrat. Then came a call from the future NY govovernor himself: state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. And then the top dog of the state picked up the phone: Chuck Schumer. Schumer is the senior state senator and Vice Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, which makes him the third most powerful Democrat in the US Senate. Which, when you put Obama and Pelosi ahead, makes him the fifth most powerful politician in the land. Getting a call from Schumer is a big deal to any Democrat, but in NY it’s doubly big.
So Scozzafava got all these calls with messages like, I imagine, “I won’t forget this when:
- You’re running for reelection to your former assembly seat.” (Silver – who could not have anyone oppose her, or run her as the Democratic candidate)
- You’re running for election to Congress.” (Israel – who could not oppose her, or fund her as a Democrat)
- I’m appointing state cabinet officials.” (Cuomo – who will need some bipartisan appointments)
- You make it to D.C., or you ever need a favour from the NY kingmaker.” (Schumer)
A day after dropping out, Scozzafava did something that shocked everyone and endorsed the Democratic candidate Bill Owens. Shocking because of how little time there was for the above mentioned people to get her to to do it, and because no one expected her to anyway. But she did, and did so strongly and without wiggle room. It basically said, with a twist of the knife to the GOP, that she was done with her party so long as there was a far-right take-over way going on. And, especially if that’s how she was going to get treated, she might as well throw her lot in with the Dems and hope for the best.
At the end of the day, Cuomo is getting a lot of praise for the turn of Scozzafava, but it was a joint effort no doubt. That the Democrats are praising Cuomo says a lot about who the establishment are backing for the governor race coming.
Anyway, Owens got endorsed and, after the majority of voting has been done, he has won the race against Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman – and right-wing loon – with 49% to 46%. Scozzafava’s name appeared on the ballot. Know what she got? 5% – enough to spoil the party for the GOP and the Conservative Party. And in such a tight race, I am confident in saying that the endorsement was what got Owens over the line. There were likely enough disgruntled Scozzafava supporters that were so irrate with the way the GOP did nothing to support her and threw her under the bus that they threw their support behind the only legitimate politician in the race.
While the Democrats have a few questions to answer themselves (after they lost the governor races in both Virginia and New Jersey – which too much is being made of to begin with), the GOP is faced with the absolute worst scenario that they could have imagined going into the special election for NY23. If Hoffman had won, there would have been a natural shift to the right as that wing of the party is “justified” with their win. If Scozzafava had stayed in and Owens had won, there still would have been a shift to the right as Hoffman beat Scozzafava in vote numbers. But when Scozzafava dropped out and endorsed the Democrat rather than the support the fringe candidate that he opposed, it was like watching someone draw a big fat line down the middle of the GOP that can’t be rubbed out.
The GOP now has to decide, before the 2012 general election (because they won’t have it sorted for the 2010 midterms) if they want to lurch to the right violently or be a legitimate party across the US.