Much of the attention for the off-year election next month is being paid to gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, where Republicans stand a chance of winning offices that have been held by Democrats lately. But a special race in New York’s 23rd congressional district may tell us more about how the GOP will — or should — approach next year’s mid-term contests.
The seat, vacated by Republican John McHugh when he was named secretary of the Army, is in a solidly conservative district in far northern New York state. But the GOP’s candidate is a state legislator named Dede Scozzafava with a distinctly liberal voting record. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out in an editorial today:
[Scozzafava] has voted for so many tax increases that the Democrat [in the race] is attacking her as a tax raiser. She supported the Obama stimulus, and she favors “card check” to make union organizing easier, or at least she did until a recent flip-flop. She has run more than once on the line of the Working Families Party, which is aligned with Acorn. Her voting record in Albany puts her to the left of nearly half of the Democrats in the assembly. She also favors gay marriage, which is to the left of [President] Obama.
A Weekly Standard reporter trying to ask her about this record ended up being confronted by police called to the scene by the Scozzafava campaign, which initially claimed that the reporter had been yelling at her but later retracted that accusation. The National Review has editorialized that the “case for rallying around Dede Scozzafava…eludes us.”
Whatever reasons the Republican Party originally had for backing Scozzafava, it needs to learn an important lesson from this episode. Nominating candidates in New England whose more moderate conservatism might not necessarily play well in the South is one thing. But the party so badly missed with the liberal and apparently ill-tempered Scozzafava that it risks losing a seat held by Republicans since the Civil War, according to this article.
GOP candidate recruitment, led in part by Georgia’s Lynn Westmoreland, will have to be vastly better than this if Republicans are to capitalize on anti-Democrat momentum. Otherwise, as the WSJ wrote, “they deserve to wander in the minority for another generation or two.”