Two weeks ago, when Minority Leader John A. Boehner was leading the House move to eliminate federal funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, he also declared war on those politicians who have benefited from the largess of ACORN’s political arm.
“I think this [cutting off ACORN’s federal funding] will have a chilling effect on their election activities and anyone that has a relationship with them,” Mr. Boehner asserted.
Yet within an hour, Mr. Boehner was orchestrating support for the Republican nominee for the Nov. 3 special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District - liberal state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who has a long and close relationship with ACORN’s political front. (The special election was set after the Obama White House named Republican Rep. John M. McHugh to be secretary of the Army.)
Three times Mrs. Scozzafava has run for the Assembly on ACORN’s Working Families Party line, appearing with John Kerry in 2004 and President Obama last year. The left-wing political Web site the Daily Kos has endorsed her for Congress - and with good reason. She is pro-card check, pro-abortion and twice voted in the Assembly to legalize gay marriage.
When upstate businessman Doug Hoffman, a lifelong Republican, learned just how liberal Mrs. Scozzafava’s record is, he won the New York Conservative Party’s nomination to oppose Mrs. Scozzafava and Democrat lawyer Bill Owens, who enjoys the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Mr. Hoffman, an accountant, is running against congressional pork earmarks and corporate bailouts and massive federal deficits. “If ever there was a time when we need people in Congress who can read a balance sheet, it is now,” he declares. Mr. Hoffman grew up in the Adirondacks, working from age 8 to help support his single-mother family. Today, he and his children have small businesses throughout the 23rd district.
Conservatives like American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene say they are puzzled that National Republican Congressional Committee operatives are pouring massive efforts into Mrs. Scozzafava’s campaign. NRCC Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions says it’s because Mrs. Scozzafava would one day vote for Mr. Boehner for speaker, as if the lifelong Republican Hoffman would not.
But in the district, polls show Mrs. Scozzafava has nothing approaching a lock on this election. One poll shows Mrs. Scozzafava with a narrow lead. A Club for Growth poll shows the candidates in a three-way split for support with a large batch of undecideds. And this is before planned Mr. Hoffman ad buys to contrast his record with that of Mrs. Scozzafava and Mr. Owens.
A John McLaughlin poll, conducted for the campaign, also shows a close race, but one question reveals why Mr. Hoffman has every chance of winning the seat. Last year the 23rd district voted narrowly for Mr. Obama. But this year the McLaughlin poll shows 56 percent of likely voters want to elect a conservative Republican. Only 24 percent said they would vote for a Democrat. A minuscule 8 percent said they wanted a liberal Republican.
One political insider says this race will be a real test of the strength of the conservative movement. “If Hoffman can raise enough money to really get on the air, there is no way politicians with the records of Scozzafava and Owens can win.”
Meanwhile, NRCC leaders are boasting that concern over the Obama economy is resulting in a wave of contributions to help the Republican Party regain the House in 2010. Little do those contributors know that at least some of their money is flowing to a New York liberal with the kind of record Washington Republicans are vowing to defeat.
Kenneth Tomlinson is the former editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest.