Monday, August 31, 2009


Assuming the Senate confirms Rep. John M. McHugh, New York Republican, as President Obama’s secretary of the Army, who will replace him in Congress?

Will it be Dede Scozzafava, a pro-choice, left-of-center Republican in name only and, at this writing, the Republican Party’s pick for this post? Or will it be Doug Hoffman, a successful self-made businessman who is passionate about deregulating commerce and flattening the tax code? Mr. Hoffman already is the nominee of New York’s Conservative Party — a third party that sometimes gets its nominees elected, as when James L. Buckley rode its endorsement into the U.S. Senate in 1970.

Until senators return from summer recess and consider Mr. McHugh’s appointment, Republicans can reconsider their puzzling commitment to Ms. Scozzafava. Her Republican principles seem no deeper than her party-registration card. Ms. Scozzafava has taken campaign cash from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and even the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, a solid-left labor union. She scored a feeble 15 on the Conservative Party’s latest legislative report card. Sheldon Silver, an ultraliberal Manhattan trial lawyer and leader of the State Assembly’s Democrats, earned a 10. Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long notes that in the state legislature, “46 Democrats have voting records more conservative than the Republican pick for Congress.”

Thus, Ms. Scozzafava should be relieved of the nomination she was handed by 11 county Republican chairmen within the 23rd Congressional District. Instead, the party should tap a true Reaganite, namely Mr. Hoffman, who has stepped forward and started to gain support from conservatives up and down the Empire State.

If Ms. Scozzafava remains the party’s standard-bearer, this could become a referendum on the state party, which careened left under former Gov. George E. Pataki, a union-coddling, Bush-lite spendthrift who squandered the party’s and the state’s fortunes. If Mr. Hoffman bests Ms. Scozzafava on the Conservative line, he would expose the state Republican Party as an even emptier shell than it is today.

Of course, a big risk is that Mr. Hoffman and Ms. Scozzafava would split the right, enabling Democratic lawyer Bill Owens to win the seat. That would turn this comfortably Republican constituency into Pelosi country.

Mr. Hoffman scoffs at the easy charge that he is a spoiler.

“I’m not in this to be a spoiler,” he says in an interview in Manhattan. “I can win this election. The North Country is conservative. They’re Republican. If they have a choice of me; a liberal, Nancy Pelosi Democrat; or a big-spending career Albany politician, they are going to choose me.”

Mr. Hoffman is a self-made man who built a successful accounting and financial-planning business with 15 offices in far-northern New York. He also was the comptroller of 1980’s Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Mr. Hoffman handled its $150 million budget (about $392 million today) and is proud to have expanded the payroll from a dozen workers when he arrived to 2,500 paid employees and 2,000 volunteers as the torch was lit.

Appropriately for a Lake Placid resident, Mr. Hoffman is rather low-key and soft-spoken. However, his voice urgently rises when he addresses the ways in which Washington pins down so many of his clients.

“I want to help businesses face less regulation,” he says. “In the more than 30 years I have been advising clients, the most critical problem for them succeeding is increased government regulations, year in and year out. It’s stifling.” Mr. Hoffman added, “Now we’re faced with this ‘cap-and-trade’ bill, which would be a tremendous hurdle for businesses to comply with over the next 10 years. … We’re trying to create jobs. Increasing regulations just destroy jobs. The hurdles just get higher and higher.”

Mr. Hoffman also is no fan of the tax code — something with which, as a certified public accountant, he is excruciatingly familiar.

“Ideally, this is like David trying to slay Goliath,” says Mr. Hoffman, who recently signed Americans for Tax Reform’s no-new-taxes pledge. “The current tax system has been around since the mid-‘50s. It just gets piled higher and deeper. It’s full of regulations and complications. The best way to solve this system is to go with a flat-tax system. No matter what you make, you take the total budget and divide it by the gross domestic product. If that comes out to 15 percent, that’s what everybody pays. That does not burden the poor. If they are making $5,000 or $10,000, they pay 15 percent of that. It does not kill incentives for business, because people know they will be able to make an investment, pay their taxes and still have money left over to keep investing.”

Republican leaders should decide if they would prefer a House nominee who talks this way and thinks like most voters in this 43.1 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic district, or if they rather would stick with their current nominee, a left-wing, pro-choice Republican who accepts Big Labor’s campaign cash. Regardless, Mr Hoffman will be on the ballot, waving the Conservative flag.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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