by Kevin Theis
In case you missed it, the drama unfolding in New York State's 23rd District is- for political junkies- the equivalent of pure, uncut heroin.
Here's the Reader's Digest version: New York's 23rd is a solidly Republican district. They haven't elected a Democrat to Congress since the 1800's. So when the Republicans nominated Dede Scozzafava to run for the seat, it seemed a done deal. The Democrats put up a guy named Bill Owens, but nobody seriously expected Owens to win. And that was that.
Well, not quite. See, Ms. Scozzafava has one little problem: she does not hew to the GOP party line. She has her own opinions about abortion (she's pro-choice) and same-sex marriage (she's pro-marriage equality) and these opinions, among others, caused some of the more extreme elements of the Republican party to question whether or not she truly represented Republican values (she doesn't, thank God). Their decision? Put up a third-party "Conservative" candidate, Doug Hoffman.
Now, Hoffman- he's a party animal. As The Atlantic describes him, he says "no to gay marriage, no to abortion, no to tax hikes, yes to strong defense, no on the stimulus bill, no to cap and trade." In short, a GoOPer's wet dream. Sure, he doesn't actually live in the district or have any awareness of the issues facing voters in the 23rd district. But who cares? He doesn't like gay people and wants to stop women from exercising control over their bodies and that's all that really counts, isn't it?
So Hoffman is tapped to run against Scozzafava and Owens and the minute that happens, the GOP starts to fracture. Half of the wingnuts- and we're talking about the far right of the party- gravitate to Hoffman. These endorsements come from from such GOP luminaries as Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Fred "Sleepy" Thompson, Gary Bauer, Dick Armey, Rick "Santorum" Santorum and Steve Forbes. (Frankly, if that group endorsed me, I'd leap off a bridge.)
Scozzafava, however, was backed by the party-line guys. Newt Gingrich and Michael Steele (the GOP Chairman) were duty-bound to back the party's candidate, albeit tepidly. And so the race was on.
Immediately benefiting from this fracture was, of course, Democrat Bill Owens. Nothing like a little opposition party friction to boost your campaign, right? According to last week's polling, Owens was running a little ahead of Scozzafava and a lot ahead of Hoffman.
But that was last week. This week, two political shockers arrived: first, Scozzafava announced that she was suspending her campaign. The immediate thought was: kiss it good-bye Owens. This election is over.
But then the second half of the shocker arrived: Republican Scozzafava was endorsing...the Democrat. Owens was getting Scozzafava's backing and Hoffman was offered the opportunity to go pound sand.
So now...it's really on. All three candidates will appear on the ballot tomorrow. Supporters are pouring cash into the race. And by tomorrow night, New York's 23rd will either have a Conservative Party Congressman or the first Democratic Congressman in over a hundred years.
Should be fun.