Conservatives owe Dede Scozzafava a big thank you because her candidacy in New York’s special congressional election has exposed the utter bankruptcy of the “big tent” school of faux Republicanism.
Scozzafava has been a New York Assembly member since 1998 and is now running for New York’s 23rd congressional district seat vacated earlier this year by incumbent Rep. John McHugh’s acceptance of President Barack Obama’s appointment as secretary of the Army.
She is opposed by Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party of New York nominee Doug Hoffman. Surveys show the race is tightening, with Owens and Hoffman battling for the lead and Scozzafava fading in third place.
Scozzafava was selected by local GOP leaders to succeed McHugh. She’s also heavily backed by the Washington, D.C., GOP establishment, led by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, and Michael Steele’s Republican National Committee. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also backs Scozzafava.
Hoffman accepted the Conservative Party nomination after being rejected by the local GOP poobahs. A successful accountant and entrepreneur, he’s backed nationally by a rebellious coalition of insurgent conservative activist groups led by the Club for Growth.
He’s also picked up high-profile endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., former Sens. Fred Thompson and Rick Santorum, and former NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
Hoffman is a Reagan conservative who favors limited government, lower taxes, less regulation and a strong national defense. He’s the classic citizen-politician, having never previously sought public office and wouldn’t be now except for his worry about the country’s direction under Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Scozzafava epitomizes the Republican-In-Name-Only (RINO) phenomena. She supports abortion on demand and special rights based on sexual preference. She’s voted repeatedly in the New York Legislature for higher taxes and more government spending. Even ACORN’s Working Families Party has endorsed her, as has far-left blogger Marcos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos.
The campaign’s pivotal moment came Sunday evening when Scozzafava’s campaign manager — her husband, a local labor leader — called the cops on reporter John McCormack of The Weekly Standard after he persisted in questioning her about her views. The next morning, her press flak accused McCormack of screaming at Scozzafava, then changed his story when the reporter played a tape recording of the encounter for The Associated Press.
Washington, D.C., establishment Republicans claim Scozzafava is the best the party can do in a moderately liberal Northeast district like New York’s 23rd, and at least she will caucus with Republicans in Congress. But if that’s the case, why is she running third? And what difference would it make if she votes against Pelosi for speaker, but then votes for everything Pelosi favors?
Therein lies the fallacy of the big tent: When feckless Republicans embrace RINOs like Scozzafava, the only winners are liberal Democrats like Pelosi, who can then claim “bipartisan” support for higher taxes, more regulation, bigger government and less individual freedom. Conservatives like Hoffman end up isolated and shivering in the cold outside the so-called big tent, unfairly branded as party poopers.
Hoffman may well win Tuesday, but even if he finishes second, ahead of Scozzafava, it will advance the cause of genuinely competitive politics by sending a powerful message to Steele, Sessions and the rest of the Washington, D.C., GOP establishment that their Democrat-Lite game is a loser.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott’s Copy Desk blog on www.washingtonexaminer.com.