Is History Repeating Itself in New York?

The New York State GOP establishment may be on the precipice of handing another Congressional seat to the Democrats, as it did less than 2 years ago.

In November 2009, New York's 23rd Congressional District held a special election to fill the seat vacated by GOP Congressman John McHugh. NY Republicans promptly set off a national melee when they nominated for Dede Scozzafava, a state legislator whose "Republican" credentials included steadfast support for same-sex marriage,  a "Margaret Sanger Award" from Planned Parenthood, and support for the President Obama's 2009 "stimulus" spending.   The list goes on.

The New York Conservative Party, furious with Scozzofava's odd resemblance to an Obama Democrat at a time when Obama Democrats were beginning to sound like Reagan Republicans, nominated Doug Hoffman, a bona fide conservative.  The race went national, as did the debate over conservatism in the GOP.   Democrat Bill Owens won the election by 2.3%, thanks to an endorsement by Scozzafava herself, who quit the race shortly before the election and supported Owens.  (Scozzafava, having returned to the state legislature, declined to seek re-election in 2010 and endorsed the Democrat in that race, also. The Democrat won then, too.)

Aside from exposing Scozzofava as an unprincipled opportunist, the special election in NY-23 opened eyes to the New York GOP's horrendous inclination to run candidates capable of losing races that GOP candidates shouldn't lose, frequently spending millions upon millions of dollars in the lost cause.  In spite of a Tea Party uprising and an anti-Obama, conservative grassroots renewal across the country, the Republican establishment opted in 2009 for an establishment shill who did nothing but turn off conservative voters.  As a result, it left an untold share of the GOP base disheartened and annoyed, many permanently so.

A lot has changed since November 2009, but it's hard to tell whether the state GOP has taken notice. 

Last month, the freaky shirtless Craigslist poseur Congressman in NY-26, Christopher Lee, resigned.  A special election will happen soon, and Republicans have already nominated Jane Corwin, another member of the state assembly. Like Scozzofava, Corwin embodies the kind of soul-sucking ennui that defines the "Rockefeller Republican" in New York.   Which is to say that she's boring enough to lose.

There's a huge opportunity for the state Conservative Party to weigh in and end Corwin's coronation, thanks to the candidacy of David Bellavia, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who recently announced that he's formed an Exploratory Committee.  Bellavia's military sacrifice and conservatives principles match those of other many other veterans who recently won election to Congress. And like most other veterans, his campaign promises are more than scripted talking points. He's says he's a conservative, and he means it.

Formally speaking, the Conservative Party's decision rests with its local committee members. But the reality is that Michael Long, the longstanding state party Chairman, holds veto power over the locals' choice.   In other words, Chairman Long can turn this race into a re-hash of the Dede/Hoffman show.

Will he? Do conservative voters count? Let's hope so.

Long has criticized Bellavia for joining the race "a little bit late," according to the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner.  (Of course he did, Mr. Chairman.  The nomination process was designed by party insiders to exclude candidates like Bellavia.)  And the Erie County conservative chair appears to be lukewarm toward Bellavia.

NY-26 is a critical opportunity for conservatives in New York.  In this overwhelmingly Democratic state, conservative ideas are surging.  The state's bankrupt thanks to decades of taxing and spending and a mass exodus of net contributors to the state economy, and voters are even staking out rational positions on unions and public spending

Now is not the time for another unelectable party hack.  Conservative voters -- including those in New York -- have shown that the Tea Party and the backlash against President Obama aren't fads, or flights of activist fancy.  The Tea Party matters everywhere.  The GOP establishment here may have long ago relinquished any claim to the "conservative" mantle in New York. That isn't news.   But can the Conservative Party - which has itself been criticized as outmoded and too old - seize the reins?   Will conservatives matter?  

Even in New York, there's hope.

Bill Lalor is a former Congressional campaign manager, and attorney in Manhattan and Executive Director of
Repeal Obamacare PAC. 
The New York State GOP establishment may be on the precipice of handing another Congressional seat to the Democrats, as it did less than 2 years ago.

In November 2009, New York's 23rd Congressional District held a special election to fill the seat vacated by GOP Congressman John McHugh. NY Republicans promptly set off a national melee when they nominated for Dede Scozzafava, a state legislator whose "Republican" credentials included steadfast support for same-sex marriage,  a "Margaret Sanger Award" from Planned Parenthood, and support for the President Obama's 2009 "stimulus" spending.   The list goes on.

The New York Conservative Party, furious with Scozzofava's odd resemblance to an Obama Democrat at a time when Obama Democrats were beginning to sound like Reagan Republicans, nominated Doug Hoffman, a bona fide conservative.  The race went national, as did the debate over conservatism in the GOP.   Democrat Bill Owens won the election by 2.3%, thanks to an endorsement by Scozzafava herself, who quit the race shortly before the election and supported Owens.  (Scozzafava, having returned to the state legislature, declined to seek re-election in 2010 and endorsed the Democrat in that race, also. The Democrat won then, too.)

Aside from exposing Scozzofava as an unprincipled opportunist, the special election in NY-23 opened eyes to the New York GOP's horrendous inclination to run candidates capable of losing races that GOP candidates shouldn't lose, frequently spending millions upon millions of dollars in the lost cause.  In spite of a Tea Party uprising and an anti-Obama, conservative grassroots renewal across the country, the Republican establishment opted in 2009 for an establishment shill who did nothing but turn off conservative voters.  As a result, it left an untold share of the GOP base disheartened and annoyed, many permanently so.

A lot has changed since November 2009, but it's hard to tell whether the state GOP has taken notice. 

Last month, the freaky shirtless Craigslist poseur Congressman in NY-26, Christopher Lee, resigned.  A special election will happen soon, and Republicans have already nominated Jane Corwin, another member of the state assembly. Like Scozzofava, Corwin embodies the kind of soul-sucking ennui that defines the "Rockefeller Republican" in New York.   Which is to say that she's boring enough to lose.

There's a huge opportunity for the state Conservative Party to weigh in and end Corwin's coronation, thanks to the candidacy of David Bellavia, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who recently announced that he's formed an Exploratory Committee.  Bellavia's military sacrifice and conservatives principles match those of other many other veterans who recently won election to Congress. And like most other veterans, his campaign promises are more than scripted talking points. He's says he's a conservative, and he means it.

Formally speaking, the Conservative Party's decision rests with its local committee members. But the reality is that Michael Long, the longstanding state party Chairman, holds veto power over the locals' choice.   In other words, Chairman Long can turn this race into a re-hash of the Dede/Hoffman show.

Will he? Do conservative voters count? Let's hope so.

Long has criticized Bellavia for joining the race "a little bit late," according to the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner.  (Of course he did, Mr. Chairman.  The nomination process was designed by party insiders to exclude candidates like Bellavia.)  And the Erie County conservative chair appears to be lukewarm toward Bellavia.

NY-26 is a critical opportunity for conservatives in New York.  In this overwhelmingly Democratic state, conservative ideas are surging.  The state's bankrupt thanks to decades of taxing and spending and a mass exodus of net contributors to the state economy, and voters are even staking out rational positions on unions and public spending

Now is not the time for another unelectable party hack.  Conservative voters -- including those in New York -- have shown that the Tea Party and the backlash against President Obama aren't fads, or flights of activist fancy.  The Tea Party matters everywhere.  The GOP establishment here may have long ago relinquished any claim to the "conservative" mantle in New York. That isn't news.   But can the Conservative Party - which has itself been criticized as outmoded and too old - seize the reins?   Will conservatives matter?  

Even in New York, there's hope.

Bill Lalor is a former Congressional campaign manager, and attorney in Manhattan and Executive Director of
Repeal Obamacare PAC. 

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