English novelist George Eliot once penned the following: "Iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress." Albert Einstein famously quipped, "insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
There are more than a few famous quotes on the destructive nature inherent in the repetition of foolish behavior. What is to be said for the way in which the Republican Party is actively pursuing a repeat of last November's special election for NY's 23rd Congressional District? If you were outraged at Dede Scozzafava, wait until you see their latest candidate, Matt Doheny.
It was merely ten short months ago that the nation was held captive by events surrounding the special election for NY's 23rd Congressional District. We saw the ascendancy of conservative Doug Hoffman and the rejection of the progressive establishment Republican and SEIU-Working Families candidate Dede Scozzafava. The contest ended with a narrow victory of 3,000 votes for Democrat Bill Owens, who won as a result of Dede Scozzafava draining 5% of the vote. In the aftermath, conservatives caught a glimpse of what they hoped was a moment of clarity from Republicans when high-ranking Republican leaders such as John Boehner openly regretted their support for Dede Scozzafava's candidacy. Convinced of their sincerity, conservatives moved on, but did the GOP?
Seemingly, Hoffman's strong grassroots support, national attention, and narrow defeat should have ensured him the confidence of the county Republican leaders for the November elections.
It did not.
Although Doug Hoffman had been seeking the Republican candidacy since his defeat in 2009, the local party leaders sought out a primary challenger. By last April, NY-23's Matt Doheny had secured nine out of eleven endorsements from county Republicans. The Republican committees never contacted Doug Hoffman for a meeting, citing a variety of excuses. David Sickler, Republican Chairman for the Ogdensburg City Republican Committee, intimated the intentions for the committees' decision in an opinion essay for a local newspaper. To summarize, Mr. Sickler came up with two important reasons for backing Matt Doheny. He felt that Doheny was the more rounded candidate. More importantly, he and his contemporaries still harbored a grudge against Doug Hoffman for having bucked Scozzafava's coronation. The local kingmakers desired a more...loyal candidate. If Republicans are looking for a loyalist, then Doheny is their Manchurian Candidate in disguise. He proved himself to be quite the party lapdog by going along with the candidacy of Dede Scozzafava and financially supporting her election bid with the highest donation allowed by law. Stepping even further, he turned down the chance to run on the Conservative Party ticket ahead of Doug Hoffman, sacrificing his so-called conservative ideals in exchange for not "alienating the Republican Party." Amid questions stemming from his contributions and support of Dede Scozzafava, Mr. Doheny has brazenly shown unrepentant solidarity with his Republican handlers and adamantly maintains no regrets in supporting Scozzafava's candidacy. Absent too, is any criticism of Dede Scozzafava's liberal views. The omission raises the question: if Doheny is in fact a different candidate from Dede, why wouldn't he be critical of her views? The truth is that Dede Scozzafava may actually be a better candidate than Matt Doheny. While Matt certainly appears to have superior qualifications, the lawyer-turned-banker has an extremely flawed past. Earlier this month, Matt Doheny admitted to having been charged with two separate BUI convictions two weeks apart from each other. During one of Doheny's altercations with the Coast Guard, he became so belligerent that he needed to be restrained with handcuffs. The charges weren't just some mild, youthful indiscretion from twenty years ago; this happened in 2004. Highlighting perhaps both a lack of judgment and character, records show that Doheny was sued twice for rent evasion at two separate apartments as recently as 2005.
Matt may be articulate and affable, but his past trouble with the law is not going to play well in an election where voters are particularly sensitive to their candidates' ethical fiber. Did the Republican leadership even bother vetting this candidate?
I attempted to contact Matt Doheny's campaign and several Republican Committee Chairmen to determine whether Matt had informed them of his criminal convictions prior to receiving the Republican endorsement. I received no comment. However, they say actions speak louder than words, and local Republican bosses are still flocking to Doheny's camp. Last week, former NY-23 congressman David Martin endorsed Doheny and, in a show of solidarity with the party elite, defended the party chairman's political decision-making. The unrepentant GOP is not unique to NY-23, either. In NY's 1st congressional district, Chairman Ed Cox continues to push his son's candidacy over conservative and district favorite Randy Altschuler at the expense of losing an opportunity to unseat three-term Democrat Tim Bishop.
While the September primaries will likely resolve the Republicans' mistake in NY-1, the damage has already been done in the case of NY-23. Given NY's proclivity for third-party ballot lines, Matt's name will appear on the Independence Party ticket, and Doug Hoffman on the Conservative line, despite the Republican primary outcome. The flagrant hatred exhibited by Republican leaders for Hoffman makes it hard to believe that party bosses could unite under Doug Hoffman's potential candidacy. Thus, another three-way race is brewing in NY-23, and the possibility for the district to shed its sickly shade of blue is quickly slipping out of reach.
Republicans hope to flip as many as eight NY seats in their bid to retake Congress and halt the Obama agenda. In a state as blue as NY, every race counts, which makes the unrepentant Republicans in NY-23 all the more culpable. By never recognizing or admitting their mistakes with Dede Scozzafava, they have repeated their mistakes in their support of Matt Doheny.
Despite numerous opportunities to change course over the last year, NY-23's Republican kingmakers have made it clear that they are not asking for forgiveness. It demands the question: how long will this NY-23 story repeat itself, and where will it happen next?