As Republicans rally in an effort regain majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, one pick-up they should be able to count on is New York's 23rd District. The basic formula is there. Previous to the Special election to replace John McHugh, a Republican had held that seat for decades. It is still a strongly Republican District. In fact, a Republican should have won the special election as well -- and had it not been for the undermining efforts of Dede Scozzafava, paired with Hoffman's ineptitude as a candidate, a Republican would have. Realistically, this race should be a cakewalk for the Republican nominee.
Except that, just like the Special Election, we're saddled with a Candidate who can neither accept the will of the Republican voters nor see the writing on the wall. But in this episode, instead of being the ill-fated heroes, Hoffman and the New York Conservative Party have turned villain. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Hoffman can't win like this. It doesn't even take a Sixth-grade repeat truant to figure out that, with Hoffman in the race, Doheny can't win either.
So, what's this all about, then? Obviously, it's not about winning. It's clearly not about getting somebody with Conservative fiscal principles in the seat, to be able to stand up to the Obama/Pelosi agenda. It should be about the latter. But if it was, Hoffman would step down and back Doheny as he should. That he won't says there's something else at work. That something else? Mike Long.
Mike Long is the chairman of the Conservative Party of New York (CPNY) -- a group that usually provides an extra line on the ballot for the Republican candidate, but occasionally -- as in the NY23 Special Election -- also provides a balance and alternative. Normally, this is a good thing. But before I get into the intricacies of the Conservative Party's setup, their recent ideological disconnect, and the ultimate reasons that they are playing hardball, I should first mention a couple things.
First is the admission that, yes, I endorsed Hoffman over Scozzafava in the Special Election. Indeed, most of RedState did. Further, I would do it again. Unlike Doheny in this year's election, Dede Scozzafava was selected, not by New York Republican voters, but by the party heads in the district. She was actually to the left of the Democrats' Owens on many issues and, finally, in a TEA party era, I was among the many looking to send a very strong message to the Republican Establishment.
But this ain't '09. This year, the voters got the chance to choose a candidate from among Doug Hoffman and Matt Doheny. In the post I linked above, I outlined how Hoffman lost the first time. It was this, along with my fear that he was in this for the wrong reasons (a fear that has proven itself, I think), and the character and ability of Matt Doheny, which made me not vote Hoffman this time around. Doheny does run a little to the left on some social issues (still to the right of Owens, however), but is actually better than Hoffman on many of those issues which are coming to the forefront now: health care, education, free market values, etc. Doheny was elected -- not selected -- by Republican voters. Hoffman lost. This is why I'm among those calling for him to step down.
Second, it's important to mention the other monkey wrench Mike Long and the Conservative Party have thrown in the NYGOP works this year: The Gubernatorial election. For reasons I stated in an earlier blog, Lazio, in spite of support from the GOP elite and endorsements from the CPNY, managed to lose spectacularly to Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. Like Hoffman, one would hope he ran on principles, with an eye to defeating the Democrat candidate. Like Hoffman, one would hope that, upon losing, Lazio would man up and support his primary opponent to defeat the liberals. And, Like Hoffman, it appears that Lazio has chosen instead to split the vote, all but giftwrapping the election for his Democrat rival.
So, once again: Clearly, it's not about winning. It's not about principle. So what is it about?
Ultimately -- sadly -- it is about Mike Long's ability to keep the CPNY automatically on the ballot for the next four years. To do that, he needs 50,000 votes on the Conservative Party line. To do that, he needs to keep his candidates. And that's really all it is. There are fears, to be sure, that, without those votes the CPNY would fade back into obscurity. Unfounded fears, to be honest, but fears, nonetheless. There are ways back onto the ballot. Ways that don't include undermining the chances of good candidates. Ways that don't include handing elections to the wrong team.
I remember -- can't forget, in fact -- a basketball game I played in the sixth grade. I was a mediocre player, I suppose. Still growing into my height and broad shoulders, I wasn't among the most coordinated of players, and believed I'd never be the hero of any game. That was for the cleft-chinned uber-athletes; not for large but awkward, bumbling left-handers. That night was different, though. I knew it as soon as my hands touched the pocked rubber of that orange ball. I remember clearly the feeling as I stripped the ball from my opponent. The hush -- that righteous silence that filled my ears as I pivoted toward the basket. I remember, it was as if the lane cleared, just for me. This was my moment, and as I dribbled up the court, I knew I wouldn't let myself down. I never once looked for my opponents. They didn't matter. There was me, there was this ball, and there was that net just up ahead. I stopped, the soles of my high-tops squeaking on the hardwood -- I still love that sound -- and hefted the ball. I watched as I released, and as it sailed unerringly toward the goal. Held my breath until the swish of rubber through the net. And smiled a smile that would probably have broken my face had it not been tempered by sudden realization: I'd just had one hell of a play -- for the wrong damned team.
Mike, that ain't glory. When the Dems win -- again -- that easy Congressional seat... when they win the Governor's chair in a race that could have gone to someone who would actually do something about the corruption and ineptitude of Albany... you'll know the feeling well. That brick that settles in the pit of your gut, as the color rises to your cheeks. That small pounding behind your temple as you feel the eyes of those who were counting on you to do the right thing. That knowledge that you could have helped stop the Obama/Pelosi agenda by supporting the right candidate. That knowledge, as the taxes keep going up, and job-creating businesses keep feeling the state, that YOU could have helped change it. No... it's not glory. It's shame, and it's defeat.
But, hey, at least you'll still have that line on the ballot.