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New York's 23rd District

By Scott Tibbs, November 11, 2009

A special election in New York to fill a vacant seat in Congress that normally would have flown under the radar instead became a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. After the GOP establishment picked a Leftist to fill the Republican spot on the ticket, Doug Hoffman decided to run on the Conservative Party ticket to give voters a choice. After Hoffman was endorsed by 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin endorsed him, the Hoffman candidacy really caught fire and the "Republican" dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat.

Bill OwensDemocrat64,88049.43%
Doug HoffmanConservative59,06745.00%
Dede ScozzafavaRepublican7,3155.57%

What this shows is that conservatism is in an ascendency. A Gallup Poll last summer found that 40% of Americans identified themselves as conservative, 35% identified themselves as moderate, and only 21% identified themselves as liberal. There was national excitement over Doug Hoffman's candidacy.

Hyper-partisan Republicans love to argue that we cannot vote against every candidate simply because we have "minor" differences on issues. The major flaw here is that Scozzafava was far to the Left of the Republican base on a number of core issues. Let's lay down some political reality here. It is simply not possible to vote for a candidate you agree with 100% of the time. I have only done that one time in my life, when I voted for myself for Bloomington Township Board in 2006. There will always be areas where we disagree with candidates of our chosen political party.

The breaking point comes when someone is so far to the Left that there is little or no difference between the Republican candidate and his Democratic opponent. We saw this in Monroe County seven years ago, when Libertarian candidate Jim Billingsley won the support of a small but significant number of Republicans in a three-way contest against David Sabbagh and Peggy Welch. Sabbagh had voted to give Planned Parenthood a handout from taxpayer dollars four years in a row at that point, and would go on to sponsor the "gender identity" ordinance in 2006. The primary questions to ask are these: How much difference is too much? What are the core issues?

Rush Limbaugh and others have criticized the national Republican Party for supporting Scozzafava over Hoffman. While I disagreed with that decision, I expect the party establishment will always back the GOP candidate. After all, that is what they are paid to do. The party bosses erred and deserve criticism for selecting a Leftist RINO, but not for supporting that RINO over a candidate from another political party. Only in extremely rare and unusual cases would I expect the GOP establishment (especially party officers) to support a non-Republican candidate.

This race is a huge shot across the bow to "moderate" country club Republicans, who should be put on notice that the GOP base is not only fed up with the big government policies of President Barack Obama, but they also expect Republicans to actually stand by conservative principles and will not automatically vote for someone just because he or she has an "R" next to his or her name. Republicans in Monroe County should pay close attention in 2010.

Previously: Principles over partisanship.