Scozzafava suspends campaign

State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) announced on Saturday she would suspend her campaign to fill former Rep. John McHugh's open House seat, just days before the much-hyped special election.

Her exit from the race offers serious momentum to Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate who has stolen from Scozzafava a slew of important GOP endorsements and donations in recent weeks.

"Today, I again seek to act for the good of our community," Scozzafava wrote in a letter to supporters, obtained by the Watertown Daily Times. "It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so."

"I am and have always been a proud Republican," Scozzafava added. "It is my hope that with my actions today, my party will emerge stronger and our district and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations."

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It has been a difficult journey for the more moderate-leaning Scozzafava, who spent considerable time fighting back criticisms from those within her own party.

Although she won the support of a few key Republicans -- including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) -- many of her party's popular conservative members opted instead to back Hoffman. Worse yet, those GOPers who did throw their weight behind Scozzafava typically found themselves in the adverse, uncomfortable position of defending their decisions to their conservative bases. At least one initial congressional supporter -- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) -- even recanted his endorsement this week, citing Scozzafava's low odds of winning.

It did not help that the two most recent polls predicted Scozzafava would trail both Hoffman and Democratic opponent Bill Owens by double digits. While some of her strongest supporters urged her this week to continue fighting despite those numbers, Scozzafava ultimately decided to exit the race early.

"In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be," she said. "The reality that I’ve come to accept is that in today’s political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money—and as I’ve been outspent on both sides, I’ve been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record."

Where the assemblywoman's supporters gravitate is sure to determine the outcome of Tuesday's special election. A Research 2000 poll released Thursday and a Siena poll released Saturday both showed Owens besting Hoffman by only one point -- within the margin of error in both measures. Even if most Scozzafava supporters stay home on Election Day, those who do turn out could tilt the election in either candidate's favor.

Interestingly enough, Scozzafava did not throw her weight behind Hoffman in her statement. Rather, she emphasized that her prospective voters to "transfer their support as they see fit to do" -- a move that is likely to anger Republican campaigners.

Hoffman, however, quickly tried to capitalize on his now-former candidate's decision.

"This morning’s events prove what we have said for the last week; this campaign is a horserace between me and Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked candidate, Bill Owens," Hoffman said in a statement after learning of Scozzafava's decision.