McHugh confirmation launches three campaigns for his N.Y. House seat

Rep. McHugh (R-N.Y.), who was confirmed Wednesday, is expected to resign by the end of this week. New York Gov. David Paterson (D) would then schedule a special election; Paterson has said he would like to hold it in concurrence with the Nov. 3 general election in order to save money.


A Paterson spokesman did not return calls seeking to confirm that date.

Republicans will lean on Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a centrist with good ties to labor unions that play an important role in district politics. Democrats lost their top choice but settled on attorney Bill Owens, an Air Force veteran who could help self-fund his race.

But the race will not be a simple Democrat-versus-Republican affair. Convinced that Scozzafava isn’t right-leaning enough for the Republican Party, the state's Conservative Party wants Doug Hoffman, the former comptroller of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, in the race.

Though Hoffman has said he will caucus with Republicans if elected, the national GOP has still put all its chips in with Scozzafava. On Thursday, House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) committed to supporting Scozzafava for a seat on the Armed Services Committee — a committee on which McHugh served until this year as ranking member — if she wins.

The first public poll in the race, taken for Hoffman's campaign, showed Scozzafava earning 30 percent of the vote to Owens's 20 percent; Hoffman was statistically tied for second place, with 19 percent, a surprisingly high number for an unknown third-party candidate.

McHugh, one of just three Republicans representing the Empire State in Congress, will vacate a seat to which both major parties have legitimate claim.

There are 46,000 more registered Republicans in New York's 23rd District, which stretches from the Vermont and Canadian borders to Lake Ontario. But President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCutting through the noise of COVID risk: Real-life consequences of oversimplification Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens U.S. prestige Appeasement doesn't work as American foreign policy MORE won 52 percent of the vote in the district, a higher percentage than he won in five other New York districts held by Democratic members of Congress.

In spite of the challenge, Scozzafava "is energized by the sprint that is ahead," campaign spokesman Matt Burns said in an e-mail. "Dede is a principled, independent voice who is committed to creating good-paying jobs, reforming healthcare and protecting Medicare and Social Security for the district's seniors."

Hoffman's team argues it can win based on the district’s displeasure with state and federal politicians.

"There is anger in the district over the 'politics as usual' crowd and we're sending a message of conservative values," said Rob Ryan, Hoffman's campaign manager.

Scozzafava has blasted Hoffman for what she calls an early negative tone, and indeed much of Hoffman's approach has been contrasting himself directly with the Republican candidate.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay charged both Hoffman and Owens with leveling attacks so extreme they touched members of Scozzafava's family, charges Lindsay said were meant to distract voters from the Democrat's and Conservative's "shady business dealings that both of them are desperately trying to hide from voters."

"Their cowardice is just as obvious as their inability to convey any sort of positive agenda," Lindsay said.

But Ryan insists Hoffman is not in the race to play spoiler.

"Due to the nature and the record of Dede Scozzafava, who is liberal, the risk is she may come in third in this race," Ryan said. "We are going to be talking about many of the same issues and values that elected John McHugh. He had the Conservative Party endorsement."

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Owens's record will resonate with voters.

"Look for voters to respond to Bill Owens and his record of creating jobs and bringing economic development to the region, especially when you contrast that with the failed agendas of an Albany politician and a right wing extremist," said DCCC spokesman Shripal Shah.