N.Y. race could change the GOP

Published 2:18 am Saturday, October 31, 2009

Back when Michael Jordan was in his heyday, a lot of basketball fans enjoyed the game by simply keeping their eye on “23” (referring to Jordan’s jersey number) for the entire game. Next Tuesday, political fans across the nation will have their eyes on a different “23” — the race for the open seat in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Normally, in an odd-numbered year, there are no elections held for U.S. House or Senate races. This year is an exception, however, as Republican John McHugh stepped down from his 23rd District seat in September when he became the Secretary of the Army. A special election will be held Tuesday, where voters in the district will decide who will succeed him.

You may ask why anybody should care about an election in a state thousands of miles away from Alabama. The reason this race may hold national importance is because it could be seen as a battle between two types of Republicans — the “moderate,” left-leaning wing of the party who is backing Republican Party candidate Dede Scozzafava, and the “conservative,” right-leaning wing of the party who is backing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Bill Owens is the Democratic Party candidate in the race.

Although New York is overall a liberal-minded state, the 23rd District is upstate and leans slightly conservative — it has had a Republican representative every year since 1993. Scozzafava, a member of the New York State Assembly, was chosen by the district’s 11 county Republican Party chairs to be the GOP’s official candidate for the seat vacated by McHugh.

This selection riled many Republican voters, who are disappointed with Scozzafava’s pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage positions and her endorsement by the Working Family’s Party, a group with close ties to ACORN. As a result, Hoffman entered the race as a third-party candidate for the Conservative Party — a New York-based political party that typically runs candidates in elections where it feels the Republican candidate is too “liberal.”

The polling is currently very close, but most estimates show Hoffman with a slim lead over Scozzafava, but trailing Owens. Conservative Republicans across the nation are cheering for Hoffman to win the race, because they believe it will prove that voters reject the idea that the GOP needs to move closer to the center in order to be successful.

Do you want to get a glimpse into the future of the Republican Party? It’s very simple. Just keep your eye on “23” next Tuesday.