The Blog

Scozzafava Spoils Doug Hoffman's Run?

4:15 AM, Nov 4, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Saranac Lake, N.Y.
With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Bill Owens claimed victory over conservative Doug Hoffman by a 49 percent to 45 percent margin. Republican Dede Scozzafava got six percent of the vote. Her name remained on the ballot though she dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat over the weekend--a move that may have been the decisive event that denied Hoffman a stunning upset Tuesday night. "The one you've got to credit with this win for Owens is [New York Democratic Party executive director] June O'Neill," says Watertown mayor and Hoffman supporter Jeff Graham. "She brokered the deal to get [Scozzafava] out and then made her into a victim--got all her endorsements and labor stuff. It probably made the difference in the end."

The county-by-county election returns seem to support Graham's take. John McCain won Jefferson county in 2008 despite losing the entire congressional district by 5 points, but Hoffman lost the county--represented by Scozzafava in the state assembly--49 percent to 46 percent. According to the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman, Hoffman's performance in this county and another represented by Scozzafava "demonstrated that Dede Scozzafava's base of supporters turned to Owens in sizeable numbers." He added: "It helped that the local paper, the Watertown Daily Times, embarked on a crusade against Hoffman late in the race."

Another factor that contributed to Hoffman's loss was that his name was buried on the ballot (see here). Watertown's Mayor Graham says that "coming off line D, it became increasingly difficult to get out of the 40s"--i.e. in the forty-percent range. "When you think about it, when you go from nothing--a guy on the street--to 46 on a minor party line is pretty good in a way, but making a statement doesn't really compare to winning."

David Wasserman noted that the factor "probably the most overlooked by Washington, was that scores of competitive local races drove turnout in town after town across the district. The voters who showed up to vote for town council, county sheriff, or highway supervisor weren't the energized base of Hoffman believers that pollsters saw." These voters were much more likely to vote for a major party candidate.

And so Doug Hoffman came up short--at least for now. A couple weeks ago, he told me that that regardless of tonight's outcome: "I will run in the Republican primary" in 2010. It remains to be seen if Hoffman is up for another intense 12 months of running for office, but he would probably have a better shot of winning if he runs on both the Republican and conservative party lines.

During his concession speech, he certainly sounded like he wasn't going to let this loss be his only foray into electoral politics. "This one was worth the fight," he told his supporters. "And it's only one fight in the battle, and we have to keep fighting."