Divisions between the Republican party and conservative activists have helped hand a competitive upstate New York congressional seat to Democrat Bill Owens in recent years, but 2014 may be the year when all factions unite behind one candidate.
Republican Elise Stefanik has already won the endorsements of a handful GOP county committees in New York's 21st congressional district, and in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD Thursday afternoon, Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate who challenged Democrat Owens and liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava in a 2009 special election, announced his endorsement of Stefanik.
"I think she's a terrific candidate, well-educated, [with] good experience in Washington that will help her when she gets down there to open doors and get the job done," Hoffman said in a phone interview. "I like her stance on just about all the issues. I can't think of any that I don't agree with her on. She's a commonsense conservative Reagan Republican. I think she's going to be a candidate that can unify the Republicans, the conservatives, and the independents."
Hoffman first met Stefanik late in the spring of 2013 before she decided to run. "I think her confidence and her poise was very compelling, and at the same time she's a very personable person," he said. The 29-year-old Stefanik is a former Bush administration aide who went on to work for the Foreign Policy Initiative and then as a campaign aide to Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan before returning home to work for her family's business.
Hoffman's 2009 race against Scozzafava and Owens was the first time the tea party and the GOP establishment battled in an election. Among other reasons, conservatives opposed Scozzafava because she backed card check, favored taxpayer-funding of abortion, and refused to pledge to vote against Obamacare. Scozzafava trailed badly in the polls after her campaign called the police on a reporter who was asking her questions, and she ended up endorsing Democratic candidate Bill Owens, who won the race by 4 points.
In 2010, Hoffman narrowly lost the GOP primary to pro-choice businessman Matt Doheny. Hoffman stayed in the race on the Conservative Party line, and Doheny lost the general election to Owens by 1 point. Doheny, dogged by charges that he was a womanizer, went on to lose a rematch with Owens in 2012 by 2 points.
Although Hoffman's support and the endorsements of local GOP committees could help rally voters behind Stefanik, she doesn't have a lock on the nomination quite yet. Following Bill Owens's announcement yesterday that he is retiring, Matt Doheny is reportedly looking at a third run for the seat, and Republicans in Washington, D.C. have been encouraging others to jump in the race.
Jimmy Vielkind and Jake Sherman report for Capital New York that the "National Republican Congressional Committee reached out to Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan on Tuesday to discuss her possibly entering the race, according to a source familiar with the call. Hogan, who has been in office since 2002, confirmed to Capital that she'd been contacted."
"I'm considering it," Hogan told Capital New York.