NY-23: Doug Who? (UPDATED)

ABSENTIA

The special election in NY’s 23rd Congressional District has become defined by the right-wing infighting between supporters of Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava and backers of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Despite the fact that Scozzafava is more conservative than your average New York Republican, the right has deemed her insufficiently conservative and are instead flocking to Hoffman.

My question is, who is the real Doug Hoffman? Do any of the people flocking to his candidacy really know all that much about him? Or are they simply backing him in order to stick it to a Republican Party they have also deemed to be insufficiently conservative? Is the right trying to make this race step 1 in an ideological purge of the GOP?

The picture at the top of this post is from Wednesday night’s debate between Democrat Bil Owens and Republican Dede Scozzafava. A debate that Doug Hoffman ducked out on, choosing to be represented by an empty podium instead. I don’t need to tell you that skipping a debate is highly unusual for candidates who are trailing (as recent polls show Hoffman is*) since candidates can really only afford to skip debates when they have a large lead.

So, what is Hoffman hiding that he doesn’t want the public to¬† know about?

It could be that he’s completely ignorant about the local issues in NY-23. The Watertown Daily Times, a local paper, recently wrote a scathing piece hitting Hoffman for that very reason:

Douglas L. Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate for the 23rd Congressional District, showed no grasp of the bread-and-butter issues pertinent to district residents in a Thursday morning meeting with the Watertown Daily Times editorial board.

In a nearly hour-long session, Mr. Hoffman was unable to articulate clear positions on a number of matters specific to Northern New Yorkers rather than the national level campaign being waged in a three-way race for the vacant seat of now-Army Secretary John McHugh.

Mr. Hoffman spoke only generally about the need to improve the country’s economy and to create jobs but provided no details, which were also lacking as well in his broadly stated willingness to help our military personnel. Help in what way he could not say.

Regarding the proposed rooftop highway across the top of the district linking Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Hoffman said only that he was open to studying the idea that has been around for years and will require federal financial assistance to complete.

Mr. Hoffman had no opinion about winter navigation and widening the St. Lawrence Seaway with their potential environmental damage. He was not familiar with the repercussions of a proposed federal energy marketing agency for the Great Lakes, which could pay for Seaway expansion contrary to district interests.

A flustered and ill-at-ease Mr. Hoffman objected to the heated questioning, saying he should have been provided a list of questions he might be asked. He was, if he had taken the time to read the Thursday morning Times editorial raising the very same questions.

[Emphasis mine]

Ouch. You can’t get elected to Congress if you’re clueless about the issues.

And piling on top of that, it turns out that Hoffman is a fan of earmarks:

Hoffman sat on the finance committee of a local hospital, the Adirondack Medical Center, which two years ago asked Republican Rep. John McHugh (whose appointment as Secretary of the Army triggered this special election) for federal funding to construct a primary health clinic.

The hospital ultimately received $479,000.

[Emphasis mine]

Honestly, I don’t think the conservatives backing Doug Hoffman know much about him at all. I don’t think they know about his earmark-happy history, his stunning ignorance of his own district or his tendency to avoid the public. All that matters to them is that Hoffman is, allegedly, the more conservative candidate.

And if conservatives don’t care about Doug Hoffman, they certainly don’t care about the people of upstate New York. The right is hoping to use the voters of upstate New York as pawns in their burgeoning ideological war with the GOP. They’re hoping that, through a combination of national attention, outside money and dirty tricks, they can get their guy elected to Congress.

But do the good people of upstate New York really want to be represented by Sarah Palin’s mouthpiece? Or would they be represented by a local boy who knows the district and has their best interests at heart?

[*Two polls have come out showing Hoffman in the lead, but both of them were from little-known polling outfits and were sponsored by right-wing organizations, thus casting some doubt on their independence/veracity.]

UPDATE: I guess Hoffman decided he couldn’t duck the public forever–he, Owens and Scozzafava participated in a televised debate last night.

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