Wes Vernon
Off-year elections: weathervane for 2010? Maybe not
By Wes Vernon
October 26, 2009

In 1993, in the first year of Bill Clinton's presidency, the Republicans scored big, with victories in Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, and Los Angeles.

That was the triumph that provided the momentum that would enable the GOP to sweep to a big victory in 1994, winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker of the House as a result of that 52-seat blowout, says if Republicans are to repeat or come reasonably close to repeating that performance in the mid-term congressional elections of 2010, conservative voters in 2009 should put aside their hang-ups with the more "moderate" or downright liberal contenders on the GOP ticket and close ranks lest the party be denied the needed momentum in next year's races. He points out that in all but one of the above- referenced 1993 GOP victories, only one (Virginia) was won by a conservative. The rest veered leftward, but because they carried an R after their names, they paved the way for a conservative-led Republican Congress the following year.

However, there are those who believe Newt is like the general who is always "fighting the last war." The political equation is never exactly the same in consecutive elections, let alone those that are 16 years apart. And just as demographics can vary, so too are the issues not necessarily identical.

For one thing, the (non-Republican) elephant in the room is the Obama administration, with its more than 30 "czars" who are following the president's orders to extend government power, a goal that validates 2008 campaign charges that the man now in the White House has a dictatorial Marxist mentality.

Having bounced the GOP from control of Congress in 2006 largely for its free-spending ways, voters (notwithstanding their disenchantment with Obama) are likely to take a dimmer view of those Republicans in 2009 or 2010 whom they perceive to be peddling a carbon copy brand of socialism. Those same voters are venting their outrage at Obama's socialism at Tea Parties and Townhall meetings. But they are angry at both parties. The assumption the GOP must ape the Democrat left has been blasted to smithereens. This time, reaching out means "reaching out" with the right hand, not the left.

Focus 2009

Three races in particular are being most closely watched for some snapshot on November 3 that may or may not set the stage for 2010.

New York-23

The most clear-cut test of "the soul" of the Republican Party is taking place in the race for an open seat in the House of Representatives The position was vacated when New York Republican John McHugh — a veteran of 17 years on Capitol Hill — was tapped by President Obama to be his Secretary of the Army. That selection in itself is seen as a cynical ploy by the White House (on the advice of Rahm Emanuel — Mr. Obama's political svengali) to vacate one of the few Republican congressional seats left in the state of New York, whose GOP has become increasingly weak in recent years.

The knock-down drag-out in the upstate district whose upper reaches include the Canadian border is shaping up as a classic battle between the Republican establishment and its conservative base.

The GOP candidate is the very liberal State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who might as well be a Democrat. In the New York State legislature, Scozzafava was so liberal that she scored only 15% on the conservative scorecard. That put her below 46 Democrat lawmakers.

She has had ties with the Obama-aiding ACORN. Scozzafava is so far left that she is one of the ultra-rare Republicans to win the endorsement of ACORN's Voting Families Party. Undoubtedly, liberals will love her support of abortion at all times, including the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions — as well as her support of sky-high state spending that forces higher taxes. In fact, Scozzafava voted for taxes that are guaranteed job-killers. She is a big supporter of trial lawyers, and twice voted for same-sex marriage.

The liberal Democrat in the race is Bill Owens, a tax lawyer — the handpicked candidate of Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel — who can be counted on to support their agenda. Owens is counting on White House backing to rake in millions to aid his effort to win the seat.

If ever there was a case of the old "Tweedledee vs. Tweedledum," this is it.

Conservatives balk

Fortunately, conservative voters in upstate New York do have another option. The state has a positively ingenious electoral system that can do much to curb the duopoly enjoyed by the two major parties. Part of that system is the Conservative Party.

Any Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) who can meet the standards of the Conservative Party can run on its line and at the same time maintain his/her position on the major party line as well.

Here's the key: The total number of votes the candidate receives — no matter which party or how many parties carry that candidate's name — will determine whether the candidate wins or loses. In most states, a candidate can appear on only one party's line. In New York, the candidate's name may appear on the lines of as many parties as are willing to nominate him and qualify for a ballot line. If the candidates of both parties fall short of the Conservative Party standards, the third party can nominate its own candidate.

In 1970, for example, James Buckley — brother of the famous William F. — ran on the Conservative Party line and was elected as United States Senator — defeating liberals on the Democrat and Republican Party lines.

The Conservative Party — under its current leader — Mike Long, a Queens liquor store owner — does not demand a candidate's 100% conservative fealty to every issue that comes down the pike. Instead, the party seems to hue to the old Reagan standard of living with 80-percenters. Dede Scozzafava falls short of that standard — by far. When she came along and — for example supported the so-called "Employees Free Choice Act," which even some union members see as a threat to the secret ballot in organizing drives — that was just too much.

A true conservative

Running as the candidate of the Conservative Party is Douglas Hoffman, a Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist. He offers himself as the conservative Republican running against a liberal Republican and a liberal Democrat.

Hoffman's stands include a belief that the tax code is corrupt; that deficits are wrong; that abortion is wrong; that marriage is between a man and a woman. He supports tort reform; opposes Obamacare and its government takeover of the health care industry; strongly backs the War on Terror; and rejects the jobs-killing America-destroying Cap and Trade bill.

Hoffman has some heavy artillery in his corner in the support of former House Majority Republican Leader Dick Armey and former Alaska Governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Armey in fact has traveled around the district with Hoffman, urging the voters to send the candidate to Washington. In announcing her choice, Governor Palin said political parties "must stand for something." She cites Ronald Reagan, who knew that the doctrine of "blurring the lines between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections."

Establishment Republicans are standing by Scozzafava. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for example, says Scozzafava "has signed the no-tax pledge."

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, anyone acceptable to ACORN — whose Marxist redistributionist class-hatred philosophy drives much of its criminal activity — cannot be trusted to honor a no-tax pledge. Doug Hoffman has signed the pledge too. But his word on that issue is as good as gold.

As of this writing, the outcome of this three-way race is anybody's guess. The polls show all three are competitive. Anyone wishing to make a donation to help Doug Hoffman buy more campaign ads can go to doughoffmanforcongress.com.

In the Old Dominion

Republicans have a decent chance of recapturing a statehouse that has been Democrat for the last 8 years. Virginia's open contest (the state restricts its governor to one 4-year term) has stirred a clear GOP/conservative vs. Democrat/liberal divide.

Even the Washington Post — the de facto voice of D.C.'s liberal establishment — had to admit on its front page Sunday that the Democrats' decade-long run in the state "is in jeopardy this year as Republican Robert F. McDonnell appears to be making inroads among suburbanites and minorities through concerted outreach, a message built around quality-of-life issues and a direct embrace of Northern Virginia [the Washington suburbs]."

Bear in mind, the Washington suburbs are the most liberal part of the state. The farther south you travel in Virginia, the less liberal it gets. What is notable is that McDonnell's campaign has made those inroads without abandoning basic conservative principles.

For example...

The GOP candidate — who resigned as the state's Attorney General to devote fulltime to his quest for the governorship — says, "Yes, we must develop new [energy] technologies for wind, solar, biomass, and other renewables. But we also need oil and natural gas and to speed up the process for nuclear and clean coal plants."

Instead of Obamacare — which McDonnell believes will drive up costs and lower quality and access — he and his running mates (Bill Bolling for Lt. Governor and Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General) have crafted carefully thought-out health care alternatives. These include proposals to help individuals and employers afford low-cost insurance; encourage and expand health savings accounts; create incentives for families to prepare for long-term needs; expand the supply of nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians; encourage "safety net" providers; and maintain the current cap on medical malpractice insurance.

Knowing that the present state of the economy is no time to raise taxes, McDonnell favors "a thorough audit of how your tax dollars are spent" so as to make government "more efficient and user-friendly."

On other issues, McDonnell is pro-gun rights, anti-abortion (including most emphatically the butcher-like partial birth abortion procedure), and pro-traditional marriage (one man/one woman); and he fully backs completion of Metrorail to Dulles Airport.

The GOP candidate took a hit earlier in the campaign for a thesis he wrote 20 years ago questioning whether working women were conducive to cohesive families.

McDonnell says those are no longer his views, and that he raised his daughters to be strong independent women. One of them — who had been deployed to Iraq in the service of her country — has appeared in her father's campaign ads saying every time she phoned home, she reiterated how proud she was of her dad.

And the other guy?

The Democrat in the race is Creigh Deeds who is your standard left-liberal, though he tries to play that down for the benefit of the more conservative parts of the state.

Deeds, for example, opposes charter schools — elementary or secondary schools that are part of the public school system but nonetheless are freed from some rules and regulations that apply to other public schools in return for an accountability for achieving certain results. McDonnell backs charter schools.

Deeds won the Democrat primary defeating Terry McAuliffe — Bill Clinton's old side-kick and bag man.

McDonnell — no time for over-confidence

Going into the final stretch of the campaign, Deeds is bringing in the big guns. President Obama and McAuliffe were scheduled to make an appearance for their fellow Democrat. McDonnell has a comfortable lead, but there's no telling what will happen in the closing days. The Washington Times and The Washington Examiner have endorsed McDonnell, but as expected, The Washington Post is in Deeds' corner.

Those wishing to contribute can link to BobMcDonnell.com.

New Jersey — a puzzle

The only state — aside from Virginia — that will hold a gubernatorial race this year is New Jersey. And it is clearly less clear-cut than is the case in the Old Dominion.

The incumbent governor is Democrat Jon Corzine. He was elected to the United States Senate in 2000 — first by winning a Democrat primary over James Florio — a former governor who lost his bid for a second term largely because of tax increases. Corzine beat Florio by running to the latter's left.

In 2005 he beat a moderate Republican for the governorship. His term has been plagued by government shutdowns and threats of shutdowns, in part because his fellow Democrats in the legislature balked at some of the governor's spending schemes, as well as his plans to lease two major highways in the state.

Corzine is very unpopular, and one would think knocking him off would be a piece of cake. Alas, one would be wrong.

The Republicans, in a hard-fought primary, nominated Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney who gained fame by putting away crooked politicians of both parties.

After taking a hefty lead in the early polls, Christie has seen his lead slip until he and Corzine are in a statistical dead heat. Some say Christie sat on his lead. Others believe the Republican himself has taken on conflict-of-interest baggage.

Complicating the process is the independent candidacy of Chris Daggett, whose background is mostly Republican — though he has also worked for Democrats. Daggett has enough heft to be taken seriously by the state's only statewide newspaper the Star-Ledger, which has endorsed him. The Recorder newspapers — owner of fourteen small sheets around the state — rescinded their earlier endorsement of Christie. They now back Daggett.

The race is too close to call. This column sees either Christie or Daggett as superior to Corzine. But if they split the anti-Corzine vote, the incumbent might rack up another term in a squeaker.

© Wes Vernon


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