Scozzafava Suspends Campaign But Doesn’t Endorse Conservative

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Dede Scozzafava, the moderate GOP candidate in the race to represent upstate New York’s 23rd congressional district, suspended her campaign in the wake of yet another poll showing her in third place. The poll, from Siena College, showed Scozzafava with just 20% of the vote, compared to Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman with 35% and Democratic candidate Bill Owens with 36%. (The three-way race was to replace Republican John McHugh, who left the seat to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of the Army.) Scozzafava was no doubt under pressure to leave the race, with the Republican vote split between her and Hoffman, who has been gaining momentum in recent days. But in leaving the race, Scozzafava, a local state Assemblywoman, stopped short of urging her voters to support Hoffman.

A statement posted on Scozzafava’s campaign web site included this language:

“It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so. I am and have always been a proud Republican. It is my hope that with my actions today, my Party will emerge stronger and our District and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations.”

Scozzafava had seemed caught off guard by the support for Hoffman that had been growing after he earned endorsements from vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and other national Republican figures. Scozzafava, who had been in the lead according to an Oct. 1 Siena poll, had since been attacked vigorously by Hoffman for her moderate views. (She is pro-choice and supports gay marriage rights, but also supports the Bush tax cuts and is opposed to cap and trade.) The race was heralded by political observers as a referendum on the future of the GOP, with grassroots conservatives organizing to take down Scozzafava and Hoffman declaring he was “fighting for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”

Matt Burns, a spokesman for Scozzafava, stopped short of saying attacks by Hoffman had sunk her campaign, but told TIME, “Any time in a political campaign like this, whether it’s right or not, you need to have money to respond to charges leveled against you. It’s been no secret, we simply didn’t have the resources to respond to the attacks on her record.” Asked if he was referring to Hoffman specifically, Burns said no, adding of Hoffman and Owens, “Collectively, they’ve spent close to $3 million” campaigning against Scozzafava. “The [GOP] party structure was supportive of her,” said Burns.

The special election scheduled Tuesday will only determine who represents the 23rd district for one year. An election for a full term will be held next fall. Said Burns, “Whoever is elected will have to immediately get back into a campaign again.”