Could Doug Hoffman Still Make Trouble For The GOP In NY-23?

Could the NY-23 district, which saw a wild special election last year, see a repeat this year — a tough three-way race pitting Democratic Rep. Bill Owens against a Republican candidate and Conservative Doug Hoffman?

Owens narrowly defeated Hoffman in last year’s special election, after Hoffman’s Conservative Party candidacy attracted the support of national right-wingers and successfully forced the official GOP nominee, state Rep. Dede Scozzafava, out of the race due to her socially liberal positions.

Roll Call now reports that some people think a Republican split might happen yet again. Hoffman is seeking a rematch with Owens, simultaneously seeking the Conservative and Republican nominations. However, the state GOP establishment is backing businessman Matt Doheny for the nomination. And for his part, Doheny’s campaign is assuming that Hoffman would keep on running as a Conservative if he were to lose the primary — something Hoffman has not fully ruled out.Doheny spokesman Alison Power told the paper: “The bottom line is he feels he can win whether Hoffman is in the race in November or not.”

New York uses a fusion voting system, in which candidates can be simultaneously nominated by multiple political parties. This leads to a proliferation of minor parties that push the major two on ideological issues, most notably the Working Families Party on the left and the Conservative Party on the right. Only in the special election last time, the nomination of a moderate Republican by the county GOP chairs caused the Conservatives to strike out on their own.

Eventually, in the final days of the campaign Scozzafava dropped out — and in a stunning move, endorsed the Democrat Owens, who narrowly won the election and picked up a historically Republican seat.

Speaking to TPMDC, a Republican source in New York said that Doheny is somewhat favored to win the primary, and downplayed the risk of possible splits, on the grounds that Doheny is a much different candidate from Scozzafava. “I think people saw what Doug Hoffman did to the race last year and how he shook it up, and Dede Scozzafava was not a real Republican and worth voting against,” the source said.

Would Hoffman be able to shake things up from outside the GOP tent again, we asked?

“A lot of his supporters are the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and obviously last year they had a reason to stay outside the tent,” the source said. “He was poking a lot of holes in Dede Scozzafava’s campaign, and that was obvious because of who she turned out to be. I don’t think we’ll have that problem with Doheny.”