The National Organization for Marriage has exploited Republican Dede Scozzafava's defeat in a 2009 Special Election in New York's 23th Congressional District to its fullest to serve as a warning to Republicans to tow the line on marriage equality.
Maggie Gallagher loves to use the phrase "the Dede effect" to scare lawmakers from voting for same-sex marriage legislation, and it's been very effective.
NOM as sought to raise Scozzafava to iconic status as the electoral boogeyman of same-sex marriage. NOM loves to press the talking point that gay-friendly = Electoral Death.
And they're doing it again, seeking to make Scozzafava's loss all about her vote for marriage equality in the New York Assembly House. The new ad says:
But when Dede faced the voters again as a congressional candidate, she learned that New Yorkers do care about defending traditional marriage after all.
Actually. . . NOM? Not so much.
Those of us in New York who watched the race closely, know there was so much more to the story than just her one vote on marriage equality, which scarcely registered at all amidst all her other campaign problems.
There were a lot of reasons Republican Scozzafava lost that race. The very least of them her vote on marriage equality. Scozzafava failed to connect with her Republican base for a great number of reasons. Her affronts to conservative principles ran far and wide, encompassing much, much more than just her support of marriage equality.
Since NOM is an out-of-state special interest group, it's understandable they wouldn't know the truth of the race. The real story from a real New Yorker after the fold.
The Conservative Heretic
A closer inspection reveals Scozzafava to be a virtual heretic to every principle the current crop of Republicans hold dear, from ACORN to abortion to hating all things Obama. Just some of her affronts to the Republican Party that surfaced during the campaign include:
- Scozzafava was strongly pro-choice and even suggested she'd support using federal funds for abortion.
- Scozzafava received an award from a Planned Parenthood affiliate in 2008, which drew much fire.
- Scozzafava said she would support The Employee Free Choice Act, EFCA ("card check") legislation, a key goal of Labor at the time.
- Scozzafava expressed support the 2009 stimulus package aka known as President Obama's agenda of Big Government Spending.
- Scozzafava refused to rule out voting to pass "Obamacare" aka the Affordable Health Care Act including possibly supporting the Public Option.
- Conservatives criticized Scozzafava for accepting the endorsement of the Working Families Party in her earlier assembly campaigns, noting the close ties between that party and liberal activist group ACORN.
- Many notable Republicans, including former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, repudiated Scozzafava by endorsing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.
To recap: support for Obama, Acorn, Women's Choice, Affordable Health Care, Labor, Gays, so much for good Democrats to like in Dede Scozzafava, but they already had a candidate.
And so little for Republicans to support. In fact, the right wing's favorite liberal boogeyman Markos Moulitsas, of the Daily Kos blog wrote a column in which he threw his support to Scozzafava. I'm sure that helped her win the split conservative vote.
And it is indeed possible that the specter of Scozzafava's support for Big Government Spending going to Acorn, Abortions and Health Care was looming much larger on GOP voters' minds than her support for marriage equality. Marriage equality is the shiniest and most notable of her infractions however, and as such, will be the one most remembered.
The Inept Campaigner
In truth, Scozzafava may have been a wholly inappropriate choice for the GOP County Chairs to have selected from the get-go. Outflanked left and right, there was no base of support for her candidacy from any constituency, conservative or liberal. And she didn't much help herself by running an especially bad campaign, which included many missteps. Scozzafava's husband called the cops on a reporter filing a nuisance complaint. Not a good way to ingratiate the campaign with the press. Allegations circulated it was false and trumped up among conservative circles. This became a big story.
And, of course, there's this:
Early in the campaign, Scozzafava held a press conference outside opponent Doug Hoffman's campaign offices. Hoffman's campaign staff and volunteers smartly exploited the opportunity to surround her with Hoffman campaign signs as she spoke. The iconic picture has come to epitomize campaign photo-op FAIL. David Nir of Swing Street Project and Daily Kos said at the time: NY-23: This Picture Just About Sums It Up.
Not surprisingly, she was also was reported to be "dangerously low on campaign cash" six weeks prior to election day, and abandoned by the Republican National Committee and other establishment Republicans.
But legend has become that it was her marriage equality vote that ended her career.
The National Organization for Marriage is happy to reinforce this talking point at every opportunity to serve their goal of demonizing gays as untouchables:
We have a message for GOProud on marriage: If you try to elect pro-gay-marriage Republicans, we will Dede Scozzafava them.
This is expected. I expect nothing less than revisionist history, lies and cherry-picking from Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown. They have made big business out of it.
We don't know what the future migh
t have held for Scozzfava's political career. Scozzafava said she felt betrayed by the Republican party through this experience, and can anyone blame her? No doubt the drubbing she received from all quarters left her damaged goods in conservative circles. It was reported she was assured by the Democratic party there would be a place for her should she decide to seek a seventh term in the Senate. She voluntarily elected not to seek re-election to the Assembly.
All 4 Marriage Equality Supportive Republicans Got Re-Elected
In fact, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the conclusion her marriage equality vote was a major factor is a largely unsupportable. There were four other Assembly Republicans who also voted for marriage equality in 2009: Joel Miller of the 102nd District; Teresa Sayward of the 113th District; Janet Duprey of the 114th District; Fred Thiele of the 2nd District.
All of them returned to the Assembly after the 2010 election cycle, some completely unchallenged and some with resounding victories. Also, all were stripped of their Conservative Party ballot line, which is believed in New York state to be so essential to victory.
For now, I hope GOP Senators take a breath and look past the National Organization For Marriage and Conservative Party's saber rattling and look at the facts. It was only marriage equality opponents that felt the heat in the 2010 election cycle, not the supporters.
And 2011 is not 2009. There have been several Federal Court repudiations of discriminatory marriage policies on Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act since then, with the Justice Department concurring such discrimination is Unconstitutional.
Moreover, with regards to the electoral politics, we have seen boatloads of conservative cash going behind the marriage equality effort in New York and assurances from GOP donors that—unlike Scozzafava—they will cover the Senators' electoral backs. These include billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Daniel Loeb, who is quoted in the New York Times:
One of the donors, Daniel S. Loeb, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates for federal office in the last two years, said he hoped to make clear to Republicans that same-sex marriage had a broad coalition of support.
“I think it is important in particular for Republicans to know this is a bipartisan issue,” Mr. Loeb said. “If they’re Republican, they will not be abandoned by the party for supporting this. On the contrary, I think they will find that there is a whole new world of people who will support them on an ongoing basis if they support this cause.”
Republican Senators that vote for marriage equality in 2011, are almost certain to find in 2012, like their colleagues in the Assembly in 2010, the Conservative Party's bark is much worse than its bite.