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Ken Blackwell / Oct. 22, 2009

Reagan Conservative in North Country

Doug Hoffman didn’t have a chance to make his case to Republican voters in a primary in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. That’s because the local GOP establishment chose its candidate behind closed doors, in a formerly smoke-filled room. The Republican grass roots never had a chance to choose among qualified candidates.

And the National Republican Congressional Committee compounded this error by jumping into the contest with both left feet.

That matters. Hoffman is a genuine Reagan conservative in a district that generally votes in that direction. Now, some smart people argue that in some districts, only a moderate Republican can get elected. That’s what coalitions are all about. We cannot get all we want all the time. Even the Gipper would campaign for some Republicans I was less than thrilled about. He understood the importance of building a majority in Congress.

That’s not the situation that faces us in New York 23, however. There, the GOP establishment’s nominee for Congress, Dede Scozzafava, is pro-choice and anti-marriage; she supported the failing Obama stimulus, and she has waffled on whether she would back Big Labor’s demand for “card check.” Card check, very simply, would extinguish the rights of labor to a secret ballot. It would empower union bosses to muscle workers into their corner — not only on the job. Big Labor wants those extra union dues so it can swing elections for liberals. Any Republican who doesn’t understand this is not paying attention. The party would become as extinct at the woolly mammoth.

This is not a case of an economic conservative running against a social conservative. Scozzafava is liberal on all issues. And it’s not the case that New York 23 is a liberal area that would not support a true conservative in a general election.

I’ve tangled with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for many years in my home state of Ohio. I was elected statewide as secretary of state. Believe me, I know the corrupt influence labor-backed groups are on the ballot box. When I found out that Scozzafava had accepted ACORN’s endorsement in the past, I knew she was not the kind of Republican representative we need in Congress.

Hoffman is a true Reagan conservative. He accepted the Conservative Party’s nomination because he was denied the chance to make his case to the party’s grass-roots voters. If elected, he would caucus with the Republicans. He’d provide unquestionably stronger support for genuine GOP principles than Scozzafava — based on her own liberal record — would provide.

New York 23 has taken on national significance. Even as President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have been sinking, the congressional Republicans’ numbers are not going up. This may well be because they have not yet staked out a solid and strong position as a viable alternative.

President Ronald Reagan eloquently argued for a party that raised “a banner of bold colors.” He had had it with the mushy moderate “pale pastels.” The important take-away is that Reagan’s formula for victory was potent because it appealed to millions of conservative Democrats. Reagan always liked to say he didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the party left him.

Many Democrats are feeling that way again. And the fact that twice as many respondents are telling pollsters they are conservative as are willing to identify with Republicans should be a matter of serious concern to the GOP.

To be sure, Reagan added to his strong conservative conviction a sunny optimism and a willingness to work with anyone who would work with him. Hoffman combines Reagan’s commitment to strong defense and family values with a keen appreciation of free markets for free people. Hoffman knows we cannot sustain record $1.4 trillion deficits. He’s deeply rooted in the north country of New York. If he’s elected, he could be the leader of a conservative Republican renaissance in the Northeast.

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