In the fall of 2009, Tea Party activists engaged in their first election to unseat an establishment Republican running in a special election for NY-23. Dede Scozzafava had a long and distinguished record as a liberal. She was supported by the Working Families Party, ACORN’s own NY political party. Paired with a liberal voting record in the state assembly, Dede Scozzafava found herself challenged and ousted by conservative Doug Hoffman.
But GOP leadership remained steadfast at Scozzafava’s side, arguing that regardless of Scozzafava’s record defeating Democrats was more important.
The NY-23 special election would set the tone of 2010, where a number of conservative Tea Party candidates challenged and defeated establishment Republicans like Charlie Crist and Mike Castle. In every case, the Republican Party argued that policy positions were not as important as defeating Democrats.
In the wake of Chris Lee’s resignation (for his shirtless stupidity), the local Republican Party put forth Jane Corwin as the establishment replacement. As Jazz Shaw points out, the decision-making under a special election in New York is left up to Republican chairmen, which gives rise to infighting. Yet Jane Corwin had a solid voting record and was rated the second-most conservative member of the state legislature. The same Conservative Party that endorsed Doug Hoffman and injected the third-party challenge for NY-23 sided with Corwin.
However, Tea Party Coalition leader Jim Ostrowski was unsatisfied with the lack of input allowed in the selection process. He decided to enlist millionaire and three-time Democrat congressional candidate Jack Davis to run on a Tea Party ballot. Up until now, Tea Party insurgents have run to the right of the establishment. Jack Davis’ run sets a new paradigm.
Jack Davis’ Republican credentials are nonexistent. Like Dede Scozzafava, he has a history of ACORN/Working Family Party endorsements and is ardently pro-abortion. Davis’ signature issue is a new tariff program that is advocated by Keynesian and far-left economist Paul Krugman — the policy makes Smoot-Hawley look like free trade. He is opposed to any and all entitlement reform at the federal level, and his campaign manager is a progressive consultant.
While tea partiers were protesting the Obama stimulus, GM takeovers, cap and trade, and ObamaCare, Jack Davis was sending campaign donations to Democrats who voted to enable these laws. A donation was sent to Louise Slaughter one week after cap and trade passed the House. Louise Slaughter was the Democrat leader who came up with the “deem and pass” rule for ObamaCare that helped sway fence-sitters to vote yes.
Jack Davis’ character has been subject to question after having allegedly participated in petition fraud and bribery. When asked to clarify his liberal credentials with his new Tea Party persona, Jack Davis told the media: “I’ve always believed in smaller government and less taxes.” What small government, less taxes principle was at play when he supported Barack Obama in 2008? Speaking of Obama and Democrats circa 2008, Jack Davis said he’d “do everything in (his) power to get them elected in November.”
If we knew nothing else, it would be easy to write Jack Davis off as some Tea Party candidate cooked up by the DCCC, but he does have some real Tea Party support. The Tea Party Coalition in Buffalo is run by a number of political activists. One of them is the aforementioned Jim Ostrowski, who has aided many conservative campaigns like that of Jill Rowland, who ran against Louise Slaughter in NY-28. Also, conservative radio host Bob Lonsberry has endorsed Davis. (Update: Lonsberry unendorses Davis.)
What is striking is how similar the arguments for supporting Davis are to what establishment Republicans had said of Dede Scozzafava in 2010. When Bob Lonsberry endorsed Jack Davis, he failed to list any vote of Jane Corwin’s that he disagreed with, and he failed to deal with any of Jack Davis’ well-known liberal positions. Instead, his main argument was:
I like the message he (Jack Davis) will take to Washington, I like the message his election will send to the Republican Party, I like the message his win will give to political bosses everywhere.
Jack Davis’ Tea Party support is greatly fractured. Five other Tea Party groups unanimously rejected Davis’ candidacy and supported Jane Corwin. But the actions of one rogue group and a radio host have ensured that the base in NY-26 will be split and ineffectual.
The Tea Party isn’t the only group that’s split. Public Policy Polling released a poll showing Jack Davis as a clear spoiler, giving Kathy Hochul a 4-point lead.
Thanks to NY-23, New York lays claim to the very first Tea Party candidate. Now thanks to NY-26, it can also lay claim to the very first Tea Party RINO.