Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York.
CNN Political Analyst
While renowned political pundits, journalists and media stars will try to analyze and spin the "national trends" of the Virginia and New Jersey elections for governor, the controversial and closely watched 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York really does tell a national story, and the results will have a profound impact through the 2010 midterm.
This election began with the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, as the strong front runner over the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, and Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman. That certainly was not a shock to anyone knowing this Congressional District, which is larger than the state of Vermont. In fact, the last time this region chose a member of Congress who was not a Republican, they elected a Whig!
Let's face it, we are talking about serious voting traditions in this Congressional District.
Then the radical national right-wing movement arrived. Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin of Alaska led the way, followed by Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota; Dick Armey, the former House majority leader from Texas; former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee; Glenn Beck; Rush Limbaugh; and many others whose conduct and rhetoric brought historic defeats to the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008.
In keeping with the right-wing agenda of defeating moderate Republicans, the leadership was very clear about its goals. "The No. 1 victory will be to defeat Dede," stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, the leader of a group to elect candidates who oppose abortion. She has been joined by leaders of the National Organization for Marriage (translation: against the rights of gays and lesbians) and, of course, the tea- bagger movement.
Yes, their vitriol and attacks did have an impact. Dede Scozzafava withdrew her candidacy as her numbers collapsed. The conservative candidate gained momentum and even the endorsement of the Republican Party.
However, the conduct of these right-wing demagogues is also bringing together moderate Republicans, Independents and Democrats. Republican Dede Scozzafava endorsed the Democrat Bill Owens. The Watertown Daily Times, which serves Northern New York's
Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, switched from endorsing Scozzafava to Owens. In its endorsement, the Watertown Daily Times stated about the Conservative Republican candidate, "It is frightening that Mr. Hoffman is so beholden to right-wing ideologues who dismiss Northern New York as parochial when people here simply want to know how Mr. Hoffman will protect their interests in Washington."
Although New York's 23rd Congressional District is tough for a Democrat, the real story of this election is how this rural region in upstate New York launched a national movement. They have put aside their partisan labels and are standing up to the tactics and message of the extreme right-wing.
President Barack Obama campaigned with a pledge to change the partisan tone and conduct of Washington, D.C. The record number of citizens who are standing up to Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the extreme right wing in this rural upstate New York Republican Congressional District are helping him keep that commitment.
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