WASHINGTON – Under fire from prominent members of her own party who said she wasn’t conservative enough, the Republican candidate for an open U.S. House seat in New York abruptly withdrew from the race Saturday just days before the election.
State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava said she was trailing in polls, unable to raise money and unlikely to win. She told supporters that while her name would still be on the ballot Tuesday, she released all of them from their pledges and said they could vote for anyone.
The sudden withdrawal came as polls showed her falling to third place behind Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. The election in New York’s upstate 23rd Congressional District will fill a seat vacated when moderate Republican John McHugh was named secretary of the Army by President Barack Obama.
“It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support,” she said. “Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so.”
A moderate with close ties to organized labor, Scozzafava was selected as the party nominee by county chairmen who thought her the strongest candidate to carry the district that had elected the moderate McHugh and which swung to Obama in 2008.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had backed Scozzafava as the pragmatic choice of local Republicans, called her decision to quit a testament to populist anger, particularly at a New York state system that lets party leaders pick the nominees in special elections.
“This is both a tribute to the power of the national conservative movement to define an issue and a commentary on the populist anger against politics-as-usual,” he said, adding that he also endorses Hoffman now.