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November 3, 2009

The Empire (State) Strikes Back

By Spear's

I never understand how people find politics boring: mix dynamic personalities in pursuit of power, throw in a few scandals, a couple of twists and turns and shifting alliances, and you’ve got pure theatre. Well, if you love the theatrics of politics, New York is definitely the place to be on this election day.

First, there’s the New York City mayoral race. Mike Bloomberg has somehow persuaded City Hall to re-write the rules so he can run for a third term, a campaign into which he has poured tens of millions of his own enormous fortune in fighting Democratic candidate Bill Thompson, whose campaign looked uninspired and underfunded from the start. 

Even if Thompson couldn’t quite work up the gumption (or the dollars) to fight Bloomberg straight on, many other groups did, funding colorful attack ads imagining some desolate post-apocalyptic future when Bloomberg is on his sixth term. But New Yorkers clearly beg to differ: exit polls are strongly indicating Bloomberg will win his third term handily. 

The New York race, however, that has gotten the most attention is the 23rd Congressional district: a sprawling, poor rural area abutting Canada that has been a traditionally safe moderately Republican seat. Well, no longer. 

Originally the Congressional race was three ways: Democratic nominee Bill Owens, Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. 

Then Sarah Palin waded in on her Facebook page denouncing Scozzafava as a near traitor to her party, because Scozzafava favors abortion rights, gay marriage and Obama’s stimulus package. Well, when conservative commentators Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh also put their two cents in, the Grand Old Party was officially divided: the traditionalists officially backed Conservative Hoffman, while centrist Republicans stuck with Scozzafava insisting any Republican win is a good one. Not so the purists: they want a Republican party purge. 

Scozzafava, disillusioned and betrayed by her own party has now withdrawn from the race and endorsed her Democratic rival, Bill Owens, effectively polarizing the race between a liberal and an ultra-conservative and making it a referendum on Obama’s nascent presidency. If Hoffman wins, swinging the centrist Republican demographic sharply right, except to see more candidates like him 2010.

If only Manhattanites could work up such passion: there were only two people in the queue ahead of me to vote. At least New Yorkers seem pretty confident in the status quo. I just don’t want to hear them complain that they got “more of the same” four years from now. 

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