Doug Hoffman May End Up Running Third Party Again

In 2009 Doug Hoffman made the national news as candidate for the Conservative Party of New York candidate in a special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. He lost the Republican nomination to a candidate whom he claimed was too liberal so he continued his run as a member of the Conservative Party. He eventually supplanted the Republican nominee as the main challenger to Democratic candidate Bill Owens. The race became a focus of national attention when high profile Republicans began endorsing Hoffman over his Republican opponent and donations began rolling in.He would eventually lose that race by less than 4000 votes.

Hoffman is now running for Congress again, in 2010, to unseat incumbent Bill Owens. First, though, he has to make it to the general election, which is no where near assured.

Five months after Doug Hoffman exposed a deep divide in the Republican Party by launching a third-party bid for Congress, the odds are suddenly improving for a repeat three-way race in the 23rd Congressional District this fall. The scenario began to play out last week as the early momentum shifted to Republican investment banker Matt Doheny, of Watertown, as he battles Hoffman for the GOP nomination.

Doheny, a political newcomer, picked up the endorsement of the Oneida County Republican Committee and the backing of Republican chairs in Jefferson, Clinton and Essex counties. So far, no Republican county committees or chairs in the 11-county district have endorsed Hoffman.Rob Ryan, Hoffman’s campaign adviser, suggests the trend is the result of GOP party bosses who want to even the score from November when Hoffman embarrassed Republicans who refused to endorse him. “I can’t speak for how other people think, but as an observer I would say some people can’t get over the fact that Doug Hoffman won and they lost,” Ryan said.

In other words, it is looking increasingly likely that Doheny will win the Republican nomination and Hoffman has not clearly indicated that he won’t run third party again.

Even Mike Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, said he likes Doheny’s credentials. But Long insists that Hoffman has earned the right to the Conservative endorsement this year. Nobody else will be considered, Long said.

Undeterred, Doheny said he intends to continue to seek the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines — even if that means a bitter primary battle with Hoffman for all three designations. “I’m working my tail off,” Doheny said in a phone interview between campaign stops in Oswego County last week. “I’ve been all over the 11 counties.”

He added, “I certainly respect Mike Long, but will continue to present myself as a Conservative Party candidate.”

Doheny, emphasizing that he expects to win the Republican endorsement, has pledged to support Hoffman if he should pick up the GOP nomination. But Hoffman has so far declined to make a similar pledge, a move that has privately angered some of the county chairs.

This could turn out to be one of the most interesting races in the country, not just for Republicans and Democrats, but for third party aficionados too.

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