With the leading Democrat now out of the special election to replace Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), the centrist New York Independence Party announced Friday that it was switching its allegiances, endorsing state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the Republican nominee, instead.
The party had previously signaled its intention to back state Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D) in the yet-to-be-scheduled special election, but Aubertine announced Thursday evening that he wouldn’t run.
“In polling our state executive committee this morning, I can say with certainty that we will support our local leaders in the 23rd Congressional District and today we throw the support of the Independence Party behind Assemblywoman Scozzafava,— Independence Party State Chairman Frank MacKay said in a statement.
It’s another piece of good news for Republicans this week in their attempt to hold McHugh’s seat. Because President Barack Obama won the upstate district by 5 points last year, Democrats have felt the special election would be very competitive.
The Independence Party ballot line can be critical in close elections — and may be especially valuable to Scozzafava, because as a political moderate she is unlikely to receive the endorsement of the New York Conservative Party in the special election, which is expected to nominate a candidate of its own.
Republicans hold a 46,000-voter edge in registration over Democrats in the upstate 23rd district, which has almost 20,000 enrolled members of the Independence Party. McHugh, who has been nominated to be secretary of the Army, usually ran on the Independence line.
With Aubertine out of the race, it remains to be seen how competitive Democrats will be in the special election. National party leaders are expected to talk to two attorneys, William Owens and Brian McGrath, in the next few days, and former U.S. Attorney Daniel French is also seen as a potentially strong candidate.
The Democratic chairmen in the 11 counties within the 23rd district have not yet laid out a timetable for selecting their nominee. Of course, there is no timetable yet for the special election, either.