Last night, finally, saw Doug Hoffman, third-party candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin, meet his opposition, including Republican Dede Scozzafava, the woman he’d pledged to endorse. The results weren’t pretty. The highlights, both in Part 3, reveal a candidate visibly out of depth on local issues (on water rights, he spouts platitudes while Scozzafava & Owens explain specifics), and plainly with an eye towards a national career first, while the district remains a distant second. We’re all well versed in the idea that “earmarks” — or district “pork” — are too often corrupted. Congressmen score overpriced rewards for political gain, and the taxpayers are left picking up the check. Fine — that does happen (“Bridge to Nowhere”). But “pork” exists for a good reason, and part of a representative’s job is improving her district, responsibly. By swearing off all earmarks, Hoffman is making a promise he can’t possibly keep; threatening military families dependent on local Fort Drum; and foregoing, as Scozzafava points out, a chance to not improve, but build the north country’s infrastructure for the first time. Dede’s pushback nails the point — Hoffman isn’t just about “principle before party.” He’s “principle before district.” It’s a sad commentary on democracy when an irresponsible, dangerously uninformed candidate can poll in the 30%s.
Hopefully those numbers will change. But the race is going to be tight — so tight that upstate Democrats have already requested that the New York state courts supervise the use of old-style “lever” voting machines (a somewhat ringing endorsement for the states’ new, partially-deployed paper ballot/optical scanner system), and that all machines used be impounded immediately following the election, pending a likely recount.
As an interesting sidenote, should a recount be required, and irregularities emerge, they will not be capable of either correction or serious analysis in Essex, Clinton, and Oneida counties. All or part of each county still uses the state’s old “lever” machines, which do not produce a paper trail, but only recite final vote totals. Lost votes on lever machines are irretrievably, truly lost, a fact that, we can hope, won’t shortly become significant.