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History May Repeat Itself in Upstate New York

Republicans would like to forget the special election battle that raged in New York’s 23rd district last year, the one that pitted the moderate and conservative wings of the party against each other and ultimately led to a Democrat winning the seat for the first time in a century.

But as the state GOP establishment starts to line up behind businessman Matt Doheny — and against accountant Doug Hoffman — some Republicans fear that a three-way race replay is exactly what they could get.

Hoffman said in a recent interview that he was confident he will win the GOP nomination in the Sept. 14 primary, but he stopped short of saying he would not stay in the race and run on another party line if he doesn’t win.

“The key factors, as in last year’s race, I had the grass-roots support and I’m bringing that grass-roots support in this year, and I’m going to cultivate it further, and I’m sure they still know what my positions are,” Hoffman said.

Former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole, who supported Hoffman in his bid against GOP state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava last year and recently held a fundraiser for him in Washington, said a divided electorate is a legitimate concern for Republicans.

“They are very worried we won’t be united in November, so obviously you got, I would say, two very good candidates, and we are hopeful that they can settle it in the primary,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

But unlike the last race, Cole said after the primary he would support the nominee — regardless of whether Hoffman is chosen.

“I just felt Doug deserved help for having stepped up and saved us from a big mistake, so I’ll help him,” Cole said. “But if he’s not successful in winning the Republican nomination, I’ll support the Republican candidate.”

Alison Power, a spokeswoman for Doheny, indicated that, unlike the special election, this race would not be an ideological battle.

“There is very little philosophically that separates Matt from Hoffman,” Power wrote in an e-mail. “We believe that Matt can communicate his conservative agenda better than Hoffman and can raise substantially more resources than Hoffman can.”

Power also said Doheny is assuming Hoffman will continue his campaign even if he loses the GOP nomination.

“The bottom line is he feels he can win whether Hoffman is in the race in November or not,” she said.

But the two candidates’ respective endorsements may be among the first signs that trouble is brewing again.

Doheny has the backing of the New York Independence Party, as well as nine of the district’s 11 GOP county committee chairmen.

Hoffman has the endorsement of the Conservative Party, the same banner that he ran under last fall, as well as the New York Right to Life Party and FreedomWorks PAC, led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas).

Armey played a large role in derailing Scozzafava during last year’s special election.

Conservatives deemed Scozzafava’s views too liberal and led a successful campaign against her that hampered her fundraising and led to her eventual withdrawal and endorsement of now-Rep. Bill Owens (D) just days before the election. Owens defeated Hoffman 50 percent to 45 percent.

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