Candidate Recruitment; CA 12, 1946 v. NY 23, 2009

I think we are all well aware of the botched job party leaders did in northern NY for the McHugh vacancy election;  Stevie Wonder could have seen what was likely to occur and did occur.  Perhaps the Republican activist base needs to ascertain whether we have a breakdown in candidate recruitment and selection for key House races; and determine how to fix this before the process for the '10 cycle goes off the rails.

In a "Back to the Future" approach, I thought back to a prior election cycle when local activists decided to screen their own candidates and put forward someone whom they thought would give the Republicans a good chance to win a tough seat.  To wit, California 12, 1946

As Voorhis served his fifth term in the House, Republicans searched for a candidate capable of defeating him.[9] Local Republicans formed what became known as the "Committee of One Hundred" (officially, the "Candidate and Fact-Finding Committee") to select a candidate with broad support in advance of the June 1946 primary election.

The Committee tried to persuade prominent local leaders to jump into the fray, and sounded out former district native Gen. George Patton to ascertain his interest. Having whiffed on such a prominent candidate, they then interviewed a number of other hopefuls, and decided the one that impressed them the most was a young lawyer in the Navy, Richard Nixon.

  On November 1, 1945, he flew to California to meet influential Republicans and give a speech at a Committee meeting. The meeting was advertised throughout the district and was open to any potential candidate. However, the advertisements for the meeting noted that Nixon would be flying in to speak.[15] A number of potential rivals also showed up at the meeting on November 2, 1945, including a local judge and assemblyman. Nixon, who spoke last, was "electrifying", according to one Committee member.[16] When the Committee met to vote on November 28, Nixon received over two-thirds of the vote, which was then made unanimous. Committee chairman Roy Day immediately notified the victor of the Committee's endorsement.

This process was important to Republican success that year as California held a primary with an early cutoff date and a former Republican congressman was seeking tp return to office on an openly bigoted platform. He decided to run as a third party candidate and attracted little support.

So, what does suburban L.A. in the last century have to do with now? Well, what it shows is that in that election prominent Republicans decided they could not rely on party bosses to find candidates and anoint a nominee. Nor could they take their chances on whoever decided on their own hook to enter the primary. and hope the voters would give a credible general election candidate a pluraility of the vote. No, they decided to get the process moving themselves.

Perhaps the Republican rank-and-file needs to establish its own "Committee of 100" groups of prominent non-office holders in districts around the country.  It's pretty obvious the smoke filled room didn't work very well in NY 23, and if the party thinks "certified pre-owned candidate recruitment" is the answer, we are likely to be very disappointed.

We need to find the new type of candidate who is articulate, independent and in touch with his community.  If you don't look, you won't find.


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NY-23: I agree with what you say about process, Ironman, but...

...if you want a new Republican majority, doesn't it bother you at all that the nomination of Hoffman would represent a rather drastic lurch towards conservatism in NY-23 compared to Mike McHugh...? Or do you really believe Dick Armey's "We win when we are us" argument even in liberal New York?

To show what I mean, I will list all GOP House losses in NY since the 1994 landslide. For each loss, I have listed the American Conservative Union rating for the Representative's last year in Congress as well as the final lifetime ACU rating. Now, this particular metric is not perfect but it does give some clues about the internal ideological make-up of GOP NY House caucus. For example, let's see if conservative candidates fare better than RINOs against Democrats


1994 (14 GOP Reps, no losses)

1996 (13 GOP, one loss -- Frisa (5th most conservative in NY / 1st lifetime ACU rating in NY) lost to Democratic challenger)

1998 (12 GOP, no losses)

2000 (12 GOP, one loss -- Lazio (6th/7th) ret.; moderate Republican loses open seat)

2002 (11 GOP, one loss -- Grucci(6th/3rd) )

2004 (10 GOP, one loss -- Quinn (4th/6th) ret.; conservative Republican loses open seat)


2006 ( 9 GOP, three losses --Kelly (6th / 8th), Sweeney (7th / 5th), Boehlert (9th/9th) ret..; moderate Republican loses open seat)

2008 ( 6 GOP, three losses --Kuhl (2nd/3rd), Fossella (3rd/2nd) ret.; conservative GOP candidate loses open seat, Walsh (4th/6th) ret.; conservative GOP candidate loses open seat


The ACU ratings above are for the New York caucus only. The absolute ACU ratings are:

Year Name Last year ACU Lifetime ACU  



1996  Frisa 80 95  



2000  Lazio 63 65  



2002  Grucci 80 82



2004  Quinn 71 68



2006  Kelly 68 65



2006  Boehlert 46 40



2006  Sweeney 64 75



2008  Fossella 74 83



2008  Walsh 50 66



2008  Kuhl 79 82  Lost




A few observations:

-Incumbents that vote conservative at least three times out of four (ACU=75+)  are significantly more likely to lose against Democratic opponents in NY. Since 1994 Frisa, Grucci, Sweeney and Kuhl have all lost while a conservative replacement candidate failed to defend Vito Fossella's open seat last year. This leaves only one hard-core conservative Rep in all of New York state: Tom Reynolds.

-Moderate GOP incumbents fare better in New York as only one candidate -- Sue Kelly -- lost a general election since 1994. However, when incumbents such as Sherwood Boehlert retire, the GOP still fails to defend the open seat. It also seems clear that, *AT BEST*, conservative challengers fare no better than RINOs in New York when trying to defend open GOP seats. 

-Based on the above, it seems Hoffman will almost certainly fail to defend McHugh's seat. McHugh, after all, only had an ACU rating of 40 in his last year so he is not all that conservative...'

-Scozzafava's liberal voting record has been criticized but she actually is a moderate by NY GOP standards according to this analysis [ ]. Now, does the national Republican party need New York Representatives such as her? I would argue that it does if it wants to become a majority party again. Case in point: the Democrats did not choose a bunch of Berkeley moonbat crazies to challenge open seats in places such as North Carolina in 2006-08. The quest for ideological purity leaves the GOP with just 178 seats, not enough to block the Democratic agenda in any meaningful way e.g. the big debate about health care reform takes place almost entirely inside the Democratic Party where moderates pretty much will decide the fate of "the public option" etc.. .