Republican-Conservative Split in New York `Dream Come True' for Democrats

Entering the final weeks before New York’s Sept. 14 primary, Matt Doheny, an investment manager who loaned his campaign $500,000, had a 3-to-1 cash advantage over his rival for the Republican nomination in the state’s 23rd congressional district, campaign finance reports show.

Doheny is facing Doug Hoffman, who is already the Conservative Party’s nominee and, as often happens in New York, is vying to also represent Republicans on the general election ballot. If Doheny wins, conservative-leaning voters may be divided in November, boosting the re-election prospects of first-term Democratic Representative Bill Owens.

“That’s the Democratic dream come true,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York. “Nothing like having Conservatives and Republicans dividing up the anti-Democratic vote. In competitive districts, that can determine who takes the oath of office.”

Republicans represent just two of 29 New York congressional districts, and are looking at the Empire State as a source of some of the 39 seats they need to gain nationwide to regain the U.S. House majority they lost in 2006.

A Republican-Conservative split in the 23rd district helped Owens win a special election last year to become the first Democrat in Congress from his upstate New York region in more than a century.

Doheny, a portfolio manager for New York-based Fintech Advisory Inc., had $471,000 in the bank as of Aug. 25, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Hoffman, who was the Conservative nominee against Owens a year ago, had about $152,000.

Similar Rivalry

A similar rivalry is brewing on Long Island, where the Republican and Conservative parties may wind up with different candidates to run against New York Representative Tim Bishop, who is rated as one of the nation’s most endangered Democratic incumbents by three Washington-based publications that handicap congressional races: Congressional Quarterly, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report.

Candidates in New York’s 1st district include Chris Cox, the son of New York’s state Republican chairman and the grandson of former President Richard Nixon, and Randy Altschuler, a businessman backed by Conservative Party leaders. Cox has loaned his campaign $1 million, and Altschuler has put $1.6 million of personal loans into the race, according to federal campaign disclosures.

Special Election Rift

Last November, in a special election to replace Republican John McHugh, who became secretary of the Army, Hoffman drew support from anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party activists and from well-known Republicans such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. The official Republican nominee, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, eventually withdrew from the race and endorsed the Democrat, Owens.

This year, Hoffman has the endorsement of Tea Party-allied groups such as Armey’s FreedomWorks, and he has received 60 percent of his donations in amounts of less than $200.

Many of Hoffman’s small donors come from outside his district and learned of his candidacy on the Internet, said Rob Ryan, his senior communications adviser. “It’s people from all over the place,” Ryan said.

Owens, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, had almost $600,000 in the bank on Aug. 25.

“Matt Doheny is the only Republican in the race who can win against Bill Owens,” campaign spokeswoman Alison Power said. “But the Republican voters on Sept. 14 will decide who their nominee is -- not Doug Hoffman.”

More Republicans

The district has more enrolled Republicans than Democrats.

On Long Island, three candidates are seeking the backing of Republican and Conservative voters.

Altschuler had $1.3 million in his campaign account as of Aug. 25. Cox, the son of state Republican Chairman Edward Cox and Tricia Nixon Cox, had $251,000. A third candidate, George Demos, a former Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement lawyer, had $118,000.

Bishop, a Democrat first elected in 2002, has raised $1.9 million for his re-election and had $1.5 million in the bank on Aug. 25.

Cox’s spokesman, Jim Teese, said unifying the Republican and Conservative nominations is important for victory.

“Sure it’s a concern” if Republicans and Conservatives split, Teese said. “ That’s why we’ve been making the argument that we’re the ones to unify the party.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net; Peter S. Green in New York at psgreen@bloomberg.net.

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