Don't look to party labels in the NY-23 if you're looking for a hint about where the candidates stand.
Dede Scozzafava, the Republican
Scozzafava is pro-labor, pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, but like everyone else in her party, opposes a robust public option that would keep costs down by introducing competition in the market.
Bill Owens, the Democrat
Owens isn't a registered Democrat, he's an independent. He's anti-gay marriage (because of "religious issues"), and also opposes the public option for health care. (He is, at least, reportedly pro-choice.)
So if you're keeping score, the two candidates are exactly the same, except that Owens isn't a member of his own party and opposes marriage equality. Yup, on the issues, Owens is actually to the right of Scozzafava.
Douglas Hoffman, the Conservative
Of course, Scozzafava's social liberalism is a tough sell in her party, and conservative forces in her district are mobilizing against her, using New York's affinity for third-party lines ("fusion voting") to play spoiler with Hoffman, who is a reliable wingnut.
It seems Republicans are starting to guard against the possibility that Hoffman gets some traction. Scozzafava’s spokesman denounced him in the press Monday, and today the campaign passed around a local report about Hoffman in which he couldn’t name a federal program or entitlement he would cut.
Hoffman has also gained positive press in recent days in Washington, where a Washington Times columnist openly urged GOP voters to support Hoffman over Scozzafava.
Campaigns don’t pay attention to third-party candidates unless they at least have some potential. Scozzafava was seen as a solid middle-of-road candidate when she was picked, and she is probably the favorite if it’s one-on-one with the Democrat. But if Hoffman can put together some money and continue to get press attention, he could steal a significant chunk of the vote, and that could open the door to Democrat Bill Owens.
The Conservative party endorsed most of Ms. Scozzafava's prior Assembly campaigns, even as recently as 2006.
Conservative leaders repeatedly have pointed out that Ms. Scozzafava scored a 15 out of 100 on the party's 2008 ranking system, in which they compared voting records on 20 priority bills to the party's position on those bills. The assemblywoman scored a 40 in 2004, a 52 in 2005, a 40 in 2006 and a 56 in 2007.
"Since 2004, she has consistently voted wrong," said Mr. Long. "We ultimately stripped her of our endorsement because she had shifted to the left. She took the Working Families Party endorsement, which is nothing more than a political front organization for ACORN."
Really, you know an election is fucked when the Republican appears to be the most palatable option, but even she doesn't look any good beyond the social issues.