The Nation's Eyes Turn to... Plattsburgh

Upstate showdown has Palin-Obama subplot

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    What could have been a sleepy contest to replace a longtime incumbent has turned into a mini-soap opera.

    And this was supposed to be an "off-year" election.

    Not in upstate New York. What could have been a sleepy contest to replace a longtime incumbent has turned into a mini-soap opera.

    With the White House convincing the Republican to drop out and endorse the Democrat. And the Conservative candidate favored to win anyway.

    For those picking up the storyline late, New York's 23rd Congressional District -- which is a mostly rural swath from north of Albany to the Canadian border -- gained national attention in June after President Obama nominated Republican Congressman Jim McHugh to become Secretary of the Army.

    The GOP's nominated replacement, state assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, should have had smooth sailing to replace McHugh. Except her views were considered too liberal for the party's hard-line base. Particularly since Scozzafava supports gay marriage and is pro-choice.

    So, national Republicans, from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to Sarah Palin weighed in. They backed a Conservative, Doug Hoffman, who's been leading most polls.

    But no one really knows how the undecided vote will break, especially since Scozzafava dropped out last weekend -- and endorsed the Democrat, Bill Owens. Her endorsement has led some to describe the election as a "battle for the soul of the Republican party" or a "referendum on President Obama," who asked Scozzafava to back the Democrat.

    Back story aside, it could be just another upstate election, where Democrats have an uphill climb.

    Meanwhile in New York City, there are a couple of City Council races to keep your eye on: Al Vann, the Brooklyn Democrat seeking a third term after 27 years in the State Assembly, is facing an insurgent campaign from the Working Family Party's Mark Winston Griffith. The WFP challenger even got endorsements from Council Member Charles Barron and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    And in Queens, Republicans are hoping to make gains where they only have three seats on the 51-member city council. But contests in Flushing, Bayside and the Rockaways are very competitive, and could dent the Democrats' overwhelming advantage.