ALBANY—Less than 24 hours after her designation as the Republican candidate to replace John McHugh in Congress, Assemblywoman DeDe Scozzafava is about to get a challenge from the right.
"I did call up Mike Long, and Shaun Marie Lavine. Clearly they are not backing DeDe Scozzafava," said Jim Kelly, a Conservative Party operative from Wilmington who managed John Spencer's 2006 unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. "As soon as he gives me the green light, I'm going to jump into this thing. I'm going to bring newspaper reporters with me, and we're going to trash the Republicans on this for running a RINO. She's a RINO."
Kelly fought to paint Scozzafava as too liberal for the seat earlier in the process, pointing to her votes to legalize same-sex marriage and her pro-choice position. Kelly said he thinks Republicans put her forth as a sacrificial lamb to draw State Senator Darrell Aubertine into the race. His seat in that chamber is considered likely to flip in an open election. He's not pleased.
"The girl stands for absolutely nothing," he said. "She's a little assemblywoman that's part of that Albany mess. The conservative base is going to flee from her. This is going to be a total collapse for the state Republican Party."
I reached Mike Long on his cell phone, and he confirmed he spoke with Kelly.
"I'm sure most of the Conservative leaders would support him," Long said of Kelly. "I told him fine, we'll talk down the road. We won't make a move until the seat is vacated. Also, we'll see who else appeals for our endorsement. Jim would deifnitely have, you could say, an inside track. But we'll see who else comes forward."
UPDATE: Kelly called a few hours later to say that he had been "talking off-the-cuff" and misspoke when he referred to Scozzafava as a "girl."
"I meant ‘woman,’" he said.