Republicans Ponder Scozzafava, Attack Still-Balking Aubertine

ALBANY—Republicans are lashing out at State Senator Darrel Aubertine, the most likely Democratic candidate to succeed John McHugh in Congress, releasing this TV ad tomorrow and a robocall painting him as a tax-and-spend liberal.

"Call Darrel Aubertine. Tell him he voted for too much spending," says the ad, which the National Republican Congressional Committee says will start airing tomorrow.

The G.O.P. has been bracing for an Aubertine candidacy, but moved to attack before he was (or wasn't) named as the Democratic candidate. They made a similar play during a special election in the 20th Congressional District earlier this year, but many local Republicans felt the sustained attacks backfired.

According to Democratic sources, Aubertine has told colleagues that he wants to run, and has the enthusiastic backing of national Democrats, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Local party chairs, who will ultimately make the final decision, extended an application deadline to allow him to send his résumé.

The problem remains statewide Democratic groups that believe the party's control of the State Senate is more important to their interests than another seat in Congress. A Democratic source said that Aubertine's enthusiasm has sapped in the last three days amid a "full court press" from the governor's office and leadership in the State Senate

"Malcolm and the Senate Democrats are still very worried," said another high-level Democrat. "The trial lawyers and the unions and a lot of the other New York City types don't care about the seat."

Aubertine's spokesman Drew Mangione said, "What's going to make or break this decision is the discussions he has with his family and close friends. These are discussions he's been having since session ended."

"He's making his list of pros and cons and hopefully in the next few days, he'll have a decision. Right now the best I can say is 50-50," he added.

Republican sources say that Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava is moving ahead toward that party's nomination. She today secured the endorsement of the Jefferson County party. But there is opposition to her in Washington—she resides in the party's more liberal wing—and conservatives have tried to scuttle her nomination. She even talked to Democrats about the seat. (They now say tax problems scuttled the overture.) National Republicans prefer Matt Doheny, a candidate who has already pledged $500,000 toward his campaign.

Scozzafava said the tax attack shouldn't apply—"my brother's not running, I am"—and that she was "hopeful" that a candidate decision could be reached tonight when county chairs meet tonight in Potsdam. Other Republican sources tell me they don't expect anything to be decided tonight.

A special election in the district has not yet been called. McHugh is expected to be confirmed in September as secretary of the Army, and which point he will step down.