Democrats, Local and National, Thank Dede and Take Credit for Owens

SARANAC LAKE—It wasn’t the political right, but rather the Democrats who sent a message in Bill Owens’ successful bid to replace John McHugh in Congress.

“Tonight with the entire country watching, Upstate New Yorkers sent a message,” Owens said at his victory party in Plattsburgh. “We came together tonight as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to seek solutions–to create jobs for our workers, to bring economic development back to our communities, to fight for Fort Drum, and to give all middle class families in upstate New York a fair shake from Washington.”

Owens gave “special thanks” to Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate who dropped out this weekend and threw her support to him. It was by sucking up support in her counties, the early analysis shows, that he was able to beat Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.

“We both acknowledged her and the courage that it took for her to do what she knew in her heart was right,” June O’Neill, the executive committee chair of the Democratic State Committee, told me by phone around 1 a.m. “I think that it swayed certainly her supporters, and people over the last 24 hours have been outraged at the muck that people have been throwing at her.”

Rob Ryan, a spokesman for Doug Hoffman, said he didn’t know what effect Scozzafava’s presence on the ballot–she drew more votes than Owens’ margin of victory–had, and whether her  rough treatment by Hoffman’s allies had hurt Hoffman.

“Maybe those people voted for Scozzafava because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Bill Owens. I don’t know,” Ryan said. “It’s something that the pundits are going to be looking at for some time.”

 “I didn’t think we were un-nice. I mean, she was the one, if you ask me, who flipped. We didn’t do anything un-nice to her,” he continued. “When Rush Limbaugh calls somebody something, well look: a lot of people call a lot of people things. Our campaign never did anything but talk about the issues with her. Okay? We talked about her being a liberal. We talked about her liberal voting record which is very clear. So, you know, to say we were nasty because Rush Limbaugh said something is, you know, I think sort of silly.”

O’Neill attacked Limbaugh and other outside voices supporting Hoffman, saying “not here, not now, we are not for sale. Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity don’t live here, but Addie Russell and Darrel Aubertine do, and the people listened to them.”

In the same vein, Representative Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, released this statement on the national implications of the race:

“Congratulations to Congressman-elect Bill Owens on his remarkable victory. Voters in New York’s 23rd District responded to Bill Owens’ message and track record of creating jobs and attracting economic development to Upstate New York.

“This election represents a double-blow for National Republicans and their hopes of translating this summer’s ‘tea party’ energy into victories at the ballot box. Not only did eight extreme right-wing groups spend more than $1 million to drive the moderate Republican – and the NRCC’s chosen candidate – out of the race. Now, after losing a seat that was held by Republicans for nearly 120 years, they have to deal with an emboldened and well-funded far right-wing that refuses to tolerate moderate Republicans with differing opinions.

“I am grateful to President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Democratic Leaders, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Steve Israel and the entire New York Congressional Delegation for their tireless work on behalf of and support of Bill Owens.

“With his commitment to reaching across the aisle to help President Obama enact his agenda for creating jobs and getting our economy moving again, Congressman-elect Bill Owens will be a tremendous asset to our Democratic Caucus.”