'Conservatives' Afoot in Upstate New York Election Fighting 'Unorthodox' Scozzafava

Labeling disparity in Jeremy Peters' take on the wild special election to fill a congressional seat in New York state, a three-way battle pitting "unorthodox" (not liberal) Republican Dede Scozzafava against a conservative and a Democrat.
Jeremy Peters reported from upstate New York for Tuesday's front page - "Right, Trying to Shape G.O.P., Battles Party in Upstate Race" - on the crazy congressional race pitting the Republican Party's choice, the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Dede Scozzafava, against conservative Doug Hoffman. Democrat Bill Owens is in danger of being forgotten amid the hoopla.

(The Times called it a "Pivotal Race" in an online headline. Will the Times consider it pivotal if the conservative who bucked the Republican Party ends up winning? Stay tuned.)

Right from the start, Peters made sure everyone knew "conservatives" were afoot in upstate New York:

From a command center inside the Days Inn here, conservatives from around the country are fighting to preserve what they see as the integrity of the Republican Party.

Urged on by leaders like former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Dick Armey, the former House majority leader from Texas, they have come to defeat Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 23rd District, whose views on abortion, same-sex marriage and taxes they deem insufficiently conservative for anyone running as a Republican.

While there were 12 conservative labels in the 1,100-word story, the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Scozzafava was not once called a liberal.

Peters admitted "Mr. Hoffman's candidacy is striking for the way it has galvanized the party's base" and quoted polls showing his momentum:

A Siena College poll on Oct. 15 showed Mr. Owens leading with 33 percent, trailed by Ms. Scozzafava with 29 percent and Mr. Hoffman with 23 percent. More recent surveys have shown Mr. Hoffman gaining, raising the possibility that the winner could capture less than 40 percent of the vote; a majority is not needed.

Indeed, a couple of newer polls show the conservative Hoffman leading.

Peters glossed over Scozzafava's liberalism as "unorthodox" opinions.

Ms. Scozzafava, a former small-town mayor who now represents the area around Fort Drum, near Watertown, in the State Assembly, said that while her view of the party is more expansive than some conservatives might like, Republicans should focus on growing their numbers even if it means accepting candidates whose opinions are unorthodox.

"We shouldn't be having a divisive debate at this time. We should be talking about the things that can unite us as a party and make us stronger as a party," said Ms. Scozzafava, a supporter of same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

The conservatives who oppose Ms. Scozzafava have attacked her as they would a Democrat. They have tried linking her to Acorn because of her relationship with the Acorn-affiliated Working Families Party, and they have called her the candidate of big labor because of her endorsement from the New York State United Teachers Union.

The attacks have at times rattled the Scozzafava campaign. Last week, the campaign called the police after a reporter from The Weekly Standard, the conservative magazine, continued to press Ms. Scozzafava to answer questions after she declined to comment. Afterward, Ms. Scozzafava was mocked relentlessly in the conservative blogosphere.

A Weekly Standard reporter asking questions hardly constitutes an "attack." Here's the incident, as described by the reporter, John McCormack, and confirmed by the Associated Press:

I experienced firsthand Scozzafava's politics of personal revenge at the Elks Lodge event. After I persisted in asking her questions about card-check, taxpayer-funding of abortion, and whether her pledge not to raise taxes meant she'd vote against any health care bill that raised taxes, her husband - a local union boss - called the police.

Officer Brandi Groman showed up in a squad car with its lights flashing minutes later. "Maybe we do things a little differently here, but you know, persistence in that area, you scared the candidate a little bit," Officer Groman told me, as she took down my name, date of birth, and home address.

"[Scozzafava] got startled, that's all," she added. "It's not like you're in any trouble."

The next day, the Scozzafava campaign released a statement claiming that I "repeatedly screamed questions (in-your-face-style)" at the candidate. I didn't. The Associated Press asked to listen to my tape of the event and confirmed my side: "The reporter didn't raise his voice, but repeated his unanswered questions several times."