Dede Scozzafava

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Dede Scozzafava
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 122nd district
In office
Preceded by Chloe O'Neil
Succeeded by Ken Blankenbush
Personal details
Born Dierdre Kathryn Scozzafava
(1960-04-28) April 28, 1960 (age 57)
Buffalo, New York
Political party Republican (Before 2009)
Democratic (2009–present)
Spouse(s) Ron McDougall[1]
Residence Gouverneur, New York
Alma mater Boston University (B.Sc),
Clarkson University (MBA)
Profession Politician, investment adviser

Dierdre Kathryn "Dede" Scozzafava (/ˈddi skzəˈfɑːvə/ DEE-dee SKOH-zə-FAH-və;[2] born April 28, 1960) is an American politician in New York. She represented District 122 in the New York State Assembly, which includes most of St. Lawrence and Lewis Counties in the North Country and a small portion of Oswego County from 1999 to 2010. Scozzafava held office as a member of the Republican Party, but has since 2009 been a member of the Democratic Party.[3]

She was the Republican nominee to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2009 special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, but suspended her campaign shortly before the election and threw her support to the eventual Democratic winner, Bill Owens.

Scozzafava announced that she would not run for re-election to the State Assembly in the 2010 election cycle and endorsed the Democratic nominee Brian McGrath. McGrath, however, lost the election and Scozzafava was succeeded by Republican Ken Blankenbush.[4][5][6]

In January 2011, Scozzafava was appointed New York Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government by Democratic Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Life and early career[edit]

Scozzafava was born in Buffalo, but has resided for most of her life in Gouverneur, a small village located halfway between Canton and Watertown. She holds a B.S. degree from the Boston University School of Management, as well as an M.B.A. from the Clarkson University Graduate School of Management.[7]

Prior to her election to the state Assembly, she served as a member of the Gouverneur Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1993 and was Mayor of Gouverneur from 1993 to 1998.[7] First elected to the New York State Assembly in 1998, Scozzafava became the ranking Republican on the Codes Committee, as well as a member of the Education and Local Government committees. For the 2001-2002, session she served on the Standing Committees on Economic Development, Education, and Social Services. Scozzafava was also the first-ever female Minority Leader Pro Tempore in the history of the State Assembly.

A liberal Republican, Scozzafava supports abortion and same-sex marriage.[8] She also has strong ties to organized labor, something which is not common for most Republicans.[9] In agreement with most Republicans, Scozzafava is against cap-and-trade[10] and is in favor of maintaining the Bush tax cuts.[11]

Scozzafava opposes gun control and has a lifetime "A" rating from the National Rifle Association.[12]

Scozzafava considered running in a special election for the 48th state Senate district, which includes most of the northwestern portion of her former assembly district, in 2008. However, area Republicans chose Assemblyman William Barclay, in part because they thought Scozzafava would be seen as too socially liberal.[citation needed] Barclay lost the election to Democratic Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine, and some Republican operatives said that in hindsight they should have picked Scozzafava.[13]

According to Scozzafava's filed campaign reports, her husband and other family members have been the largest donors to her campaigns.[citation needed] Scozzafava's ties to Seaway Capital Partners (a firm which owes nearly $200,000 in back taxes and which is run by her brother) were questioned in connection with her 2009 run for Congress. She responded that she had had no direct ties to the company since 2007.[14]

2009 special election[edit]

On July 22, 2009, Scozzafava was chosen by the eleven Republican Party county chairs located in the 23rd Congressional district to be the Republican nominee for the special election to fill the seat in the United States Congress vacated by John M. McHugh, who resigned September 21, 2009, upon taking office as the Secretary of the Army.[8][15] Her state assembly district included much of the northwestern portion of the congressional district.

Many notable Republicans, including former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman rather than the Republican candidate because they deemed Scozzafava too liberal and ideologically indistinguishable from the Democrat.[16][17] Scozzafava also drew strong opposition from the Tea Party movement.[18]

Scozzafava voted for same-sex marriage in the New York State Assembly,[19] and she had also received an award from a Planned Parenthood affiliate in 2008.[20][21][22] Scozzafava's political positions included support for "card check" legislation,[23] support for federal funding for abortion,[24] support for President Obama's 2009 stimulus package,[25] and a refusal to rule out support for health care reform that includes a "public option."[26]

In the campaign for the U.S. House seat, Scozzafava received endorsements from Newt Gingrich,[27] Congressman Peter T King,[27] the National Rifle Association (NRA),[27] the Log Cabin Republicans,[27] and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the largest labor union in New York State.[28]

On October 31, 2009, with poll numbers indicating that she was likely to lose in the three-way race with Conservative Party of New York candidate Doug Hoffman and Democratic candidate Bill Owens and insufficient funds and other campaign support to overcome the gap, Scozzafava ended her campaign and released her supporters to "transfer their support as they [saw] fit.” [29][30] The following day, Scozzafava threw her support to Democrat Owens, calling him "an independent voice who will put New York first."[31] This action put Scozzafava at odds with the Republican National Committee, which had backed Scozzafava prior to her withdrawal (but had subsequently declared support for Hoffman).[30]

An article in The Politico stated that the White House had made a concerted effort to persuade Scozzafava to endorse Owens, dispatching Long Island Congressman Steve Israel, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to lobby her to endorse Owens. At the meeting, Scozzafava reportedly told Cuomo that he would be "the next governor of New York."[32] According to the Watertown Daily Times, New York's senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer, was also among those who lobbied Scozzafava for an endorsement of Owens.[31]

After Scozzafava's unsuccessful congressional campaign, Scozzafava acknowledged that her name had begun being used as a verb: "scozzafavaed."[33][34] Commentator Chris Good described the term as follows: "The gist, basically, is that if you're a moderate Republican and the conservative wing of the GOP sets out to get you, and does, you got Scozzafavaed."[35] Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has used the term in a similar fashion: "We welcome everyone’s right to participate in the democratic process, but...[if] you try to elect pro-gay marriage Republicans, we will Dede Scozzafava them."[36] Also, conservative commentators, including Maggie Gallagher, have used the phrase "the Dede effect" to describe Republican lawmakers' fear of alienating their constituents by voting for same-sex marriage legislation.[37][38]

A week after the 2009 election, Scozzafava was stripped of her Republican leadership position in the State Assembly.[39]

Some observers speculated that Scozzafava might become an independent caucusing with the Democratic super-majority in the state Assembly, or that she might leave the Republican Party altogether and become a Democrat. During Scozzafava's November 1, 2009 meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Silver reportedly pledged that the Democrats would fully support Scozzafava should she decide to leave the GOP.[32] Scozzafava had reportedly also been approached by the Democrats about switching parties in February 2008 after being snubbed for the Republican nomination in the 2008 New York state senate special election. Her husband had also put out feelers to the Democrats in case Aubertine passed on the special congressional election.[13] The Independence Party, the top minor party in the New York, also actively courted Scozzafava.[40] However, Scozzafava told WWNY-TV in Watertown on the day after the election that she intended to remain a Republican for the time being. However, Scozzafava also let it be known that she felt betrayed by the national GOP for its quick endorsement of Hoffman following her exit from the race.[41] She did indeed become a Democrat in late 2009.[3]

After the 2009 Congressional campaign[edit]

In April 2010, Scozzafava announced that she would not run for re-election to the New York State Assembly in November 2010.[4] While Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Brian McGrath to fill her seat in New York's 122nd Assembly District,[5] McGrath was defeated by Republican Ken Blankenbush.[6]

In January 2011, Scozzafava was appointed New York Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government by Democratic Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.[42]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (October 26, 2009). "Right Battles G.O.P. in a Pivotal Race in New York". New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Jessica (January 14, 2014). 2009 deja vu in NY-21? Maybe not. The Hill. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Kleefeld, Eric (April 21, 2010). "Former NY-23 GOP Nominee Dede Scozzafava To Retire From New York State Legislature". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Dems praise Scozzafava at McGrath bash". Watertown Daily Times. September 13, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Blankenbush made funds pay off". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Bio page at Assembly site
  8. ^ a b Weiner, Mark (July 23, 2009). "GOP picks candidate for congressional seat, attacks likely Democratic hopeful". The Post-Standard. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  9. ^ Profile of NY-23 Archived 2010-01-21 at the Wayback Machine. from Congressional Quarterly
  10. ^ Weiner, Mark (October 15, 2009). "Newt Gingrich endorses Dede Scozzafava in NY-23 House race". The Post-Standard. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  11. ^ Jude Seymour "Scozzafava signs pledge not to raise income taxes", Watertown Daily Times, October 19, 2009.
  12. ^ Seiler, Casey. NRA endorses Scozzafava. The Times-Union, October 7, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Benjamin, Elizabeth. Democrats Fan The Flames Of Scozzafava's Tax Troubles. New York Daily News. July 22, 2009.
  14. ^ Brown, Nathan (August 11, 2009). "Owens wins Dems support". Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Retrieved August 12, 2009. 
  15. ^ "John McHugh assumes duties as 21st Secretary of the Army". September 21, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2009. 
  16. ^ Palin: "there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race." "Palin: Ready to shake things up in New York". Reuters. October 22, 2009. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009. 
  17. ^ Hook, Janet (November 3, 2009). "Conservatives emboldened by moves in New York". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Interview with National Tea Party Founder and Leader Michael Johns,"
  19. ^ "Siena College poll shows tight three-way race to fill seat of Rep. John McHugh in N.Y. 23". The Post-Standard. The Associated Press. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  20. ^ Orr, Jimmy (October 31, 2009). "Sarah Palin pleased that Scozzafava drops out of New York race". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  21. ^ "Dede Scozzafava Is No GOP Moderate". Human Events. November 14, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  22. ^ "New York Republican Dede Scozzafava's Campaign Funded by Pro-Abortion Groups". 2010-01-28. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Candidates for 23rd District split on labor issues". Watertown Daily Times. August 30, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  24. ^ Lotemplio, Joe (October 4, 2009). "Congressional candidates address health-care issues at forum". The Press Republican. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  25. ^ "NY-23: Bill Owens On (Some Of) The Issues". Daily Kos. October 4, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Public option skirted in race". Watertown Daily Times. October 11, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  27. ^ a b c d Heller, Marc (October 19, 2009). "23rd Congressional District: Scozzafava, Owens try to avoid being boxed into special interest corners". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  28. ^ "ICYMI: NYSUT endorses Scozzafava in 23rd District race". Dede Scozzafava for Congress. October 13, 2009. Archived from the original on October 20, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  29. ^ Seymour, Jude. Scozzafava suspends 23rd campaign. Watertown Daily Times, October 31, 2009.
  30. ^ a b Nagourney, Adam; Peters, Jeremy W. (October 31, 2009). "G.O.P. Moderate, Pressed by Right, Abandons Race". New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  31. ^ a b "Scozzafava backs Owens, stuns GOP". Watertown Daily Times. November 1, 2009. Archived from the original on November 3, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  32. ^ a b Jonathan Marti; Charles Mathiesan (2009-11-01). "Winning Dede Scozzafava: How Democrats got her nod". The Politico. 
  33. ^ Slajda, Rachel (November 10, 2009). "Scozzafava: 'My Name's A Verb Now'". Talking Points Memo. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  34. ^ Horowitz, Jason (November 15, 2009). "'My name's a verb now': Dede Scozzafava sadder, wiser after bruising political race". Watertown Daily Times. Washington Post. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  35. ^ "A New Term: Scozzafavaed - Chris Good - Politics". The Atlantic. November 6, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  36. ^ Birkey, Andy (2010-02-20). "GOProud Director: National Organization for Marriage Are 'Pansies,' 'Wusses'". The Washington Independent. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  37. ^ Vick, Karl (December 3, 2009). "N.Y. State Senate votes down gay marriage bill by wide margin". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Baptist Press - N.Y., N.J., groups race to pass 'gay marriage' by year's end - News with a Christian Perspective". November 12, 2009. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  39. ^ Horowitz, Jason (November 10, 2009), "'Scozzafava' turns into epithet", The Washington Post, retrieved November 11, 2009 
  40. ^ NY Independence Party courts Scozzafava. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
  41. ^ Feedback: Scozzafava speaks out about lies and betrayals. WWNY-TV, 2009-11-04.
  42. ^ "Governor Cuomo Announces Appointments and Nominations | Governor". Retrieved January 5, 2011. 

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Chloe Ann O'Neil
New York State Assembly, 112th District
Succeeded by
Roy McDonald
Preceded by
Clifford Crouch
New York State Assembly, 122nd District
Succeeded by
Kenneth Blankenbush