Dierdre K. Scozzafava's decision to suspend her campaign for the 23rd Congressional District seat is a shocking development in what had already been an extraordinary race.
In her statement Saturday morning, the assemblywoman explained the reasons behind her decision: "It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so."
During the day Saturday, she began to quietly and thoughtfully encourage her supporters to vote for Democrat William L. Owens.
Ms. Scozzafava finished a distant third in the latest Siena Research Institute poll with 20 percent support of likely voters. Her opponents, Mr. Owens and Conservative Douglas L. Hoffman, garnered 36 percent and 35 percent respectively.
The third-place finish in the respected survey, coupled with a shortage of campaign money to overcome the difference in likely support, forced her hand. So did the shift of moderate Republicans — such as former Gov. George E. Pataki — to back Mr. Hoffman.
The Watertown Daily Times initially endorsed Ms. Scozzafava as the best-qualified candidate in the race. We still think she is. However, in suspending her campaign she released her supporters' commitment to her. That left voters to choose between Mr. Owens and Mr. Hoffman.
Of the two, Bill Owens is by far the superior and only choice.
The Democratic candidate has demonstrated a willingness to listen to people about ways in which he could help the district as their representative in Washington. Mr. Owens has remained focused on the economy and job creation throughout his campaign. At the same time, he has shown an understanding of the military, a keen desire to help dairy farmers, an ability to work with labor unions and an eagerness to learn more about the vast, 11-county district that he hopes to represent.
Mr. Owens seems to approach politics and challenges with an open mind, a generous spirit and a can-do attitude. He has conducted a dignified campaign in comparison to Doug Hoffman.
Mr. Hoffman is running as an ideologue. If he carries out his pledges on earmarks, taxation, labor law reform and other inflexible positions, Northern New York will suffer. This rural district depends on the federal government for an investment in Fort Drum and its soldiers, environmental protection of our international waterway and the Adirondack Park, and the livelihood of all our dairy farmers across the district, among other support. Our representative cannot be locked into rigid promises and policies that would jeopardize these critical sectors of our economy.
For a member of Congress, there may be a time to promote reform in Washington, but there is also a time to work within a system that best serves the people you represent.
It is frightening that Mr. Hoffman is so beholden to right-wing ideologues who dismiss Northern New Yorkers as parochial when people here simply want to know how Mr. Hoffman will protect their interests in Washington.
The race has changed, but voters still face an important choice. Northern New York must send to Congress a representative who serves their interests first and foremost.
The Times endorses Bill Owens for Congress.