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Hoffman's supporters stage big rally

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Douglas L. Hoffman's first congressional campaign stop in Watertown had more campaign staff — three — than attendees.


Three months later, the Conservative Party candidate in the 23rd Congressional District race was a bigger draw here than the vice president of the United States.


Mr. Hoffman's raucous rally Monday at the Jefferson County Agricultural Society Exhibition Hall drew more than 300 and featured speeches by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and a soundtrack by country music star John Rich.


Mr. Thompson, revered in conservative circles, wasted no time reminding the crowd of what was at stake today.


"The eyes of the nation — the eyes of the world — are on New York 23 tonight," he said. "And tomorrow you're going to shake the foundations of Washington D.C."


The former Republican presidential hopeful said he learned of the race from his wife, Jeri, a radio talk show host.


"We talked about it for a long, long time back when Doug Hoffman was third in the polls and no one thought he had a chance," he told the crowd. "But just like you, we thought it was the right thing to do. So we got on board."


Mr. Hoffman said Mr. Thompson "came to my aid when it was the darkest and I didn't think we had a chance."


The backing of national political figures, coupled with financial support from conservative groups such as Club for Growth, helped jump-start Mr. Hoffman's rise from obscurity.


The rally's alternate attractions provided Mr. Hoffman with an opportunity to speak directly to some of the undecided demographic.


"I'm not going to fool around," he told the crowd. "I'm going to get on the Armed Services Committee and I'm going to make sure that everything we can do for Fort Drum, we do it. I'm going to make sure that we help Watertown with new jobs, new businesses and new economy that's going to carry us through for the next 10, 20, 50 years."


Mr. Hoffman also pledged to "stop the Nancy Pelosi agenda of higher spending, higher taxes, more government regulations, more red tape. And most of all, we don't need them running our health care system."


The name of Ms. Pelosi was invoked four times during the rally — often accompanied by a chorus of boos.


Mr. Rich, half of the country duo Big & Rich, predicted voters would drop "a Hoffman house on her."


"Tomorrow, there's going to be a lot of conservative partying going on in this neck of the woods," the singer said.


Mr. Rich also took swipes at Dierdre K. Scozzafava and the Republican officials who picked her as a congressional candidate over Mr. Hoffman.


"I'm a little sideways with the Republican Party for putting up Dede Schizophrenic," he said.


The singer said of Ms. Scozzafava's decision Saturday to suspend her campaign: "There was a fox in the hen house, but you know what? We smoked that fox out."

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