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Scozzafava's future in politics uncertain after backing Owens

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava faces an uncertain future in state politics after aborting her congressional campaign three days before elections and throwing her support behind her Democratic opponent.


Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, R-Canadaigua, said he'll decide next week whether or not to remove the Gouverneur assemblywoman as the party's pro tempore, or floor leader. And Ms. Scozzafava said Wednesday that she's unsure if she'll seek a seventh Assembly term next fall.


"I don't know where I'm going to land in this," she said. "But I hope, when the dust settles, that people see that the decision that I made put the people first."


Ms. Scozzafava said "it hurt" to suspend her congressional bid Saturday and free her supporters to choose another candidate. While some of her base immediately picked a second candidate, the assemblywoman said many called her for advice on who they should back.


"In the end, I still had a decision to make," she said. "I wanted the candidate who could best represent me."


The assemblywoman picked now Congressman-elect William L. Owens over Douglas L. Hoffman, a registered Republican running on the Conservative Party line. Ms. Scozzafava said "there were no promises. There were no deals" in exchange for her support.


"If this is my end, so be it," she said. "At least I know we have a congressional representative who is going to put the interests of the district above the interests of the Club for Growth and Rush Limbaughs of the world."


The endorsement was immediately denounced by Mr. Kolb and three of Ms. Scozzafava's Republican colleagues — William A. Barclay, Pulaski; David R. Townsend Jr., Kirkland; and Robert C. Oakes, Macedon.


Ms. Scozzafava has since talked twice to Mr. Kolb, who said he was "deeply saddened and disappointed" by her decision.


"I understand that my actions might have put him in a difficult situation," she said. "I do not regret, at all, the endorsement. And I do not regret running."


ATTACKS STILL CONTINUED


Ms. Scozzafava said Mr. Hoffman never asked her for her support after she dropped out, but instead continued attacking her.


"There was no sense of compassion in this man at all," she said. "I know a lot of people that were hurt by the tone of the campaign that Mr. Hoffman ran."


Ms. Scozzafava said she found it "problematic" if "our party is going to be co-opted by this right wing."


"There are a lot of people out there like me," she said. "If we don't have a place to work with them, we're going to start working against them. And I think the Republican Party needs to be aware of that."


Sensing Ms. Scozzafava's unease, state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay said Wednesday he will invite Ms. Scozzafava to carry his party as her main affiliation. For now, the assemblywoman said she has no plans to change parties.


Ms. Scozzafava also debunked speculation that she and her husband, Ronald P. McDougall, would move to Florida so that he could take a job at General Motors.


SEAT ENTICING TO SOME


While Ms. Scozzafava ponders her next move, several party members are considering making theirs.


Kenneth D. Blankenbush, a Jefferson County legislator, said he is mulling a run for Ms. Scozzafava's seat.


"This is a decision that I'm going to have to make within the next couple of weeks," the Republican said Tuesday. "I'm trying to see what kind of support I have and maybe put a committee together to do some outreach to other counties and make up my mind."


Mr. Blankenbush was non-committal about his willingness to wade into a potential primary with Ms. Scozzafava. In the interim, the Black River resident said Tuesday that he's secured enough support to remain chairman of the county Legislature.


OTHERS WILL NOT CHALLENGE


Fellow county Legislator Michael W. Behling said he was also interested in the Assembly seat, but the Adams Republican said he wouldn't jump in the race if Ms. Scozzafava also sought the GOP line.


Mr. Behling forced a primary against Ms. Scozzafava seven years ago, but the incumbent defeated him handily.


Richard C. Lucas, a Lewis County legislator, said he told the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee in the summer that he was interested in the seat.


"Their thought was that Dede was going to win," he said. "Obviously, we're in a much different position than we were back then."


Mr. Lucas, who owns the Montague Inn, said that if he decided to run, he "would not hold back" from forcing a primary with Ms. Scozzafava if she still wanted to run.


But the Barnes Corners resident added: "I'm certainly not 100 percent sure that I'm ready to go at it anyway."


West Carthage Mayor Scott Burto, a Republican, also expressed interested in the seat, but said he would "definitely not run against Dede if she wanted to continue to run."


Sean M. Hennessey, Jefferson County Democratic Party chairman, said it's still too early to tell who might be interested in the position from his party.


The 122nd District includes southern and eastern Jefferson County, southern St. Lawrence County, all of Lewis County and three towns in northern Oswego County.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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