Six months after losing a bruising battle for the 23rd Congressional District seat, Dierdre K. Scozzafava has decided to take a break from politics.
The Gouverneur resident said Wednesday she will not seek a seventh term in the 122nd Assembly District.
“If you go back to the run for Congress, I was really looking to do something different and go in a different direction and be challenged differently,” the Republican said Wednesday. “That hasn't changed. As much as I've enjoyed my time in the state Assembly, I think it's time for me to take a breather and go in a different direction.”
Ms. Scozzafava said she has “a lot of opportunities in different directions,” although she reaffirmed there was no deal made in exchange for her suspending her congressional campaign with three days to go and throwing her support to the eventual winner, Democrat William L. Owens.
The assemblywoman said she is considering returning to the financial services sector, but does not have a job lined up. She was employed for 18 years at RBC Dain-Rauscher, formerly Tucker Anthony, where she served as a broker. Ms. Scozzafava resigned that position in 2002.
The assemblywoman repeatedly said she would not rule out running again in the future for another position, but said she looked forward to taking a break.
Ms. Scozzafava acknowledged the congressional campaign, where she was the focus of attacks from both opponents for months, “definitely impacted me personally as well as politically.”
Kenneth D. Blankenbush, Jefferson County Legislature chairman, announced his intention earlier this week to create a primary challenge to Ms. Scozzafava. His candidacy was, in part, a reaction to the assemblywoman's decision to support Mr. Owens last fall.
Ms. Scozzafava said it was a lack of inspiration, not a reticence to endure a another potentially grueling campaign that convinced her to take this hiatus.
“I've had a lot of people asking me — begging me in some instances — to continue to run,” she said. “But I've got to have the motivation and desire to go forward. How can I truly have that motivation and desire if I'm looking at other things to do?”
Ms. Scozzafava repeatedly said she was not ruling out a return to public service in the future, but added that she was dismayed by the current tenor of the political debate.
“I do not like the way our Republican Party is competing on the national level. I don't like how partisan things are in this nation right now,” she said. “There's no wiggle room. If the party says one position, everyone seems to fall in line with that. That's not who I am. That's not who I'll ever be.”
Ms. Scozzafava, who said she had created friendships in both the Republican and Democratic parties, said the break would allow her to view issues “through a little bit more of an independent lens for a while.”
The assemblywoman's immediate plans are to continue serving the remainder of her term and work on book she's writing about her experience in the congressional race. Ms. Scozzafava said she has no plans to move from the area or the state.
With Ms. Scozzafava out of the running, Mr. Blankenbush may soon have company in the race.
West Carthage Mayor Scott Burto said he wouldn't have sought the seat if Ms. Scozzafava had stayed. Now, the Republican said, “I need to take some time at this point to talk to my family and some local supporters and make a decision rather quickly as far as what my plans are for the 122nd.”
Jefferson County Legislator Michael W. Behling, R-Adams Center, had previously said he also was interested if the incumbent decided against running. He had no comment Wednesday, having just heard of the development.
Lewis County Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, said Wednesday that Ms. Scozzafava's announcement did not change his decision not to run, which he first revealed in February.
There is, as of yet, no announced Democratic candidates for the seat, although Jefferson County Democratic Chairman Sean M. Hennessey said that may soon change.
“With her leaving, this pretty much opens the door for us,” he said. “My phone has been ringing off the hook. I’ve got a lot of people interested in this post.”
Mr. Hennessey said he heard from three interested candidates in the first four hours after the news of Ms. Scozzafava’s decision broke, and had a fourth candidate in mind already.
“I think we’re going to have a real strong candidate and we’re looking forward to a good race,” the chairman said.
St. Lawrence County Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said he was interested in the seat if Ms. Scozzafava had won the congressional election and a special election had been called soon thereafter. But he said Wednesday he was “most likely” not interested at this point because he'd have to give up his run for the legislature.
“That's where my heart is,” he said. “I really enjoy being a county legislator.”
Watertown Mayor Jeffrey Graham discussed the assemblywoman's decision on his afternoon talk show, "The Hotline." The audio is courtesy of Newzjunky.