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Scozzafava back on campaign trail, with McGrath


GOUVERNEUR — Assemblywoman Dierdre K. Scozzafava hit the hustings this week for the first time since her congressional bid went into tailspin a year ago and found that, while the Republican Party's inner sanctum may never forgive her, many constituents still revere the Gouverneur resident.

Ms. Scozzafava, who decided this spring not to seek a seventh term, stumped Saturday in her hometown with Democrat Brian S. McGrath, who is seeking her soon-to-be-vacated seat.

The Martinsburg resident, who is a political neophyte, said Ms. Scozzafava's presence helped him connect with potential voters who may know little about his campaign.

"It helps to have a local fixture introducing you and telling her longtime friends and supporters that she believes in me," he said. "That goes a long way in the north country."

It also gave him an opening to approach undecided Republicans, whom he hopes to entice away from his GOP opponent, Kenneth D. Blankenbush.

For Ms. Scozzafava, Mr. McGrath's invitation was a brief opportunity to be politically active during her first free summer in a decade and "have some sort of say" on who might replace her.

"I haven't done a lot of campaigning this year, but it's been a positive experience," she said.

The Republican admitted her party's faithful have largely excluded her from campaign season soirees and rallies since she dropped out of the 23rd Congressional District race last fall and endorsed Democratic opponent William L. Owens.

Ms. Scozzafava, who said she's "a little more independent these days," endorsed Mr. McGrath last month and also has publicly backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew M. Cuomo.

She said she backs candidates who share her fiscally conservative yet socially moderate viewpoint — an ideology that started losing its faithful when the more socially conservative tea party movement started gaining traction nationwide.

Ms. Scozzafava said she talked to Mr. McGrath as both were proceeding through their parties' selection process before the special congressional election last fall.

"I sensed at that time an extreme sincerity, an interest in the north country economy and a wanting to make things better," she said. "He brings an energy. He's smart. And he cares about the important issues of the area."

Ms. Scozzafava joined the candidate Sunday in Sackets Harbor and plans to campaign door to door with him in St. Lawrence County this week.

She said she's open to helping out other candidates, but still hasn't publicly committed to either contender in the 23rd District race.

Ms. Scozzafava said she still likes Mr. Owens, Plattsburgh, and believes he's done "a good job," but isn't giving automatic bids.

"This race has a different dynamic," she said.

She said she will consider Republican candidate Matthew A. Doheny, although she acknowledges that his campaign has made no outreach to her. Mr. Doheny, Watertown, said in August that he "absolutely loathe[d] and detest[ed]" when Ms. Scozzafava quit the race, backed Mr. Owens and, later, other Democrats.

Ms. Scozzafava said she still isn't certain what she will do after the campaigning stops and her Assembly term ends.

"I hope to be doing something in the area, public service in some capacity," she said. "We'll have to see what happens."

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