October 30th, 2009
10:00 AM ET
5 years ago

Ad wars: NY-23 flirts with the $2 million mark

(CNN) - Nearly $1.8 million worth of ad spending has flooded the airwaves in New York's 23rd congressional district in the runup to next week's special election to fill that seat.

Democrat Bill Owens, the SEIU, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have spent more than $822,000 so far, with the majority of that money coming from Owens, according to an analysis by TNSMI-CMAG, CNN's consultant on political advertising. Embattled Republican Dede Scozzafava's campaign, the state party and the National Republican Congressional Committee have laid out $536,072 in support of her bid - but just under $67,000 has come from the state assemblywoman's cash-poor campaign.

And roughly $429,000 worth of ads have aired on Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's behalf, with the majority of those funds coming from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

When the Club for Growth's $287,000 in TV ads aimed at swaying conservative-leaning voters on Hoffman's behalf first hit the airwaves a few weeks ago, Scozzafava enjoyed a slim but statistically significant edge in this Republican-leaning district: A Siena survey released earlier this month, before the Club for Growth and Hoffman ads hit the airwaves, found she held a 7-point edge over Owens, 35-28 percent. Hoffman registered 16 percent – despite the fact that roughly 7 in 10 of those polled didn't know who he was. The seat's previous occupant, former GOP Rep. John McHugh – who left office to serve as President Obama's Secretary of the Army – won re-election in 2008 by nearly 2-to-1 over his Democratic challenger.

Then came the Club's ads, which slammed her just as hard as her Democratic opponent, with one comparing Owens to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Scozzafava to New York's unpopular governor, David Paterson - an attack designed to resonate in this conservative district. A few days later came TV ads from Hoffman's campaign that painted him as the race's true conservative.

"There's something going on today. Politicians don't understand it. But Americans are fighting back. That's why conservative Republican Doug Hoffman is running for Congress," said the narrator in a 30-second Hoffman spot. "He'll fight for strict term limits, reject pork barrel spending, oppose and refuse any pay hike for Congress. Army veteran, businessman, NRA member, Hoffman will take our conservative values to Washington."

Non-candidates have spent more on this race than the candidates themselves, says TNSMI-CMAG's Evan Tracey - "which could be the new norm" in 2010.

As the Hoffman-linked ad buys grew - even before a string of high-profile Republicans publicly backed Hoffman's bid - Scozzafava's numbers sank: By late October, her 7-point advantage over Owens had turned into an apparent 4-point deficit in a new Siena survey, though one roughly within the poll's 3.9 percent sampling error – she now trailed the Democrat, 33-29. Hoffman had also picked up support – and, at 23 percent, was within single digits of Scozzafava.

Now, in the race's closing days, new ad spending is flooding the district. A brand-new group, Common Sense America, has spent $150,000 on a seemingly positive spot backing Scozzafava - as the race's most progressive candidate. The message may seem a bit tone-deaf for the district's political leanings - but in reality, it's pitch-perfect: The new group was founded by individuals with links to the Club for Growth, making the spot a stealth attack ad.

There's another sign that the ad wars have damaged Scozzafava's hopes in another, more unexpected way: Siena found that, by a 28-12 margin, those who'd seen the GOP candidate's campaign ads said the spots made them less likely to support her.


Filed under: Bill Owens • Dede Scozzafava • Doug Hoffman
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. rachel

    Where's the ticker on the congressional ethics report. The people have a right to know

    POST CNN.

    October 30, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  2. lovable liberal

    Scozzafava, not extreme enough!

    How far to the right will Republicans go before their club is tiny and exclusive enough to satisfy them?

    October 30, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. Tayo, NY

    Wao, GOP candidate Versus Conservative candidate. They dno't even know what they want. Very pathetic indeed.

    October 30, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. JP

    Normally its easy to pick a candidate, you just see who the thugs in SEIU support and vote for the other person. SEIU=ACORN both are involved in criminal activity do a seach on both and see for yourself.

    October 30, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. Liberal4Obama

    I don't understand how can anyone vote for Hoffman, he doesn't even live in the district he is "supposed" to represent... oh well some people are just stupid.

    October 30, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. Matthew

    Hopefully district 23 will vote for Hoffman. The other two candidates are pretty much the same–with the exception of the D and R by their names.

    Be brave, vote for the person that most closely reflects your ideals, regardless of party.

    October 30, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. peter

    Well its true,you can buy money with happiness, or just about anything else. In Connecticut, a man by the name of John Anagnos,who owns a large Tri-State fish business, called City Fish, embezzeled more than 2.3 million dollars durning the Gov Rowland Administration, It ended up in a greek bank account, where he, his family, two superior court judges and a varity of lawyers reel yearly annuitys from it. It originally was money set aside for a CRRA and Enron deal. To date no ones ever been prosecuted and the money was never recovered, despite the FBI's investigation, the answer was "too many big fish in a small pond"

    October 30, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. Pepou

    It's obscene. This money should be spent on poverty or .... health care!

    October 30, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. Ken from missouri

    Who could vote for someone that sara palin likes that would be a deal breaker from the start also has anyone heard this guy hoffman speak
    he's a real winner and look's like one but the most important thig is
    the republican party cannot even agree on somebody so how could they run congress,I feel sorry for the residents of new york.

    October 30, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. Biff

    totally unrelated here but other ticker item says stimulus spending of 150Billion saves 650,000 jobs. Someone check my math....is that $230K per job saved? What am I missing?

    October 30, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. kyle from ohio

    Are they fiscal conservative or social conservative. Big difference.
    I'm more a centrist, with some liberal and some conservative ideals.
    but either case it about the economy not Jacksonian Destiny; this American's fighting back, sounds so social. Where was the fight 8 years ago or even 4 years ago. Now you want to fight back. and who are you fighting, The goverment (which is made up of Americans with jobs; you know somebody's Mother, Father, Brother, cousin, Aunt, friend etc...). Please spear us the slogan of the Repub. National Convention "Country First" . Because if you really believe that and know anything about ecomonics you will know that No one Fiscal policy will work for all situations. Some time you need to cut tax and spending ; other situation require to raise taxes and spend money.

    October 30, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  12. ross berg-buffalo ny

    A perfect storm of the Republicans "eating their own". It will end up electing a Democrat for the first time in over a century.

    The only thing missing ( so far) is Sarah Palin doing a one-on-one interview with the Watertown Times!! That would be the icing on the cake!!!

    October 30, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. Are we stupid or what

    I wonder who the Club for Growth is fronting for. Is it the Tea Baggers? Is it one of Dick Armey's organizations? Is it Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity?

    The good part of the Republican't vs Conservatives battle is that it will probably cause both candidates to fail thereby giving the seat to the Democrat.

    October 30, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. make it easy for you

    no GOP

    October 30, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. We Do Not Want to Move Back to The Dark Age of Conservatism

    It is time for all Democrats, Progessives and Moderates alike, to pull together if we want to keep this country moving forward and not let it fall back into the hands of Conservatives. Everytime Republicans have been in control of the direction of this country we have been led down a path of destruction for the middle class. Now, it's not just the Republican party we have to defeat, now we have a new enemy . . . the Tea Baggers, Neo-Cons, Birthers, whatever they want to call themselves on any given day. Believe me when I say that if these people gain political power we will see our country set back many, many years in terms of social development. So, Democrats and Progressive Independents, if you want to see your country keep moving forward in the direction of improving the lives of ordinary citizensand not the corporate giants that that have held us hostage for som many years . . . get out and vote! Vote in every election you can! We need more Democrats in office and we especially need more Progressive Democrats in office. This new Tea Bagger bunch is more socially conservative, more narrow-minded, more bigoted and more ignorant than any Republican we have ever seen. We must not allow this bunch to drag us back into the mess we were in for the prevous 8 years . . . or worse!

    October 30, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  16. and what do you get for that money?

    thousands of dollars stored in a freezer

    October 30, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Terry from West Texas

    This is just another example of how BIG MONEY is corrupting our republic. Most of that cash is from people who have never even visited the 23d Congressional District of New York and who don't give a crap about the welfare and happiness of the citizens living there.

    We need public financing of federal, state, and local elections. Let candidates compete with their ideas instead of their advertising firms for our votes.

    October 30, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. RCasson

    The GOP and so called "Conservatives" are idiots. I hope the Democrat takes this race right under their foolish noses!!

    October 30, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Jane/Seattle

    When we define everything in the terms of Capitalistic Competition rather than the Cooperation of True Goodwill. This is just more bogus reality creating that leads us NOWHERE except the perpetuation of an Economic System gone Wild into it's own Predatory destruction. This take-over of this World in this Form is by definition self-destructive because a predator MUST continually feed on it's host to survive. And this IS the Way we are choosing for our destiny. Hardly a grand Paradise, is It? "Think on these things". Thank You, J. Krishnamurti. I finally learned to understand what you taught us in the early 70's. Peace

    October 30, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Jane/Seattle

    Oh, OH, I left a sentence fragment down there! But the rest of it does end the sentence. -:)

    October 30, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Four and a Half (I Act): A GOP Love Story

    Social conservative, fiscal conservative...there's no difference. Same money, different pockets. Conservative used to mean something, and liberal now means socialist... Goes to how you how much Americans pay attention to definitions and facts, let alone their own language that they insist everyone else speak, whilst butchering it themselves.

    What a sad state Americans are in. For a moment. I tough we moved past petty differences. But the same people demanding respect for our worst President ever (GW Bush) have no problem disrepecting President Obama, or Barry as they call him.

    Your parents would be ashamed of you, and you know it!

    October 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. sutton

    After experiencing most of these ads it seems like plan is for scorched earth take no prisoners kind of campaign.

    It's interesting that the only candidate of the three to spend money raised through campaign donations is the Democrat with a little from the Democratic Party.
    While the Republican is cash poor having a problem raising money in the district so the National Republican Party is paying for almost all of her ads.
    Then we have Hoffman who happens to be a millionaire all of the money for his ads is coming from the conservative moment with him spending none of his own cash.

    So only one of the candidates is truly spending money raised from that district while the other two are getting money from outside to back their own campaigns.
    What a mess for the Conservative and Republican Party's that they seem to be trying to buy this seat unlike the Democrat.

    October 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Randy

    Dump the parties or vote for a 3rd party. Bring the power back to the people. The 2 party system is destroying the country through the power of the government.

    October 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. S Callahan

    Does democracy still exist when all you need is a buck to secure a seat? I find this appaulling....and so should you. Has man lost his ability to think for himself?

    October 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. Susan

    I don't want to hear one more word about the cost of health care reform from Republicans, who seem to have unlimited funds to send to their conservative candidates. Why aren't they talking about election reform? Why is it that they have all this cash to throw into negative ads, but not one dime for the people out of work and out of luck?

    October 30, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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