October 30th, 2009
10:00 AM ET
10 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. James E

    What I've heard about Hoffman's not being from district and does not know the issues facing the voters. As a matter of fact a poster mentioned that Hoffman and Armey showed up at a newspaper editorial board (Watertown) because of endorsement possibility. When they asked Hoffman about issues facing the district, He professed not to know the issues which Armey chimed in to say [it is not important for this race]. The newspaper chastised Hoffman on it and yet he had Pawlenty and Palin endorsing him. Recently heard that the GOP had a change of heart about Hoffman. It never ceased to amaze me.

    October 30, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. SMSgt

    It is a shame the DNC hates Americans and love China and Russa

    October 30, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. george from alaska

    jeb bush is just another hypocritical republican bathroom stall foot tapper that likes to kiss his buddies on the "down low". if he can blow it there...he can blow it anywhere...it's "up" to you new york...new york!!!

    October 30, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. sniffit makes me glad to be conservative

    in this race there are two liberals and one conservative. conservatives vote on policy and philosophy. liberals do what their told.

    October 30, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Operation Crush Rush

    The Club for Growth is nothing but the new brown shirts with lots of money.

    October 30, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. strong

    What a waste of good money.

    I wouldn't expect a politician to actually spend it on anything worthwhile.

    Sick society, isn't it?

    October 30, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Tom in Delaware

    Half the money into the Hoffman campaign came in the same day that Sarah Palin endorsed him.

    When the Tea Party candidate wins this election it will send a SHOCK WAVE to both partys.

    November 3rd is going to be a very bad day for the Democrats.

    October 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. LacrosseMom

    Praying that NY-23 will choose Mr. Owens, who LIVES in this District and has the BEST interest of the people of NY-23 in his heart!

    Haven't we had enough of the GOP?

    EIGHT YEARS of a GOP president, nearly destroyed our Nation!

    And from 1994 through January 2007, we had a GOP controlled Congress (both House & Senate).

    People of NY-23, are not idiots, they know what a GOP government is like.

    GO BLUE NY-23........ America is counting on YOU!

    October 30, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Debbie from CA

    All the money spent on political parties. People no longer exist in our political system. Soon the Supreme Court will rule on giving more flexibility to corporations giving money to campaigns. You are no longer a person or citizen of this country. You are a worker or citizen of a party and/or corporation. The fall of Rome has began...

    History does repreat itself.

    October 30, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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