Dede Scozzafava
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 122nd district
In office
Preceded byChloe O'Neil
Succeeded byKen Blankenbush
Personal details
Dierdre Kathryn Scozzafava

(1960-04-28) April 28, 1960 (age 59)
Buffalo, New York
Political partyRepublican (Before 2009)
Democratic (2009–present)
Spouse(s)Ron McDougall
ResidenceGouverneur, New York
Alma materBoston University (B.Sc),
Clarkson University (MBA)
ProfessionPolitician, investment adviser

Dierdre Kathryn "Dede" Scozzafava (/ˈdiːdi skoʊzəˈfɑːvə/ DEE-dee SKOH-zə-FAH-və;[1] born April 28, 1960) is an American politician in New York. She represented District 122 in the New York State Assembly from 1999 to 2010. Scozzafava held office as a member of the Republican Party, but later became a member of the Democratic Party.

Scozzafava was the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 23rd congressional district in a 2009 special election. She faced opposition from some Republican and conservative figures who deemed her too liberal to receive their support. While Scozzafava held an early lead in the polls,[2] she later fell behind Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and Democratic candidate Bill Owens and suspended her campaign shortly before the election; she then threw her support to Owens, the eventual winner. The election received significant national attention, and was alternately described as "a referendum on President Barack Obama" and "a fight over the identity of the Republican Party."[3][4] The race was also noteworthy due to the Tea Party movement influence on its outcome.[5][6] A week after the 2009 election, Scozzafava was stripped of her Republican leadership position in the State Assembly. Scozzafava later announced that she would not seek re-election in 2010.

In January 2011, Scozzafava was appointed as the New York Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, a post she held until June 2016. She was later appointed as a Commissioner of the New York State Division of Tax Appeals Tribunal.

Early life, education, and personal life

Scozzafava was born in Buffalo, New York, and has resided most of her life in Gouverneur, New York, a small village located approximately halfway between Canton and Watertown. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Boston University School of Management, as well as an Master of Business Administration from the Clarkson University Graduate School of Management.[7] Scozzafava is married to Ron McDougall.[8]

Political career

Prior to her 1998 election to the State Assembly, Scozzafava served as a member of the Gouverneur Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1993 and was the Mayor of Gouverneur from 1993 to 1998.[7]

A liberal to moderate Republican during her Assembly tenure, Scozzafava supported abortion and same-sex marriage.[9] She also had strong ties to organized labor.[10] In agreement with most Republicans, Scozzafava opposed cap-and-trade[11] and favored maintaining the Bush tax cuts.[12] Scozzafava opposed gun control and had a lifetime "A" rating from the National Rifle Association.[13] In 2008, Scozzafava's voting record in the State Assembly received a 15% rating from the Conservative Party of New York, further to the left of 46 Assembly Democrats.

Scozzafava considered running in a special election for the 48th state Senate district, which included most of the northwestern portion of her former Assembly district, in 2008. However, area Republicans chose Assemblyman William Barclay, in part because they thought Scozzafava would be seen as too socially liberal.[14] Barclay lost the election to Democratic Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine, and some Republican operatives said that Scozzafava should have been the Republican candidate.[14] In February 2008, Scozzafava was reportedly approached by Democrats about switching parties after she was passed over for the Republican nomination in the 48th Senate District special election.[14]

2009 congressional race

Scozzafava's husband, Ron McDougall, reportedly put out feelers to the Democrats about possible support for Scozzafava in a 2009 congressional race in New York's 23rd congressional district in the event that Democratic State Senator Darrel Aubertine opted not to seek the office; the seat was being vacated by John M. McHugh, who resigned upon Senate conformation as the new Secretary of the Army.[9][15][14]

On July 22, 2009, Scozzafava was chosen by the 11 Republican Party county chairs located in the 23rd Congressional district to be the Republican nominee for the special election to fill the vacancy in that district.[9][15]

The Conservative Party of New York State declined to support Scozzafava, who was described by Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long as a "nice lady who is too liberal";[16] instead, the Conservative Party nominated Doug Hoffman.[17] Many notable Republicans, including former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, endorsed Hoffman rather than Scozzafava because they deemed Scozzafava too liberal and ideologically indistinguishable from the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.[18][19] Scozzafava had voted for same-sex marriage in the New York State Assembly,[20] and she had also received an award from a Planned Parenthood affiliate in 2008.[21][22][23] Scozzafava's political positions included support for "card check" legislation,[24] support for federal funding for abortion,[25] support for President Obama's 2009 stimulus package,[26] and a refusal to rule out support for health care reform that included a "public option."[27] The Hoffman campaign ran television advertisements depicting Scozzafava and Owens as "two peas in a liberal pod."[28]

Scozzafava's ties to Seaway Capital Partners (a firm which owed nearly $200,000 in back taxes and which was run by her brother) were questioned in connection with her 2009 run. She responded that she had had no direct ties to the company since 2007.[29]

Scozzafava received endorsements from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,[30] Congressman Pete King (R-NY),[30] the National Rifle Association (NRA),[30] the Log Cabin Republicans,[30] and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).[31]

A Siena College poll released on October 1, 2009 showed Scozzafava leading the race with 35% support, followed by Owens with 28%, and Hoffman with 16%.[32] However, a Siena poll released two weeks later indicated that Owens led Scozzafava by four percentage points and Hoffman by 10%.[33] After an October 31 poll showed Scozzafava trailing Hoffman by 15% and Owens by 16%, Scozzafava ended her campaign and released her supporters to "transfer their support as they [saw] fit.”[34][35][36] The following day, Scozzafava endorsed Bill Owens, calling him "an independent voice who will put New York first."[37] This action put Scozzafava at odds with the Republican National Committee, which had backed Scozzafava prior to her withdrawal but had subsequently declared support for Hoffman.[34] An article in The Politico stated that the White House had made a concerted effort to persuade Scozzafava to endorse Owens, dispatching Long Island Congressman Steve Israel, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to request her support. At the meeting, Scozzafava reportedly told Cuomo that he would be "the next governor of New York."[38] According to the Watertown Daily Times, New York's senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer, was also among those who lobbied Scozzafava for an endorsement of Owens.[37]

On Election Day, Bill Owens prevailed over Hoffman by a margin of 48.3% to 46%.[39]

Aftermath of 2009 congressional campaign

After Scozzafava's unsuccessful congressional campaign, she acknowledged that her name had begun being used as a verb: "scozzafavaed."[40][41] Commentator Chris Good described the term as follows: "The gist, basically, is that if you're a moderate Republican and the conservative wing of the GOP sets out to get you, and does, you got Scozzafavaed."[42] Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has used the term in a similar fashion: "We welcome everyone’s right to participate in the democratic process, but...[if] you try to elect pro-gay marriage Republicans, we will Dede Scozzafava them."[43] Also, conservative commentators, including Maggie Gallagher, have used the phrase "the Dede effect" to describe Republican lawmakers' fear of alienating their constituents by voting for same-sex marriage legislation.[44]

A week after the 2009 election, Scozzafava was stripped of her Republican leadership position in the New York State Assembly.[45] Some observers speculated that Scozzafava might become an independent caucusing with the Democratic super-majority in the state Assembly, or that she might leave the Republican Party altogether and become a Democrat. During Scozzafava's November 1, 2009 meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Silver reportedly pledged that the Democrats would fully support Scozzafava should she decide to leave the GOP.[38] The Independence Party, the top minor party in the New York, also actively courted Scozzafava.[46] However, Scozzafava told WWNY-TV in Watertown on the day after the election that she intended to remain a Republican for the time being; she also acknowledged that she felt betrayed by the national GOP for its quick endorsement of Hoffman following her exit from the race.[47] Scozzafava eventually did switch parties and become a Democrat.[48]

In April 2010, Scozzafava announced that she would not seek re-election to the New York State Assembly in November 2010.[49] Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Brian McGrath to fill her seat in New York's 122nd Assembly District,[50] and McGrath was defeated by Republican Ken Blankenbush.[51]

In January 2011, Scozzafava was appointed as the New York Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and held that position until June 2016.[52] In 2016, she was nominated by Governor Cuomo and confirmed by the State Senate to serve as a Commissioner on the New York State Tax Appeals Tribunal.[53]


  1. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (October 26, 2009). "Right Battles G.O.P. in a Pivotal Race in New York". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2009.
  2. ^ Weiner, Mark (11 October 2009). "Upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District a battleground in national fight".
  3. ^ Hoffman concedes 23rd Congressional race to Owens Archived November 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press, November 4, 2009
  4. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (November 4, 2009). "Conservative Loses Upstate House Race in Blow to Right". The New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  5. ^ "Green grass-roots at University of Nebraska". CNN. May 7, 2004. Archived from the original on October 11, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  6. ^ Jonsson, Patrik (October 31, 2009). "Tea Party Express jubilant as Scozzafava exits in NY-23". Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Bio page Archived 2006-08-16 at at Assembly site
  8. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (November 2, 2009). "Scozzafava Calls for Owens". Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Weiner, Mark (July 23, 2009). "GOP picks candidate for congressional seat, attacks likely Democratic hopeful". The Post-Standard. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  10. ^ Benenson, Bob; Analyst, CQ-Roll Call Senior Elections (November 2, 2009). "A viewer's guide to Tuesday's elections".
  11. ^ Weiner, Mark (October 15, 2009). "Newt Gingrich endorses Dede Scozzafava in NY-23 House race". The Post-Standard. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  12. ^ Jude Seymour "Scozzafava signs pledge not to raise income taxes", Watertown Daily Times, October 19, 2009.
  13. ^ Seiler, Casey. NRA endorses Scozzafava. The Times-Union, October 7, 2009.
  14. ^ a b c d Benjamin, Elizabeth. Democrats Fan The Flames Of Scozzafava's Tax Troubles. New York Daily News. July 22, 2009.
  15. ^ a b "John McHugh assumes duties as 21st Secretary of the Army". September 21, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  16. ^ "New York Trading Down". Human Events. Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  17. ^ Conzola, E.J. (August 7, 2009). "Conservative Party will run Hoffman for Congress". Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Retrieved October 24, 2009.
  18. ^ Palin: "there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race." "Palin: Ready to shake things up in New York". Reuters. October 22, 2009. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  19. ^ Hook, Janet (November 3, 2009). "Conservatives emboldened by moves in New York". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
  20. ^ "Siena College poll shows tight three-way race to fill seat of Rep. John McHugh in N.Y. 23". The Post-Standard. The Associated Press. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  21. ^ Orr, Jimmy (October 31, 2009). "Sarah Palin pleased that Scozzafava drops out of New York race". The Christian Science Monitor.
  22. ^ "Dede Scozzafava Is No GOP Moderate". Human Events. November 14, 2009. Archived from the original on January 21, 2010. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  23. ^ "New York Republican Dede Scozzafava's Campaign Funded by Pro-Abortion Groups". 2010-01-28. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  24. ^ "Candidates for 23rd District split on labor issues". Watertown Daily Times. August 30, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  25. ^ Lotemplio, Joe (October 4, 2009). "Congressional candidates address health-care issues at forum". The Press Republican. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  26. ^ "NY-23: Bill Owens On (Some Of) The Issues". Daily Kos. October 4, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  27. ^ "Public option skirted in race". Watertown Daily Times. October 11, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  28. ^ Drake, Bruce. "Down the Stretch: Three-Way Race Heats Up in New York Special Election". Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  29. ^ Brown, Nathan (August 11, 2009). "Owens wins Dems support". Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  30. ^ a b c d Heller, Marc (October 19, 2009). "23rd Congressional District: Scozzafava, Owens try to avoid being boxed into special interest corners". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  31. ^ bureau, RICK KARLIN Capitol (14 October 2009). "Republican gets NYSUT nod". Times Union.
  32. ^ LOTEMPLIO, JOE. "Latest poll shows Scozzafava in lead". Press-Republican.
  33. ^ Weiner, Mark (15 October 2009). "Siena poll: Bill Owens surges past Dede Scozzafava in NY-23 congressional race".
  34. ^ a b Nagourney, Adam; Peters, Jeremy W. (October 31, 2009). "G.O.P. Moderate, Pressed by Right, Abandons Race". The New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  35. ^ Seymour, Jude (October 31, 2009). "Scozzafava suspends campaign". Watertown Daily Times. Archived from the original on November 2, 2009. Retrieved October 31, 2009.
  36. ^ Madore, James T. (2009-10-31). "Under pressure, GOP assemblywoman suspends campaign". Newsday. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  37. ^ a b "Scozzafava backs Owens, stuns GOP". Watertown Daily Times. November 1, 2009. Archived from the original on November 3, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  38. ^ a b Jonathan Marti; Charles Mathiesan (2009-11-01). "Winning Dede Scozzafava: How Democrats got her nod". The Politico.
  39. ^ "Special election results certified". Watertown Daily Times. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  40. ^ Slajda, Rachel (November 10, 2009). "Scozzafava: 'My Name's A Verb Now'". Talking Points Memo. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  41. ^ Horowitz, Jason (November 15, 2009). "'My name's a verb now': Dede Scozzafava sadder, wiser after bruising political race". Watertown Daily Times. Washington Post. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  42. ^ "A New Term: Scozzafavaed - Chris Good - Politics". The Atlantic. November 6, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  43. ^ Birkey, Andy (2010-02-20). "GOProud Director: National Organization for Marriage Are 'Pansies,' 'Wusses'". The Washington Independent. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  44. ^ Vick, Karl (December 3, 2009). "N.Y. State Senate votes down gay marriage bill by wide margin". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  45. ^ Horowitz, Jason (November 10, 2009), "'Scozzafava' turns into epithet", The Washington Post, retrieved November 11, 2009
  46. ^[permanent dead link] NY Independence Party courts Scozzafava. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
  47. ^ Feedback: Scozzafava speaks out about lies and betrayals Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine. WWNY-TV, 2009-11-04.
  48. ^ Taylor, Jessica (January 14, 2014). 2009 deja vu in NY-21? Maybe not. The Hill. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  49. ^ Kleefeld, Eric (April 21, 2010). "Former NY-23 GOP Nominee Dede Scozzafava To Retire From New York State Legislature". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  50. ^ "Dems praise Scozzafava at McGrath bash". Watertown Daily Times. September 13, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  51. ^ "Blankenbush made funds pay off". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  52. ^ Mcandrew, Mike (January 4, 2011). "Former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a Republican, gets job with Cuomo administration". syracuse.
  53. ^ "Former Assemblywoman Scozzafava to speak Friday at Young Women's Leadership Institute event in Canton | NorthCountryNow".

External links

  • Profile at Vote Smart
  • Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava's official website
  • Scozzafava's congressional campaign site
  • Follow the Money - Dierdre K. Scozzafava: 2008 2006 2004 2002 2000 1998 campaign contributions
New York Assembly
Preceded by
Chloe Ann O'Neil
New York State Assembly, 112th District
Succeeded by
Roy McDonald
Preceded by
Clifford Crouch
New York State Assembly, 122nd District
Succeeded by
Kenneth Blankenbush