by Scott Atkinson & Diane Rutherford, with reporting by John Friot & Rachel Spotts
February 12, 2014
The leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 21st Congressional District pulled out just as county leaders were meeting to decide on their endorsement.
Dede Scozzafava withdrew her name from consideration before she could be interviewed by the Democratic leaders who gathered in Long Lake Wednesday.
She told 7 News Wednesday night that she was happy to remain in her current job, as a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.
Even though she is a registered Republican, Scozzafava was viewed by at least some Democratic county leaders as their best pick for a candidate to replace the retiring William Owens.
Like Owens and Republican John McHugh before him, Scozzafava is regarded as a political moderate, in a district generally thought of as moderate.
Scozzafava's standing as a moderate worked against her in 2009 when she became the first victim of the Tea Party wave that surged through the country, unseating Republican politicians deemed insufficiently conservative. She quit the race for Congress that year and threw her support to Owens, who won.
The way Scozzafava was driven out of the 2009 race left a bad taste for some north country Republicans, and Democrats hoped to capitalize on that this year by running her.
Other well-known Democrats - including former state senator and agriculture commissioner Darrel Aubertine and current state assembly member Addie Russell - passed on the job.
Without Scozzafava, or another name Democrat to take the nomination, the 12 county chairs turned Wednesday to a documentary filmmaker unknown in the district.
The chairs announced their unanimous support for Aaron Woolf late Wednesday afternoon. In addition to making movies, Wolf reportedly owns a grocery store in Brooklyn.
His connection to the north country? According to a statement from the Democrats, "He and his wife Carolyn own their home in Elizabethtown on the land his parents bought in 1968."
Woolf, through a person who identified himself as the candidate's "point of contact," declined to return a call from 7 News Wednesday night.
Democrats will now face the daunting task of introducing a candidate who is unknown to the district, and which is historically Republican. Although Woolf has won several prestigious national awards for his movies, he has no public identity in northern New York.
And as Newzjunky, a local news site up there, has noted… Woolf has a whopping 46 followers on Twitter. For comparison, as of this morning, I have 44.