Although political pundits historically dismiss challenges to the chairman of either major party's U.S. House campaign committee as fool's errands, conservative Republican Grant Lally may well prove them wrong this fall with his race against Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel.
Lally faces nominal opposition for nomination in the June Republican primary. But the attorney and longtime conservative activist is endorsed by all of the county committees and their officers throughout New York's 3rd, a sprawling district that starts in New York City’s Queens County and juts out into suburban Long Island, covering the "Gold Coast" of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
In addition, Lally has secured the "Row C" ballot line by winning the nomination of New York's Conservative Party, long considered critical to any Republican's chances of victory in the Empire State.
Most pivotal to Lally's chances, however, is the makeup of the 3rd District. The last redistricting map designed to beef up the districts of some Democratic House Members in New York actually left the suburban districts of other Democratic incumbents more marginal.
"There are four relatively 'fair fight' districts in Long Island, and the 3rd CD is the most Republican," Lally told Newsmax.
He noted that in 2012 Barack Obama won New York state in a landslide, but "he and Mitt Romney split about 50-50 in the 3rd District, with [Libertarian] Gary Johnson getting about 1 percent.
"This is a highly educated district, with large numbers of professionals, successful immigrants, and working families. These are people who will respond to my agenda of opportunity and optimism."
Like the late Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y., Lally campaigns on a conservatism that is forward-looking and always focused on a positive economic agenda.
"If we roll back tax rates to the 28 percent maximum that Ronald Reagan and [the late House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and Democratic Rep.] Dan Rostenkowski agreed upon, we make a big step forward," Lally said. "We should also cut the capital gains tax to the rate George Bush and the Republican Congress brought it down to in the 2000s to encourage growth."
While unhesitatingly in favor of repealing Obamacare, Lally emphasizes strong support for protecting Medicare and improving healthcare altogether.
"Republicans must have a free-market alternative ready to go," he said. "It must include a deductible for individuals and families, and introduce greater choice and more competition."
To the charge from Democrats that Republicans are employing "scare tactics" to make the '14 elections a "referendum on Obamacare," the conservative hopeful fires back: "Tell that to the estimated 8 million Americans who lost their private insurance policies that they were happy with and aren't very happy to have their lives disrupted.
"And I've talked to too many people here in the 3rd District who have premiums rising. That's why Obamacare has got to be repealed, and soon."
Lally's passion on this issue led him to join in the U.S. lawsuit to overturn Obamacare in 2012. He was one of the few attorneys from New York to appear before the Supreme Court in the effort to stop Obamacare in the courtroom.
As for opponent Israel, Lally refers to him as "'Mini-Me' to Obama's "Dr. Evil", a reference to the diminutive henchman to the arch-villain in the "Austin Powers" movies.
Although Israel calls himself a "moderate" when he's in the district, Lally points out "he's part of the Democratic leadership in the House. So whenever Obama needs him, he has to go along. And, of course, he supported Obamacare and insists to this day it is working."
Lally has never held elective office. But the Johns Hopkins University and Boston University Law School graduate has volunteered for conservative causes and candidates for most of his adult life. He was on the Bush-Cheney legal team working in Florida during the recount of the disputed 2000 election.
Lally was also an early backer of Rob Astorino for Westchester County Executive. Astorino is now considered a formidable opponent to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his coattails are likely to help Lally in the 3rd District.
In 1994 and '96, when congressional district lines heavily favored the Democratic incumbent, the young Lally unsuccessfully challenged then-Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman.
The last time a chairman of a House campaign committee was defeated was in 1992, when the late National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan unexpectedly lost the GOP primary to an unknown named Pete Hoekstra. Political reporters explained Vander Jagt's defeat on sentiments against Washington and the political establishment.
Lally's challenge to Israel is different in that it is in a general election, and he has specific issue differences with which to debate the incumbent. But the same "outsider wave" and animosity toward Washington is likely to fuel this challenger in what is a race sure to be on many radar screens nationwide.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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