ABC News’ Kristina Wong reports: In a surprise twist in the contentious special election race for a U.S. House seat in New York, moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava endorsed the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, on Sunday afternoon after announcing the day before that she was releasing her supporters.
Scozzafava, who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, suspended her campaign after high-profile Republicans, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, threw their support behind Doug Hoffman, a disaffected Republican running on the Conservative Party line.
Scozzafava’s decision to get out of the race was seen by analysts as exposing an ideological rift within the GOP in upstate New York -- but it nevertheless came as a surprise on Sunday when she decided to endorse the Democratic candidate.
It was uncertain what impact Scozzafava’s endorsement will have on the race, given that most of her supporters are self-identified Republicans.
When she withdrew from the race on Saturday, the House Republican leadership, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich all switched their support from Scozzafava to Hoffman.
Scozzafava suspended her bid after a Siena College poll found she was in third place with 20 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican upstate New York district. Conservative Party nominee Hoffman and Democratic nominee Owens had 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
Scozzafava’s antipathy towards Hoffman was apparent when the three candidates held their only debate last week and she suggested that third-party rival lacked the conservative value of honesty.
“You know, when people talk about values, and conservative values, there is one value that has been sorely lacking in the campaign and that’s called honesty and truth and men that, perhaps, keep their word. I think those are very important values that any sort of representative that is going to Washington should live by,” said Scozzafava.
Here is Scozzafava's full statement, issued today at 2:06 p.m.:
Since announcing the suspension of my campaign, I have thought long and hard about what is best for the people of this District, and how to answer your questions. This is not a decision that I have made lightly.
You know me, and throughout my career, I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent. I have stood for our honest principles, and a truthful discussion of the issues, even when it cost me personally and politically. Since beginning my campaign, I have told you that this election is not about me; it’s about the people of this District.
It is in this spirit that I am writing to let you know I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same.
It’s not in the cards for me to be your representative, but I strongly believe Bill is the only candidate who can build upon John McHugh's lasting legacy in the U.S. Congress. John and I worked together on the expansion of Fort Drum and I know how important that base is to the economy of this region. I am confident that Bill will be able to provide the leadership and continuity of support to Drum Country just as John did during his tenure in Congress.
In Bill Owens, I see a sense of duty and integrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship. He will be an independent voice devoted to doing what is right for New York. Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.
Please join me in voting for Bill Owens on Tuesday. To address the tough challenges ahead, we must rise above partisanship and politics and work together. There's too much at stake in this election to do otherwise.
UPDATE: Bill Owens welcomed the endorsement from Scozzafava, and appeared with her at an event in Canton, New York Sunday afternoon.
After securing the endorsement of Scozzafava, Owens issued the following statement:
I am honored to have Assemblywoman Scozzafava’s endorsement. Over the course of her career, Dede has always committed to serving the people of Upstate New York before serving a partisan agenda. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what she's accomplished. We share a commitment to finding common sense solutions to address the challenges we’re facing here in Upstate New York. Now more than ever we need bipartisan solutions to help bring jobs to Upstate New York to get our economy back on track and move our country forward. Those are the kinds of priorities I will fight for in Congress because that’s the kind of leadership Upstate New York needs right now.
ABC News' Teddy Davis contributed to this report.