By JOE LoTEMPLIO
PLATTSBURGH — While the Republican candidates seemed to agree on most issues in last night's Congressional debate, that didn't stop them from taking pokes at each other when the opportunity presented itself.
Douglas Hoffman ribbed Matt Doheny for his career as an investor where he reportedly earned millions revitalizing distressed companies, saying Doheny was a Wall Streeter who doesn't understand the 23rd District while he was a lifelong North Country native who has created jobs and lived the struggle of rural life.
"I am from Main Street not Wall Street," Hoffman said.
"I'm not trying to buy a seat in Congress and I won't have special interests telling me what to do and what not to do."
Doheny said Hoffman should not criticize people for being successful.
"It's shameful and it sends the wrong message to America," he said sternly.
Doheny is from Alexandria Bay and now lives in Watertown. Hoffman is an accounting-firm owner from Saranac Lake.
The two took part in the 90-minute debate before about 200 people at the West Side Ballroom. The event was hosted by the Upstate New York Tea Party.
UNYTEA Chairman Mark L. Barie served as moderator, and the candidates took questions from local media panelists.
The winner of the Sept. 14 primary will take on incumbent Democrat Bill Owens, a Plattsburgh attorney, in the November election.
One of the key questions Wednesday night was whether Hoffman would drop out of the race if he lost the primary to Doheny.
Many political observers believe that if Hoffman stays in the race as a third-party candidate, he will split the vote among Republicans giving Owens the victory.
Hoffman ran as a Conservative Party candidate in last year's special election, and lost in a close race to Owens.
Both he and Doheny sought the Republican nod last year, but it went to St. Lawrence County Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, which angered many party members who felt she was too liberal.
Scozzafava dropped out of the race three days before the election and gave her support to Owens.
Hoffman did not directly answer the question, saying that he will win the primary and is the man that can beat Owens this year.
Doheny said he would back the winner of the primary even though he has the Independence Party line as well.
"I am a man of my word," he said.
Throughout the debate, both candidates agreed on cutting taxes, reducing spending, aiding small businesses, including farmers, and improving health care by opening up competition.
They also agreed on not spending federal funding on embryonic stem cell research, that marriage should be between a man and woman and keeping Social Security solvent.
The two also bashed President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, saying it has not worked.
"We can't sustain a trillion-dollar deficit," Doheny said.
"It is a flat-out failure."
"Where are the jobs? It did not create any jobs," he said.
The evening got a little testy when Doheny talked about Hoffman benefiting personally from his campaign finances by earning interest on a loan he gave to himself, which is legal.
"You know damn well that the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) requires you to itemize all expenses," Hoffman said.
"You are playing fast and loose with the truth."
Hoffman also criticized Doheny for being charged twice for boating while intoxicated within two weeks in 2004, saying he was rude and belligerent to law enforcement officers.
"That is not acceptable for someone running for Congress," he said.
"Doheny said he was embarrassed by the two incidents and pledged that it would never happen again.
"You need to judge a person's character by its totality," Doheny said.
"You can trust me."
Doheny also continually harped on what he perceived to be Hoffman's lack of presence during the campaign.
"Unlike my opponent, I've spent the last nine months traveling the district meeting with people including farmers," he said.
Hoffman countered with, "you can't learn about the district in seven months," adding that he has lived here his whole life, and has been successful in creating jobs.
The two are scheduled to debate again Sept. 7 in Saranac Lake.
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