PLATTSBURGH — Watertown businessman Matt Doheny plans to run again next year for the 23rd Congressional District seat held by Plattsburgh Democrat Bill Owens.
But the big question is whether there will even be a 23rd District in 2012.
The 2010 Census showed a loss of population in New York, meaning that the number of congressional seats will drop from 29 to 27. The districts will be redrawn before the 2012 election, and each district needs to add more people.
The 23rd District covers 11 counties, from Lake Ontario in the west to Lake Champlain in the east. It is the fifth-largest district east of the Mississippi River.
With redistricting, the 23rd will need about 53,000 more people.
Although he has not officially announced his candidacy for the race, which is 18 months away, Doheny showed he is giving it serious consideration by hiring former Watertown Times journalist Jude Seymour as his deputy campaign manager and spokesman.
"Jude is a good journalist, and he understands what needs to be done from a communication perspective, and he will be a huge help for getting our message out," Doheny said.
"And he understands who the players are and what the issues are nationally and locally."
Doheny said he wanted to bring Seymour on board early to give him time to get used to his new role.
"The election is still 18 months way, so there's time for a learning curve," Doheny said.
Seymour said he was curious to see "what transpires on the other side of the proverbial curtain."
"I've always enjoyed covering the machinations of candidates on the campaign trail, but it's always felt like commenting on a chess game in which I was only privy to seeing half the moves."
Seymour, 31, worked as a political journalist for the Watertown Times and most recently for WWNY-TV 7.
He covered the 23rd District contest last year, when Doheny lost in a close race to Owens. He also covered the special election in 2009, when Owens triumphed narrowly over Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman of Lake Placid.
"(Deputy) is a position that not only gets me in the room where strategy is discussed but entitles me to a fairly big say," Seymour said in a news release.
"I'm quite opinionated about what I believe works — and doesn't work — in campaigns here in the North Country.
"I am excited about the chance to bounce my ideas off some of the brilliant minds that will undoubtedly join us as the campaign ramps up."
Doheny, a native of Alexandria Bay, sought the Republican nomination for the 2009 special election that was created when longtime Republican Congressman John McHugh was named secretary of the army by President Barack Obama.
Doheny was one of nine candidates seeking the GOP nod but lost out to Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, a St. Lawrence County assemblywoman.
Republican Party leaders were heavily criticized by party members for their choice of Scozzafava, who was seen as too liberal.
She pulled out three days before Election Day as her poll numbers lagged. She threw her support to Owens, further upsetting party faithful.
Doheny, a former New York City investor, won the right to challenge Owens last year when he beat Hoffman in a primary.
Hoffman effectively stopped campaigning after the primary and pledged to support Doheny, but his name remained on the ballot as the Conservative Party candidate, and Hoffman received about 6 percent of the vote.
Many believed that doomed Doheny's chances.
Doheny has kept a low profile since last November, but he has been seen at various functions around the district, indicating that he still had interest in running.
He attended the popular North Country Chamber of Commerce St. Patrick's Day Breakfast in March, saying hello to many key area political figures.
"Yes, I am definitely interested, but we won't be announcing anything formal for many months," he said.
Seymour said one of the reasons he joined Doheny is that he shares many of the same values.
"We both are concerned about the direction of our country, because many of the leaders of today do not want to address the problems of tomorrow," he said.
"The Social Security trust fund is expected to be insolvent by time I turn 58. And Medicare costs continue to outpace taxpayers' ability to pay for it."
Owens said he will run again next year, but is not thinking about the campaign right now.
"We've got plenty to do here in Washington and in the district, and that's what we are focusing on right now," he said.
NEED MORE PEOPLE
When asked for his reaction to Seymour being hired by Doheny, Owen said, "He was fair to me, and that's all you can ask for, and I wish him well."
As for talk of the 23rd District being drastically changed by redistricting, going from east to west to a more north-to-south direction, but Owens said he does not believe that will happen.
"No one I've talked to in either party indicated that the 23rd will get chopped up," he said.
"We need to add more people so it will get bigger, but won't be chopped up."
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