One of the region's fastest-growing political organizations officially jumped into the fray for the 23rd Congressional District seat Wednesday.
The Upstate New York Tea Party endorsed Douglas Hoffman, saying he is the candidate with the right ideas and name recognition to win in November.
"We see this as an opportunity to nominate a principled social and fiscal conservative who believes, as we do, that our taxes are too high, that our government spends way too much and that growth in government must be stopped before this great nation is forced into bankruptcy," UNYTEA Chairman Mark L. Barie said at a news conference at Plattsburgh International Airport.
"UNYTEA believes that voters in the North Country are desperately hoping for a representative in Washington who cares more about the future of our nation than he does his own political future."
PRIMARY COMING UP
Hoffman ran last year as a Conservative Party candidate in the special election for the 23rd District seat, which opened when President Barack Obama nominated former Congressman John McHugh to become secretary of the Army.
Hoffman lost a close race to Plattsburgh Democrat Bill Owens, who became the first Democrat to win the seat since 1852.
Republican Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava dropped out of the race three days before the election, as her poll numbers sagged, and then threw her support behind Owens.
Hoffman had sought the Republican nod last summer, but the chairs of the 11 county parties chose Scozzafava, angering GOP members who felt that her support for abortion rights and gay marriage made her too liberal to be the Republican candidate.
Hoffman is running against Watertown investor Matt Doheny in a Republican primary in September for the right to challenge Owens.
DIFFERENT THIS TIME
Barie said this year will be different.
"Unlike last year, when party bosses made their disastrous decision to nominate Dede Scozzafava, a Republican in name only, this year the GOP's nominee will be chosen by the party's rank and file membership," Barie said to thunderous applause from the roughly 100 people who attended Wednesday's news conference.
Barie said a recent survey of UNYTEA members, who now number more than 650, showed that 95 percent favored Hoffman over Doheny, which led to the endorsement.
"It was a no-brainer," Barie said.
Hoffman, who lives in Saranac Lake and owns an accounting firm with offices throughout the district, reiterated his promises to not raise taxes, check government spending, put an end to earmarks and repeal and reform the recently approved health-care bill.
"Earmarks are only legalized bribery," he said. "I won't be swayed by my party that tells me to vote for things like that that are bad for us."
Barie said UNYTEA will formally file with the Federal Elections Commission as a Political Action Committee, but not connected to any one candidate or party.
In terms of financial support for Hoffman, Barie said UNYTEA will hold fundraisers but probably won't be raising significant sums of money.
"We're not going to get $10,000 checks from the Teamsters, like Bill Owens did. Our money will come in the form of $10 bills," Barie said.
"But we can put 1,000 boots on the ground, and I wouldn't change that for $1 million."
Doheny, who recently won the endorsement from the Essex County Republican Party, Hoffman's home county, said he was looking forward to taking on Owens in November.
"I respect the individuals of UNYTEA for their commitment and personal involvement in our election process. The more people taking an active role to change Washington, the better," Doheny said.
"Many of the Tea Party and 9/12 (personal responsibility group formed by Glenn Beck) members I have met with across the district during the last six months have given me their support. I've heard and share their concerns about the direction of our nation and the North Country. We agree that this district's voice in Congress needs to reflect the fiscally conservative, sensible values of its constituents."
FOCUSED ON HIS JOB
Owens, who is hosting an open forum from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Yokum Hall on Plattsburgh State, said he is focusing on his job as a congressman.
"I look forward to discussing the issues that matter to Upstate New Yorkers, jobs and debt reduction, with those who attend my town-hall-style forum this Saturday," Owens said.
"Right now, I am focused on doing exactly this because it is what I was elected to do."
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