September 21, 2011

Doheny to seek congressional seat again


PLATTSBURGH — Republican Matt Doheny will try again to unseat incumbent Congressman Bill Owens in the 23rd District race in 2012.

"We will work on growing the economy and creating jobs because that's what people are concerned about, but those voices are not being heard in the North Country and in Washington," Doheny said during a visit to Plattsburgh Wednesday.

Doheny, 41, officially kicked off his campaign with a tour of the 11-county district. Although the election is still nearly 14 months away, he said he is starting now to give him time to produce a strong campaign team and raise funds.


In 2010, Doheny lost a close election — 1,990 votes — to Owens, a Plattsburgh Democrat. But the race also included Douglas Hoffman, a Lake Placid accounting-firm owner who was on the Conservative Party line and took 6 percent of the vote.

Doheny said he believes he will have the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines this time around, which will change the playing field.

"Bill Owens won with only 47 percent of the vote last time, and those are not the kind of usual numbers an incumbent has," Doheny said.

The top issues will be the economy, jobs and the national debt, Doheny said, adding that he will link Owens with President Barack Obama as part of the problem with the country's finances.

"We will look at Congressman Owens's record, and with 9.1-percent unemployment and nearly a $15 trillion deficit, those are two areas that Congress and the president have fallen down on," Doheny said.


Doheny was raised in Alexandria Bay and earned a law degree from Cornell University.

He spent eight years working as a Wall Street investor who managed the distressed-assets division at a Fortune 500 company.

In 2009, after moving to Watertown, he sought the Republican endorsement to run in a special election for the seat that was being vacated by Republican John McHugh, who was tabbed by Obama to be the secretary of the Army.

But Republicans chose St. Lawrence County Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, in a controversial move, to be their candidate.

Hoffman, who also sought the Republican nod, ran that year as a Conservative Party candidate.

Scozzafava dropped out of the race three days before the election, as her poll numbers lagged, and threw her support to Owens.

Hoffman barely lost to Owens, who became the first Democrat to hold the seat since the Civil War era.


The 23rd District spreads over 11 counties from Lake Ontario in the west to Lake Champlain in the east. Under redistricting, which will take place before the 2012 election, it will grow by 53,000 people.

New York lost two congressional districts in the 2010 census because it lost population.

There is a chance the district could be re-shaped so Doheny and Owens are in different districts, but Doheny doubts it.

"We believe there will still be a North Country district, and that is why we are running now," he said.


Last year, Doheny beat Hoffman in a close Republican primary. Under state election laws, it was too late for Hoffman to get off the ballot on the Conservative Party line after the primary.

Although he remained on the ballot, he did not actively campaign for the November election. But he still drew 6 percent of the vote, which many believe hurt Doheny.

Hoffman said Wednesday that he has not decided whether he will run in 2012.

"I will wait to see where the new reapportioned congressional district lines end up before deciding."


Doheny, who spent about $2 million of his own money on the campaign last year, said he is ready to spend some more.

"We will have the resources to run a strong campaign, and this campaign is going to get national attention, as well, so we will be raising money, too."

The 2009 special election drew heavy national attention as it was one of only a few congressional races that year, the first year of Obama's presidency.

Last year's race was also in the national eye, as pundits across the country were interested to see if Owens could hold onto the seat despite heavy backlash against House Democrats who lost the majority.


Owens said he is not bothered by Doheny's candidacy, and will continue to work on creating jobs and improving the economy.

"It doesn't matter if there is a candidate or not; I am going to continue to work in Washington and throughout the district on creating jobs and improving the economy. My focus has not changed, and those are still two big issues, and having an opponent doesn't change anything.

"It is too far out to even be thinking of what another candidate might do. I intend to stay focused and continue to do what we've been doing."

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