Congressional challenger Matt Doheny picked up some major backing Wednesday while fending off attacks from incumbent Bill Owens about his Wall Street past.
Doheny was endorsed by Upstate New York Tea Party Chairman Mark L. Barie, who had been staunchly behind Douglas Hoffman.
"The United States is on a collision course with bankruptcy, and Bill Owens won't take his foot off the gas pedal," Barie said at a news conference.
Doheny defeated Hoffman in the Sept. 14 Republican primary for the 23rd District. Hoffman has since said he will stay in the race as a Conservative Party candidate, but Barie and — if what he says is accurate — the bulk of UNYTEA are switching horses.
"I asked Doug to drop out of the race, and he said no, but I don't think it really matters anymore," Barie said.
"He has no campaign, no organization, no money, and he has shut down just about everything, and I don't think the UNYTEA members are going to vote for him."
Barie said that a poll of the nearly 1,000 UNYTEA members is still under way to see if the group wants to formally endorse Doheny.
But the 235 responses received so far, Barie said, are overwhelmingly in favor of Doheny, as are 10 of the 12 Steering Committee members.
Doheny said the backing of UNYTEA sets the tone for his campaign.
"Now we need to all collectively agree that we need to send Bill Owens back to private practice," Doheny said.
"We need to make a fundamental change in the 23rd District, and we need to make sure the country goes in a new direction."
HOFFMAN FEELS SUPPORT
Hoffman was not deterred by Barie's endorsement of Doheny, saying he has heard from a number of UNYTEA members who still back him.
"A lot of them still support me, as they did last year, and they are out there working for me right now," Hoffman said.
"They said I was dead last year, and I certainly had no problems getting to where we got."
Hoffman lost to Owens in a close race last year in a special election when he ran as the Conservative Party candidate.
He said he is not concerned by criticisms that his staying in the race will split the vote between himself and Doheny, giving Owens another win.
"I think it will be split in all directions and split on Bill Owens's part, too, because he violated all the promises he made on his first day in office," Hoffman said.
"If you want honesty and integrity, then I'm your candidate."