PLATTSBURGH — State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey is getting behind the candidacy of Matt Doheny in the 21st Congressional District Republican primary race, sparking anger within her own party.
“I am very upset and very disappointed she would do that,” former Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Donald Lee told the Press-Republican.
“She has gone back on her word.”
Doheny, 43, is locked in a tight battle with Elise Stefanik in the Republican Party primary race, which will be decided on Tuesday, June 24.
Stefanik, 29, was endorsed by 11 of the 12 county Republican committees in the district earlier this year. She entered the race last year, well before incumbent Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh announced in January that he would not be seeking re-election.
Duprey, 68, who has been the assemblywoman in the 115th District since 2007, came out with an endorsement of Doheny on Wednesday, as did Assemblyman Ken Blakenbush of Jefferson County.
“I think Matt has the life experiences and is a proven successful businessman and is someone from the district who has chosen to raise his family in the district,” she told the Press-Republican.
“And he clearly to me is the better candidate to represent the district.”
‘COULD SPLIT PARTY’
Doheny, who lost to Owens in close races in 2010 and 2012, decided to join the race after Owens bowed out, and he submitted the required number of signatures on a petition to get on the primary ballot.
When the incumbent stepped out, said Lee, who was still the chairman at the time, only four counties had chosen to endorse Stefanik, and Doheny could have sought the endorsement from the remaining eight counties, including Clinton.
“But Matt chose not to do that, and she (Stefanik) stuck it out, and she impressed a lot of people, and everyone got behind her.”
Lee, who retired as party chair last month, said he is worried that if Doheny wins the primary it will create a split in the party, as Stefanik will remain on the Conservative Party ballot for the general election in November.
A similar scenario unfolded in 2010 when Douglas Hoffman lost the Republican primary to Doheny but stayed on the Conservative Party line.
Hoffman tallied 6 percent of the vote even though he did not actively campaign, and Doheny lost to Owens by one point.
“This could split the party tremendously,” Lee said.
“I would hate to see the party not being represented the way it should be, and to me, this (Duprey’s endorsement of Doheny) is not being loyal.”
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Duprey, who is from Peru, said she has supported just about every Republican candidate in local, state and federal elections since 1967.
“I have been a loyal Republican and will continue to be a loyal Republican, but there are those of us who think the process was done incorrectly and that it should have been more open and more people given the opportunity to get the endorsement after Owens dropped out,” she said.
“And it wasn’t.”
Duprey said she felt strongly enough about supporting Doheny that she decided to come out with her endorsement before the primary.
Watching Washington, D.C., political action committees known as Super Pacs throw about $1.3 million worth of negative advertisements against Doheny in support of Stefanik is largely what changed her mind about the timing.
“I did say I would stay neutral in this, but watching those negative ads and thinking that they could be changing people’s minds made me re-think this,” she said.
“They (ads) were absolutely corrupt and should have been stopped, and I just could not bear the thought of someone getting into office and representing us based on those terrible ads.”
‘FOCUSED ON CAMPAIGN’
Stefanik’s campaign downplayed Duprey’s support of Doheny.
“We are proud to have won 11 of the 12 Republican county committee endorsements,” campaign spokeswoman Charlotte Guyett said in a statement.
“In addition to the county committees, we are honored to have the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York State, Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), as well as town supervisors, town council members, mayors and county leaders across the district,”
“Elise also received the highest rating for a first-time candidate from the National Rifle Association,” Guyett said.
“In the last days before the primary, we are focused on reaching out to voters across the district as the momentum continues to build for new leadership in Washington.”
BISSO SUPPORTS STEFANIK
Lee said he will not support Duprey in her bid for re-election to the Assembly.
Duprey is expected to be challenged in a Republican primary in September by Karen Bisso.
“I am not going to vote for anybody else, but I won’t be supporting Janet,” Lee said.
Bisso said she will continue to support Stefanik.
“For over a year now, I have both admired and supported Elise Stefanik and will continue to do all that I can to further the success of true grassroots candidates who we are seeing succeed at both the federal and state level,” she said in a statement.
“I am not surprised that the assemblywoman would endorse the candidate who has made numerous campaign contributions to her over the last years.
“Solicited endorsements are not grassroots. They are status quo.”
Duprey said she received two checks from Doheny in 2010: one for $100 and one for $50, and none since.
“I am not sure this falls under the category of numerous contributions over the years,” the assemblywoman said.
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DUPREY STALWARTS RALLY
While former Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Donald Lee, State Assembly hopeful Karen Bisso and others may not be happy with Assemblywoman Janet Duprey's endorsement of congressional candidate Matt Doheny, there is a faction standing behind her.
Andrew James, a Republican from Altona, said a group of Duprey supporters will get together Friday at the office of Republican County Legislator Dr. Jonathan Beach in Plattsburgh to show support for Duprey.
New Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Randall Beach is expected to be there, along with several other party members, said James, who is 28.
"She (Duprey) stands behind what she believes is right and best for the good of the community," he said.
He added that congressional candidate Elise Stefanik's campaign can hardly be considered grassroots, since Super Pacs have contributed so much.
"That is not grassroots whatsoever," James said. "That effort for her (Stefanik) is incredibly organized, and I hate the fact that she is claiming she has no part of these organizations, and I find it difficult to believe that they (Super Pacs) would spend so much on her and not expect something in return if she gets to Congress."