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Matthew A. Doheny

Elise M. Stefanik


Doheny, Stefanik face off in primary

Monday, June 16, 2014 - Updated: 9:17 AM



SPECULATOR -- Republican candidates for congress Matthew A. Doheny and Elise M. Stefanik will meet in the federal primary election Tuesday, June 24, to determine who gets the Republican line in the Nov. 4 general election.

Both want the 21st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives currently held by Rep. William "Bill" Owens of Plattsburgh, who is not running for another term. About 29 percent of district voters are Democrats and 42 percent are Republican.

The 21st is the largest and most rural congressional district in New York state. Owens, who was elected in 2009, is the first Democrat to represent the region since 1873, and Republicans want the seat back.

Doheny has been endorsed by the Independence Party. Stefanik has been endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties. This means regardless of who wins the primary election, both will be on the general election ballot unless the loser bows out.

Democrat Owens won his seat when the Republican vote was split between the Republican and Conservative candidates.

Doheny says his "real-world experience is sorely needed in a Congress too full of career insiders." If elected he plans to focus on economic development and constituent service.

Stephanik says her experience working for the Bush Administration means she knows what is wrong with the establishment and "can hit the ground running." She says her focus would be on jobs and the economy.


Doheny ran a positive campaign until American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC formed in 2010 by Karl Rove, a former George W. Bush advisor, and political consultant Ed Gillespie, started issuing attack ads against him, including $240,000 in television ads. American Crossroads says Doheny is not conservative enough.

Karl Rove was White House deputy chief of staff from Feb. 8, 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007. Stefanik worked in the chief of staff's office from 2006 to 2009. A spokeswoman for the Stefanik campaign said it has nothing to do with the American Crossroads advertising, despite the Rove connection.

One of Stefanik's biggest financial supporters, according to the National Journal, is billionaire Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund manager. He has given the maximum allowed by law to her campaign, and is one of American Crossroads' major donors.

According to Roll Call, fund-raising reports show that between April 1 and June 4 Doheny, who is largely self-financed, raised $88,000 and spent $432,000. Stefanik raised $135,000 and spent $301,000. With the American Crossroads spending over $540,000 has been spent on her campaign.


The two candidates' platforms are very alike. They agree on tax code reform (both want a flatter, fairer system), health care (repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, allow health insurance to be sold across state lines), gun control (bad), national defense (good), how to improve the economy, term limits (good), medical marijuana (good), broadband expansion (good), protecting American jobs, tort reform and Common Core (bad).

They disagree on abortion. Doheny believes in a woman's right to choose in the first trimester, but not in partial-birth abortion, "which I am 100 percent against." Stefanik is pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Stefanik is willing to discuss increasing the minimum wage if small business is included in the talks, while Doheny says it should be left up to the states.

Doheny supports a balanced budget amendment, while Stefanik wants to balance the federal budget by reducing and reforming federal programs.

Stefanik says she doesn't need to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge as Doheny has. "I'm very much against tax hikes. I've made my case to voters. I don't need to sign a pledge," she says.

But the real differences are in their life experiences.


DOHENY, 43, of Watertown in Jefferson County, is a self-made businessman who grew up in Alexandria Bay.

He graduated Alexandria High School and paid his own way through Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science. He won a scholarship to Cornell Law School in Ithaca, earning a juris doctor in business law.

He is the owner of the investment fund North Country Capital, which helps small companies grow. Previously he worked as a managing director for troubled assets at Deutsche Bank, where he helped many ailing large companies turn around.

He has taught finance and business courses at both Clarkson University and Jefferson Community College.

He recently joined the Eastman Kodak Board of Directors, where he is helping to restructure the troubled company. He is also on the Yellow Trucking Board of Directors.

He is a member of the Flower Memorial Library Board of Directors and the Italian-American Civic Association, supports many local hospitals and non-profit agencies, and sponsors college scholarships.

He and wife Mary have an infant son.


STEFANIK, 29, who claims her parents' Willsboro summer home in Essex County as her residence, grew up in the Albany area.

She volunteered for the New York Republican State Committee while still in high school.

She graduated Albany Academy for Girls in 2002 and Harvard University in 2006, with a bachelor's degree in government. While at Harvard she was an editorial editor for The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper.

She then landed a job as a White House aide in the George W. Bush Administration. She was a staffer on the Domestic Policy Council and worked in the chief of staff's office from 2006 to 2009.

After the White House Stefanik worked as policy director on Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign and then as policy director of the 2012 Republican National Platform before joining Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 vice presidential campaign. He has endorsed Stefanik and made a campaign appearance for her in Watertown.

After the Ryan campaign Stefanik joined her family's Premium Plywood Products business in Altamont as a sales representative and started her campaign to replace Owens.

Stefanik is single and has no children.

The 21st Congressional District spans more than 16,000 square miles. It comprises all or part of the following 12 counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer (partial), Jefferson, Lewis, Saratoga (partial), St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington.


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