Stefanik is the better Republican choice

We recommend registered Republicans vote for Elise Stefanik over Matt Doheny in the party primary Tuesday.

We’ve met with both GOP candidates and followed their campaigns closely, and there are pros and cons to each.

Mr. Doheny certainly knows New York’s 21st Congressional District better and conveys a believable desire to use the job to bring good things to the North Country, both from Washington and by using the job of congressman to sway businesses our way. He grew up in Alexandria Bay, whereas Ms. Stefanik grew up in the Albany area, coming as a summer visitor to her parents’ home in Willsboro on Lake Champlain. Her family’s plywood business had customers up north, so that’s something, but she’s still on her way up the learning curve.

However, as we know in our industry, we can have a newspaper carrier who knows every house in a neighborhood – knows every occupant and the occupants who lived there before that – but that doesn’t mean he or she will deliver the paper to those houses on time.

Doheny and other critics call Ms. Stefanik a “Washington insider,” and there’s some truth to that. After graduating from Harvard University, where she was editorial page editor of the Harvard Crimson newspaper, she worked in the White House under President George W. Bush and worked for Rep. Paul Ryan’s vice presidential campaign, helping prepare him for his debate against Vice President Joe Biden.

Yes, she owns a townhouse in Washington. She used to live and work there, and since she hopes to live there again, as a member of Congress, there was no point in getting rid of it. If Matt Doheny wins, he’ll have to establish a home in Washington, too.

Washington is where much of the action is in this job. Ms. Stefanik’s understanding of that work and her passion for it – her only career vocation so far – can be weighed with Mr. Doheny’s familiarity with the North Country. Which one carries more weight? That depends on your perspective.

Both candidates are smart and quick on their feet, as we saw in two debates. They hold similar positions on most big issues, so there wouldn’t be many variations on how they would vote.

One difference is that Mr. Doheny signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to vote for any tax increase, while Ms. Stefanik wisely opted not to tie her hands that way. The founding fathers set up a form of government that requires compromise, and today’s highly partisan Congress has blocked most of that. The pledge Mr. Doheny signed has done much to prevent solving our nation’s biggest problems in ways most Americans support, and it will do more damage yet if people elect more of its signatories.

Also, we see Mr. Doheny’s Wall Street resume is a bigger liability now than ever, as corporations enhance their lobbying and their grip on our government.

What tips the balance for us most, though, is the way these two candidates deal with things: Mr. Doheny is fast and loose. Ms. Stefanik is tight and disciplined.

Both are smart and quick on their feet, both seem hard-working and devoted, but Ms. Stefanik seems much more studious and controlled – focused on doing good congressional carpentry, so to speak.

We saw a kind of slapdash manner in Mr. Doheny when we interviewed him in 2010 and 2012, and again this year. He tends to throw himself at situations with his enormous energy, fast talk and friendly overtones, but the details and side effects don’t seem all that important to him. This can be dangerous. We saw that in one of his recent television advertisements, which took anti-Stefanik quotes written by one of our unpaid bloggers and attributed them to the Enterprise as a whole. We demanded he retract or correct the ad, but he never even bothered to call us back. Getting it right apparently wasn’t worth much to him; neither did the cries of those he had stepped on.

He’d probably be a good guy to have a beer with, but we just don’t trust him to diligently follow through, day in and day out, on the painstaking job of representing our region in the political labyrinth that is the House of Representatives.

Ms. Stefanik may not be the best available person to to do that job, either – we’ll do more comparisons with the Democratic and Green Party candidates in the upcoming months – but we think she’s the better Republican option.