On Tuesday, Republican primary voters in New York’s 21st Congressional District will decide between Republican candidates Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny. The winner will carry the GOP banner into the Nov. 4 general election against Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello.
The primary doesn’t necessarily knock either candidate out of the race. Stefanik is the chosen candidate of the Conservative Party and Doheny of the Independence Party. In debates, they didn’t say whether they would stop running if they lose Tuesday.
Up until this point, both candidates have gained key endorsements that could help propel them to victory.
Stefanik, 29, a former staffer of President George W. Bush, has earned the endorsement of 11 out of 12 Republican county chairs in the district, Doheny was not running at the time, but the chairs have continued their support of her. She has endorsements from former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney and his vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, and state Assemblyman Dan Stec. She also has the endorsement of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Doheny, 43, an investor from Watertown, has gained some momentum in the final weeks of the race, picking up endorsements from Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, state Sens. Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, and newspaper endorsements from the Watertown Daily Times and the Post-Star of Glens Falls. This is his fourth time running for Congress. He has lost twice, in close races, to the retiring Rep. Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh.
The two candidates have said during recent debates that they agree on major issues affecting the nation and the North Country. Both want to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, both candidates said they are open to making it easier for immigrants to work here longer to help North Country farmers, and they would not have supported the 2008 bank bailouts. On the minimum wage, Doheny said it should be left up to the states, and Stefanik said she would consider a national increase if “small businesses were at the table.”
Doheny and Stefanik argue the main differences come down to who they are, their independence as a candidate and where they are from, not what they stand for. Doheny has called his opponent “a Washington insider” on more than one occasion, but both candidates have left the North Country to work during sizable portions of their lives. Doheny has arguably closer ties to the North Country than Stefanik since he was raised in Alexandria Bay, while Stefanik was raised near Albany.
Stefanik moved to Willsboro in 2013 after spending a few years in Washington, D.C. Stefanik’s family owns a seasonal home in Willsboro where she has spent summers since she was 3 years old. She is also a partial owner of a home in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Harvard University, Stefanik went on to work for President Bush out of college. Later, she worked as a debate coach for vice presidential candidate Ryan and also helped develop the national party platform for the Republican National Committee. She currently works in marketing for her family’s small business Premium Plywood Products, based near Albany.
Stefanik has presented herself to voters as a small business woman and as a fresh young face who can win and unite both Republicans and Conservatives.
Doheny graduated from Cornell University Law School, practiced law in Syracuse and then moved into the big business field, working on Wall Street at Deutsche Bank. In 2010, while running against Owens and Lake Placid Conservative Doug Hoffman, he formed his own business, North Country Capital LLC, in Watertown. He has presented himself to voters as the only person in the race really from the North Country and as a businessman who can help turn around an economically troubled region.
Much depends on who wins the Republican primary tomorrow. Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. across the 12-county district.