Sep 15, 2010 — Last night, Watertown Republican Matt Doheny asserted victory following a see-saw political battle that went on for more than two hours after polls closed.
"I look forward to making sure that the people of the 23rd congressional district have a conservative alternative," Doheny said, in an interview with YNN TV.
At one point, Doug Hoffman -- the tea party insurgent from Lake Placid -- led by more than 500 hundred votes. But with an unofficial tally completed, the Associated Press called the race for Doheny, who held a lead of roughly 450 votes. Doheny urged Hoffman not to run on the Conservative Party line.
Just after 1 a.m., the National Republican Congressional Committee echoed Doheny's victory claim. The GOP argued that Doheny had established himself as the candidate with "the experience to help turn around the ailing economy and bring much-needed jobs to the North Country."
The outcome was a blow to Hoffman supporters who gathered at the Red Fox restaurant in Saranac Lake. Jim Gallagher, who retired from the Air Force and lives now in Peru, described the apparent defeat as heartbreaking.
"I'm a firm believer that we need to get the Republican Party back to its conservative roots," he said. Gallagher -- like others here -- said he would not shift his support to Doheny.
At the end of last night, as both political camps packed up to go home, Doug Hoffman still had not addressed his supporters or journalists. A campaign aide made a brief appearance and said, "You will not see Doug Hoffman tonight."
That peculiar decision -- which angered many journalists who had waited more than four hours for a chance to speak with the candidate -- calls into question Hoffman's commitment to soldiering on with the Conservative Party. Hoffman is expected to make a statement about his plans on Wednesday morning.
This outcome sets the stage for a likely show down between Doheny and Plattsburgh Democrat Bill Owens.
One important dynamic last night was geography, with Hoffman commanding the eastern half of the 23rd district and Doheny dominating in the western counties. That same pattern could hold true in the general election, with the Republican and Democrat hailing from opposite sides of the 23rd.