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Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) celebrated...
Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) celebrated...

Owens slips past Doheny in NY-23

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One of the few bright lights for Democrats last night was the re-election of Congressman Bill Owens over Republican businessman Matt Doheny in the 23rd district. After last year's special election, Owens earned his first full term by a slim 51 to 49% margin over Doheny. But it was conservative and erstwhile Tea Partier Doug Hoffman whose 6% showing that may have decided the race. David Sommerstein has our report.

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...while Matt Doheny (R-Alexandria Bay) conceded last night.

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David Sommerstein
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Last year, Lake Placid’s Doug Hoffman became one of the Tea Party’s first stars, elbowing out moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava and nearly defeating Democrat Bill Owens.  But this fall, Hoffman’s fortunes flagged.  He lost a bruising primary to Republican Matt Doheny by just 700 votes and only pulled out a week later.  Hoffman – and Tea Party leaders - threw his support behind Doheny, but his name remained on the ballot as a Conservative candidate and he didn’t campaign actively on Doheny’s behalf.

On Tuesday, more than 9,000 people voted for Hoffman, helping to hand Owens another victory.

Bill!  Bill!  Bill!

At Owens headquarters in Plattsburgh, supporters who had looked on despondently as other New York Democrats lost their seats became elated as Owens declared victory.

We’ve had three Christmases in 12 months.  Last November, December 25th, and now tonight, so we’re very grateful.

Owens promised support for Fort Drum and the region’s dairy farmers, and more meat and potatoes work on the economy in the new Republican-controlled Congress.

My agenda for the next 2 years will be, to your great surprise, to bring more jobs to the North Country.

Owens survived a controversial yes vote for President Obama’s health care plan in a district where Republicans have a heavy enrollment advantage.  Speaking to reporters, Owens said he owed his success to a practical, not political, spirit.

People view me as a moderate person trying to find solutions, thinking about things, and coming to conclusions.

It was conservative Doug Hoffman’s 6% of the vote, though, that siphoned a potential victory away from Thousand Islands native and multimillionaire, Republican Matt Doheny. 

At his campaign headquarters in Watertown, Doheny didn’t even refer to Hoffman in a gracious concession speech.  He congratulated Bill Owens while acknowledging the new GOP House majority.

I congratulated him, said he’s going to have to get to know a lot of new people, it looks like.  So I said, good luck with that, and also I said, look, if you need any help, I’m here.  It’s about governing this country and getting the best people and the best ideas.  That’s why I ran for Congress and he was more than receptive.  [cheers]

Others Republicans in the room did mention Hoffman, and they didn’t pull any punches.  Carolyn Fitzpatrick is vice-chairman of the Jefferson County legislature.

Matt has run a tremendous, positive race.  Matt didn’t lose this race.  Doug Hoffman lost the race for him, for the Republicans.  I only wish quite frankly that Doug Hoffman had come out, stood on stage, campaigned with Matt and said I support him, and it didn’t happen.

Jefferson County Republican committee chairman Donald Coon was more bitter.

Doug Hoffman is not an honorable man and I’m very very sad that he has to live his final days with the knowledge of what he really is.

In two straight years, the 23rd Congressional district race pitted the Republican establishment against the Tea Party revolution for a seat the GOP had held since the Civil War.  The two tried to come together this fall.  But on a night when a string of Republicans swept into New York’s Congressional delegation, it was the Democrat who slipped into Washington once again, leaving a winter of soul searching for North Country conservatives.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein in Watertown.

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