Skip Navigation
Regional News
Congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik (at right) tours the Urban Mission in Watertown. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein.
Congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik (at right) tours the Urban Mission in Watertown. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein.

With GOP primary near, Stefanik cries foul

Listen to this story
The race for the North Country's congressional seat has simplified a bit in recent weeks. Democrat Aaron Woolf, a seasonal resident of Elizabethtown, and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, from Glens Falls, will both run unopposed after their primary opponents failed to qualify for the ballot.

But on the Republican side, the primary battle is more complicated and more bitter than ever. Elise Stefanik, a long-time seasonal resident of Willsboro who moved to the North Country last year. and Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, have been trading barbs and accusations.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this


Explore this

Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Story location

News near this location

Stefanik didn't have any public appearances scheduled over the weekend, but she agreed to talk by phone about the bare-knuckled brawl that once again has embroiled the Republican and Conservative parties.

Last week her campaign sent an email to reporters complaining that Matt Doheny's campaign has engaged in "negative, angry mudslinging."

"I think too often candidates in previous elections have gotten very negative insteada of presenting their positive visions," said Stefanik on Sunday.

A unified GOP? Not so much

Stefanik moved to Willsboro last year and jumped into this race early when it appeared that she would be going toe-to-toe with three term incumbent Democrat Bill Owens. Owens has since announced that he will retire after this term.

One of Stefanik's early goals, she says, was making sure that this kind of Republican battle royale didn't happen again.

In the past, divisive battles between Republicans and Conservatives have derailed the candidacies of Doug Hoffman (at left), Matt Doheny and Dede Scozzafava (not pictured).  NCPR file photo:  Brian Mann
In the past, divisive battles between Republicans and Conservatives have derailed the candidacies of Doug Hoffman (at left), Matt Doheny and Dede Scozzafava (not pictured). NCPR file photo: Brian Mann
It was divisive primary battles on the right over the last five years that derailed the candidacies of past-Republican candidates, including Doheny, Dede Scozzafava, and Doug Hoffman.

Asked if she thought that could happen again, Stefanik said, "I certainly hope not. I've worked very hard from the beginning to unite the Republicans and the Conservatives."

But in her email last week to reporters (see below), Stefanik was in the tough position of defending herself against a series of accusations, lobbed not by Democrats but by Doheny, a fellow Republican (Check out David Sommerstein's story about Matt Doheny's campaign, reported last week.)

Accusations and North Country roots

The list included charges that her campaign is largely funded by a single wealthy conservative donor and a claim that Stefanik is a carpetbagger – a new arrival to the North Country who spends much of her year in a $1.2 million townhouse in Washington, D.C., purchased for her by parents. But Stefanik, who's single and 29 years old, says she has legitimate, long-running ties to Willsboro, in Essex County, where her parents have owned a seasonal home for decades. "We started out as summer residents. I spent about half my life up there full time in the summer. Increasingly after I graduated from college, I spent more and more of my time based in Willsboro." Stefanik says the home she owns in Washington, D.C., is an investment property, in which she owns a 20 percent share.

She and Doheny have also traded angry blows about their opposition to income tax hikes and their support for gun rights.

I think too often candidates in previous elections have gotten very negative instead of presenting their positive visions
It's unclear how these claims and counter-claims are playing with voters on the campaign trail. What's crystal clear, however, is that this isn't the kind of brawl that Republicans wanted as they work to win back a seat that was once safe GOP territory.

One additional complication is that Stefanik has the Conservative Party ballot line locked up, thanks to a vote by that party's leaders. Which means that even if she doesn't prevail in next month's Republican primary, she'll still have a spot on the general election ballot in November.

Playing defense, Stefanik sends email to reporters

Last week, Stefanik's campaign sent a long list of claims and counter-claims to reporters, attempting to address charges and what her staff described as "outright lies" made by the Doheny campaign.

 



Following is the section of Stefanik's email to journalists where she lists the claims made about her, and her responses to them.

Claim: Elise worked in the D.C. beltway for special interests.

Fact: Upon graduating from college, Elise had the honor of working for President George W. Bush and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. She also worked for conservative think tanks focused on public policy.

Claim: Elise was handpicked by party bosses.

Fact: Elise is proud to be endorsed by 11 of the 12 Republican Committees in the 21st Congressional district (the 12th county chose not to endorse any candidate). She attended each county’s meet-the-candidates nights and worked hard to win the overwhelming endorsement of these committees – just as other candidates have done in this and prior election cycles. After Matt Doheny got into the race, the Republican Committees reaffirmed their support as they recognize she is the best candidate to win the general election.

Elise is also proud to have won the overwhelming endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York State and is now their nominee for this election cycle. The party held an open endorsement process and, after meeting with Elise and listening to her ideas to help the 21st district, they voted with a clear majority to support her candidacy.

Claim: Elise’s campaign is almost exclusively funded by lobbyists and political insiders.

Fact: Elise isn’t independently wealthy and can’t simply write her campaign a check from her personal account as Matt Doheny has in every race.

She has a broad base of support and has hundreds of low dollar donors both in the district and across New York.

Claim: Elise lives in a $1.2 million Capitol Hill house bought by her parents.

Fact: Elise lives in Willsboro, in Essex County. She is a resident of the state of NY. Elise owns 20 percent of a rental property in Washington, DC.

Claim: Elise doesn’t pay her taxes on time.

Fact: All the taxes on the rental property that she owns a minority percent of are fully paid according to DC Tax Laws.

Claim: Elise lied on ethics reports about the value of her home.

Fact: Elise believes in following the letter of the law. She properly reported her minority ownership on ethics reports candidates are required to file.

Claim: Elise worked in the White House supporting Tarp and the Wall Street bank bailout.

Fact: Elise did have the honor of working in the White House for President George W. Bush. Attacking the President and assigning her responsibility for his policies is absurd. Elise offers her own ideas as a candidate and will continue to articulate those on the campaign trail.

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.