FORT EDWARD — Matt Doheny wants you to know that he’s the only candidate running to replace outgoing Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) who is truly from the North Country and has the experience necessary to address the 21st District’s needs.
In a phone interview with the Valley News, the last in our series of open-ended interviews designed for the candidates to introduce their policies to our readers, Doheny discussed what he has to offer voters across this sweeping district.
“I KNOW THESE PEOPLE”
The race marks the Watertown-based investment banker’s third attempt at capturing the seat after narrowly losing twice to Owens, who was first elected in 2009 after a bitter race that attracted national attention and acted as a bellweather for the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement.
“We fought two close races and came up very short each time,” said Doheny. “After Congressman Owens announced his retirement, we experienced an outpouring of support across all corners of the district and that really encouraged me to run again.”
Speaking excitedly after a day spent campaigning in Washington County, Doheny recalled a conversation he had with a small business owner who he said was in trouble:
“He had a situation back on the farm dealing with immigration and labor,” said Doheny. “I aim to help him, and people like him, on the ground to make life better.”
“I know these people, I’m from the district,” he said.
In what’s become a common mantra for the two remaining Republican candidates in the race, Doheny said small businesses are strangled in a thicket of regulation by a sprawling patchwork of regulatory agencies that operate without oversight from elected representatives.
“They need authority and real oversight,” he said, citing the regulations that farmers face as an example:
“There’s the EPA, [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA and all the issues and regulations that come to fore, like dust regulations, labor regulations, rules on spilled milk — these all have a negative impact on the industry, from the dairy farms here in Washington County to the apple orchards in Essex.”
The candidate, who lives in Watertown and has a 10-month-old son named Declan, said policies should be tailored around the district’s diversed sub-economies, from Plattsburgh’s relationship with Canada, the military base in Fort Drum and the lakefront spread in Tupper Lake.
“There are vital differences between small businesses, agriculture, tourism, light manufacturing and infrastructural projects,” he said. “We need specific points of focus in creating an environment to protect these economies.”
Doheny said he has the intricate of knowledge of each of these towns and how they operate as well as experience turning around troubled companies from his business background, attributes he said the other candidates don’t have.
“I have been to all 194 towns and cities in the district, have met with untold people from all sectors, and understand what drives the economy,” he said, ticking off an encyclopedic list of towns, their leaders and the small, often overlooked, differences in nomenclature.
“This gives me a clear advantage and clear point advantage. I grew up here, live here, and am going to make sure we have the most robust economy we can.”
Doheny said if elected, he aims to “roll back” the Affordable Care Act.
“However well-intentioned, it’s not working,” he said. “We continue to see negative impacts on folks in our district — it will truly hurt families and small businesses.”
He criticized the Independent Payment Advisory Board tasked with addressing and overseeing savings in Medicare as an unelected body that has the “authority to ration care and costs” much to the public’s chagrin.
In addition, he said, the ACA will hurt rural hospitals’ efforts at recruiting doctors and will force them to seek more lucrative jobs elsewhere.
Doheny also cited the 2.3 percent tax on medical device manufacturers enacted as part of the provision as something that is “really, truly hurting these companies,” including those based in Glens Falls.
Asked about his thoughts on immigration policy, the candidate cited a recent ceremony he attended in Washington County that saw the swearing in of 50 new American citizens.
“It was a very touching, moving experience,” he said, citing participants from Poland, Indonesia, the Ivory Coast, Brazil and elsewhere.
“America is a leading country in the world and this really reaffirms your faith,” he said. “While we have challenges, we’re still the leading light.”
While he didn’t touch upon specific policies for job creation in the discussion, something that has bewitched the other candidates in this interview series, Doheny said he will continue to roll out “key elements” over the next seven months during the countdown to the general election this fall.
The candidate will face fellow Republican hopeful Elise Stefanik, the Albany-born, Willsboro-based businesswoman who served in a variety of roles in the Bush Administration, in the GOP primary on June 24.
Since both candidates have been endorsed by third parties — Doheny by the Independence Party, Stefanik by the Conservative Party — the two have indicated they will remain in the race despite who emerges victorious from the primary.
Doheny’s long-awaited interview with the Valley News comes as part of an aggressive campaign push in the run-up to the Republican primary.
On Thursday, April 24, the candidate bashed Democratic frontrunner Aaron Woolf, the grocery store owner and small business owner from Elizabethtown, with a tongue-in-cheek list of tips for touring the North Country and on Friday, he released his first radio ad blasting “DC insiders,” an alluded slight against Stefanik, whose campaign challenged Doheny’s efforts to net the Independence and Conservative Party lines last week.
In a written statement, Stefanik campaign attorney James Walsh accused the Doheny campaign of “inflating numbers” and skirting legal procedures in order to gain ballot access.
“When you run for Congress, seeking to make law, the first step in the process is to follow the law,” said Walsh. “The Doheny campaign is not unfamiliar with the petition process and our belief is that in the rush to inflate numbers and gain access to the Independence and Conservative lines, the Doheny campaign played political — and potentially fraudulent — games with this important process.”
The campaign alledged “flawed submissions” of Conservative Party signatures to the ballot and provided the Valley News scans of signatures that they perceived as questionable.
“The snow is finally gone but we still have time for reindeer games,” responded the Doheny campaign, also in a written statement.
“The only fraudulent games played with this important process were by the Stefanik campaign when they knowingly signed the cover sheet of Independence petitions legally attesting that she submitted the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.”
Each candidate needs to submit a designated amount of signatures from voters registered in those parties to receive ballot access. Although they are comparatively small and often overlooked, they play an important role in fundraising, shaping policy, offering visibility and creating a network of support for candidates during fluid primary races.
And capping the end of a fast-moving political week that saw Congressman Owens officially endorse Woolf in a swing through the region and petition challenges that may bounce Democratic hopeful Steven Burke and perennial Green Party candidate Donald Hassig out of the race before their respective primaries on June 24 (those respective stories will appear in our online version) — Doheny announced on Friday that he agreed to participate in a pair of GOP debates: May 27 and June 12, both to be hosted by television networks and their affiliates in Watertown.
“Our campaign is focused on talking to the voters about the issues that are affecting them in their day to day lives,” he said in the statement. “These debates are a great way for voters to hear directly from the candidates.”