LAKE PLACID — The ding-ding-ding of the seat belt chime never flicked off because Matt Doheny, a Republican candidate for Congress, was never in the car long enough to buckle back up.
The routine went like this:
Armed with a list of registered Republican voters, a GPS unit and a full tank of gas, Doheny’s wheelman would zero in on a name and address. The car would roll to a stop and the candidate would leap out.
It was 84 degrees on Monday, June 2, the hottest day of the year so far, and the black flies were out.
But Doheny, a 43-year-old investment banker from Watertown, was in his prime.
“This how it’s done,” he said. “Now let’s go knock on some doors.”
The car rolled to a stop. Doheny jumped out and a reporter followed.
“I’m Matt Doheny and I’m running for Congress,” he told the young woman who answered the door. “I’m right here on your doorstep if you have any questions.”
She smiled, took the campaign literature and apologized:
“I’m just the caretaker,” she shrugged.
“That’s fine,” said Doheny. “Have a great day.”
There are 170,000 registered Republicans spread throughout 194 towns and villages in New York’s 21st Congressional District and Doheny estimates that he was knocked on 1,000 doors so far in about 40 of them.
“In a district this size, sometimes we have to use this car,” he said, almost as an apology. “This is when campaigning in more walkable villages becomes more preferable.”
A bicyclist pedaled by.
“The creation of a bike trail was something that was discussed at the Adirondack Associations of Towns and Villages this morning,” said Doheny, referring to the meeting he attended earlier that morning of local officials from around the North Country. “It could be modeled after Yellowstone and would be a great way to get people here, a circuit from Saranac Lake to Star Lake, Long Lake, Old Forge and then back around again.”
The car slowed.
“What are we looking at?” Doheny asked the driver, who was scanning the list of voters.
It stopped and Doheny got out, approached a house, paused, knocked and waited for a reply.
“Beautiful landscaping,” he commented.
The door opened.
“This is beautiful landscaping,” he repeated before introducing himself.
The woman brightened, confirmed she was a Republican, and the two fell into a discussion of shared acquaintances before shaking hands and parting ways.
“People just want common sense,” Doheny said. “That was fairly typical of what happens on the trail — people are impressed when you knock on their door and you just talk about what’s important to them and the issues.”
“What are we looking at?”
An address was given and Doheny, who was dressed in a blue checkered shirt and cowboy boots, hopped out.
“Where’s Number 15?” he asked, studying the multi-unit apartment complex.
A reporter motioned upwards and Doheny climbed a set of rickety wooden steps.
He knocked, a door opened and a man peered out.
“I’m Matt Doheny and I’m running for Congress,” he told the man. “I’m right here on your doorstep if you have any questions.”
“I’ve been a registered Republican for a lot of years,” said the man.
“That’s great!” said Doheny. “Can I count on your vote?”
The man nodded and retreated back into the darkness.
“You’re a young guy,” Doheny said to a reporter. “The key to attracting and keeping smart people like you here is jobs. We have great local talent and terrific people who want to live here in the North Country.”
Doheny said the region needs to create opportunity sets and capitalize from their comparative advantages, which in the case of Lake Placid, would be tourism and athletics training.
ORDA is one of the most important drivers of economic development in the region, he said. But it has been ignored by the federal government since 2006.
From 1997-2003, according to a written statement provided by his campaign, ORDA received approximately $12 million in federal capital grants.
A 2006 study prepared by SUNY Plattsburgh’s Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Program indicates ORDA contributes over $320 million in economic impact to the region and thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
“These jobs have an interest for a lot of people,” he said. “Now let’s get them here.”
Back on the trail, the vehicle downshifted and entered a thin road bursting with untamed summer foliage.
“Lake Placid is a lot bigger than many people realize,” said the candidate.
The car stopped in front of a modest wooden house carved into the hillside.
Doheny knocked and a man answered the door.
“I’m Matt Doheny and I’m running for Congress,” he said.
“We’ve seen you on the news,” said the man, whose name was Gary Hodgson, aged 70. “It’s amazing what little people know about what’s going on in the world.”
Hodgson began discussing the Council of Foreign Relations, the non-partisan think tank that specializes in foreign policy, and what he perceives as a mission drift.
“Inflation is such a problem,” he said. “This is just simple economics.”
“If elected, I’d like to oversee an audit on the federal reserve,” said Doheny.
“Thank you!” cried Hodgson. “You can’t just print more money and then tax people more. You don’t need to be a wizard to figure that out.”
The two fell into a deep conversation:
“This is called the debasement of currency,” explained Doheny.
The man nodded.
“Nineteen-thirteen was a bad year for America,” said Hodgson. “That was when the Federal Reserve was created and when the Federal Income Tax was passed through.”
The two talked economic policy for several minutes. The man had strong libertarian principles and frequently referred to the gold standard.
Doheny listened intently.
“Something just needs to be done to get this country back on track,” Hodgson concluded.
“The federal government is just continuing on with these inflationary policies,” said Doheny.
The two fell into a silence.
“Can I count on your vote?” asked Doheny
“You got it!” he said. “And I’ll tell my wife, too.”
“I wish I could have had a chance to meet her,” said the candidate.
The two shook hands and Hodgson went back inside.
Doheny climbed back into the vehicle, which was purring in the driveway.
He turned around in his seat and looked at a reporter:
“This is how we’re going to win.”
The seat belt chime was dinging. But it didn’t matter — more doors were waiting. And the primary is only three weeks away.