Political newcomer Elise Stefanik has won the battle for the Republican Party's slot on the November ballot in New York's 21st Congressional district, a key step in the race to replace retiring Democrat Bill Owens in the massive district.
Republicans have their eye on recapturing a district once considered a GOP stronghold. Republican Matt Doheny, an investment manager from Watertown, failed twice to take the seat, losing close races in 2010 and 2012. Tuesday night, Doheny lost the GOP primary to party rival Elise Stefanik, a Harvard graduate who worked on President George W. Bush's staff and the national campaigns of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Congressman Paul Ryan.
The unofficial tally posted on the New York State Board of Elections Election Night Reporting Page shows Stefanik leading with about 60 percent of the vote. Doheny conceded the race with a phone call to Stefanik around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
With incumbent Democrat Bill Owens deciding not to seek re-election, Stefanik, at 29, could become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. New York Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman holds the current title, having been elected at age 31 in 1972.
Stefanik spokeswoman Charlotte Guyette: "We are pleased with the turnout of last night's election. This shows the message is resonating..." Stefanik promises she'll focus on jobs and the economy.
Owens announced early in the election cycle that he would not seek another term. He is the first Democrat to represent the North Country district since the mid-19th century. "From my perspective, the primary criteria is that the individual must represent us all. And that requires, again, in my view, that that person be prepared to vote with both parties from time to time, depending upon the impact of the legislation on the constituents," said Owens.
Doheny campaign spokesman David Catalfamo Monday-morning quarterbacks the primary: "At the end of the day, the difference was the north of a million dollars that was spent in negative advertising against Matt Doheny. And the proof of that is if you look at every county, except for one, which was Herkimer County, those counties actually went big for Stefanik, and in the Herkimer County situation which had no negative advertising from TV, Doheny won it closely."
Stefanik's biggest numbers were tallied in Franklin, Fulton and Essex counties. The Karl Rove-backed SuperPAC American Crossroads spent more than $750,000 on Stefanik's behalf.
The Democratic nominee is Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker and political novice. His campaign responded to a request for comment by email, which quoted Woolf as saying he looks “forward to a spirited and ongoing discussion of the issues with my opponents."
WAMC's Political Observer Dr. Alan Chartock says it's going to be an interesting race... "The real question is whether or not a third party Green candidate can siphon enough votes in that very competitive district to hurt the Democrats."
Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello begs to differ. "My experience as someone who lives in a vastly Republican district is that we don't pull Democrats at all. Democrats feel quite embattled and therefore will vote for whatever corporate candidate runs every election, kind of unthinkingly."
The 21st Congressional District of New York spans more than 16,000 square miles, making it one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi River. It comprises all or part of the following 12 counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer (partial), Jefferson, Lewis, Saratoga (partial), St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington.