Boyajian drops out of Congress race to run for Assembly instead

Don Boyajian (Photo provided)

Democratic congressional hopeful Don Boyajian, a lawyer from Cambridge, announced on Tuesday that he is ending his campaign in New York’s 21st Congressional District and will instead seek a state Assembly seat in the 107th Assembly District, which includes his hometown.

“I just want to serve my community,” Boyajian said. Whether in the U.S. House of Representatives or the state Assembly, “I very much believe in the people’s house.”

Boyajian made the surprise announcement on Tuesday afternoon on social media and a press release. His campaign Facebook page had already changed its name to “Don Boyajian for Assembly.”

Boyajian said the decision had been lengthy, and there was no one single factor influencing his departure from the congressional race.

“I’ve spent the last nine months talking to thousands and thousands of people,” he said. “The state is getting things done.”

The 107th Assembly District encompasses Cambridge and one other town in southern Washington County, all of Rensselear County except the city of Troy and town of North Greenbush, and six towns in eastern and northern Columbia County. It was one of several districts to hold a special election last month, and the Republican candidate Jacob Ashby squeaked to victory over Democrat Cynthia Doran to replace former Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who is now the Rensselear County executive.

Boyajian said during the special election he had not yet decided to run for Assembly.

“I was running for Congress at the time, and I hadn’t yet made that decision,” he said.

With the narrow Republican victory, Boyajian said he thought he had a good chance. He will be the only Democratic candidate in that race.

Campaigned hard

Boyajian had been the most successful of the Democratic candidates so far in fundraising, raising $494,000 as of the last Federal Election Commission filing deadline with $298,712 cash in hand. He easily outstripped the next highest fundraiser, Tedra Cobb of Canton, who had raised a little over $293,000 since announcing last year.

Boyajian said funds he raised as a congressional candidate will be transferred to his Assembly campaign. He declined to endorse any of the remaining congressional candidates.

“I have a ton of respect for all the candidates in the race,” he said.

He said he had discussed his departure with other candidates but that none of them had influenced his decision.

“I talk at length with all the candidates,” he said. “To be honest, I’m pretty close to most of them.”

Boyajian has campaigned hard. Beyond the fundraising, at the end of April, members of the Boyajian campaign were instrumental in forcing out David Mastrianni from the Democratic primary race through a petition challenge.

Over the course of the race, a number of candidates have joined and left, and with the June primary approaching, Boyajian’s departure narrows the choices further.

Still in the primary contest are Cobb, Emily Martz of Saranac Lake, Patrick Nelson of Stillwater, Dylan Ratigan of Lake Placid and Katie Wilson of Keene. Lynn Kahn of Schroon Lake is also running on the Green Party line. They all hope to take down Republican incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik of Willsboro.

Geography matters

With Boyajian out of the race, Nelson is now the only Democratic candidate from the southeast portion of the district, which may give him an advantage, says SUNY Plattsburgh political science professor Harvey Schantz.

“The geographic spread of the candidates in the Democratic primary is one of a number of factors, along with candidates, issues, debate performance and the like, which might impact the outcome of the Democratic primary,” Schantz said. “A hometown base may draw upon the loyalties of voters personally familiar with the candidate, issue positions tailored to the economy of one pocket of the district, as well as voters motivated by sheer local pride.”

Schantz said Cobb, the sole candidate from St. Lawrence County or points west, will also draw support from the Watertown area in Jefferson County, which will be a big boost.

“Of course, it is difficult to develop a geographic bailiwick if there are other home-county candidates on the ballot,” Schantz said. “Such is the dilemma for the three Democrats from Essex County, Emily Martz of Saranac Lake, Dylan Ratigan of Lake Placid and Katie Wilson of Keene.”

Candidates react

“I wish Don well, and I’m happy to see the field thin a little,” Wilson said. “I commend him for finding a place where he will be most effective.”

In a written statement later, Wilson targeted her remaining opponents: “Do we want to send Stefanik back to her D.C. cocktail circuit, send some candidates running on the Democratic side who are auditioning for the D.C. cocktail circuit, or someone who is going to stop talking like a cable news wannabe and just get to work?”

“Don is the joyful spirit, and he will be sorely missed,” Ratigan said. “[He] was the most fun person in the race.”

Ratigan said he had gone fly fishing with Boyajian recently.

“Now I can be the candidate that likes fishing,” Ratigan said.

Nelson, who has the lowest campaign fund total of the five Democrats at $53,619, said, “As we are starting to see, the message is more important than the money raised in this new era of politics.” He also wished Boyajian well and said, “It’s great seeing a lot of local candidates making sure there’s a full ballot.”

Cobb oozed confidence after Boyajian dropped out.

“I will proudly continue to lead the way to victory on June 26 and in November, with more than 5,300 signatures delivered in support of my candidacy, a team of more than 750 dedicated volunteers and more funds raised than anyone remaining in the field. I hope Don and I can work together to win back seats for Democrats across the region, giving back to the people the real representation they deserve.”

Martz’s spokesperson Christopher DiMezzo said Boyajian was a champion of the environment, as is Martz.

“She will take up that mantle and will work with him on his Assembly campaign as well,” DiMezzo said. “We now see a clear path to victory, and we look forward to the challenge of the June primary and then on to defeat Elise Stefanik in November.”

Stefanik campaign spokesman Lenny Alcivar said, “This is yet another example of Democratic candidates desperately trying to either break out of, or abandoning, their disastrous primary as Elise Stefanik continues to unite North Country voters across party lines.”

Stefanik was on Fox News on Monday to discuss the midterm elections and her efforts to recruit national Republican candidates.