PLATTSBURGH - Mark Barie says a vote for Doug Hoffman is a vote for Bill Owens and a vote for Bill Owens is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.
"When she says, 'Jump,' Bill Owens says, 'How high?'" Barie, chairman of the Upstate New York Tea Party, said at a press conference at the Hampton Inn Wednesday afternoon with Doheny, the Republican nominee running to represent New York's 23rd Congressional District.
A little to Barie's left was an almost-life-sized cardboard mockup of Pelosi in a wedding dress and Owens at her side in a groom's tuxedo.
Congressional candidate Matt Doheny, left, and Upstate New York Tea Party Chairman Mark Barie poke fun at a cardboard mockup of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens at a press conference Wednesday in Plattsburgh.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
“Bessie,” Matt Doheny’s Ford Explorer he has been driving throughout the campaign, parked near the Hampton Inn in Plattsburgh Wednesday afternoon. Doheny often refers to Bessie and how many miles he has put on her during this year’s campaign when speaking; it was 72,000 miles as of Wednesday.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
Barie personally endorsed Doheny in his campaign to unseat Owens, D-Plattsburgh. UNYTEA as a group has not endorsed Doheny, but Barie said all but two of the group's 12-member Steering Committee members have said they agree with Barie that Hoffman's campaign is not viable. Hoffman is still in the race on the Conservative line.
"Doug has no campaign, he has no organization, he has no money," Barie said. "The race is between Matt Doheny and Bill Owens."
As for Doheny, Barie said, "He's a fiscal conservative, he's an almost-perfect social conservative, and he has the brains and the bucks to beat Bill Owens."
Nevertheless, Barie said, the Steering Committee wants to wait for the results of a poll of its members before endorsing anyone. The results are coming in slowly; only about 225 of UNYTEA's 1,000-odd members have e-mailed in responses so far. With about five weeks until the Nov. 2 election, "I'm not going to sit on the sidelines for the next 30 days," Barie said.
UNYTEA endorsed Hoffman in his Republican primary bid against Doheny, but Barie said before the primary he hoped UNYTEA would back the winner. After primary night he blasted Hoffman's campaign as poorly run and out of touch with the district.
UNYTEA members gathered about 2,000 signatures to get Hoffman on the Republican ballot, attended numerous campaign events before the primary and sent out letters supporting him. Since the organization hasn't endorsed Doheny, Barie said the push for Doheny would be less formal, more "me talking to my friends," plus other members as individuals making telephone calls, stamping letters, passing out signs and other efforts.
Republicans throughout the country have been trying to tie Democrats to Pelosi, the liberal speaker of the House of Representatives from San Francisco. Owens has often talked about his moderate views on fiscal issues, saying he favors tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses. He was also recently endorsed by the National Rifle Association, as was Scott Murphy, a Glens Falls Democrat who represents the neighboring 20th Congressional District and who has also emphasized his fiscal conservatism.
Republicans have pointed to both men's votes in favor of bills such as a recent $26 billion federal education jobs bill and the national health-care bill as showing they aren't fiscal conservatives. The GOP says these will lead to higher taxes and deficits, and that the national health-care bill has already led to higher premiums.
"His message is simple: Contribute to my campaign, and I'll vote to use taxpayer dollars to save your job," Barie said Wednesday of Owens, referring to the thousands of dollars the Democrat's campaign has received from groups such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Murphy and Owens have said the national health-care bill will lead to lower health-care costs over time, and Murphy told the Enterprise last month that the education jobs bill will help prevent local property tax increases.
Owens has voted with his party 93 percent of the time, according to the website Open Congress. Murphy has voted with the party 91 percent of the time. New York's Democratic senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, voted with their party 97 percent and 98 percent of the time, respectively.
Barie said the e-mails and calls he has been receiving from UNYTEA members have been "five to one" in favor of Doheny. About a third of the members don't have e-mail and were mailed surveys; Barie said jokingly that UNYTEA meetings sometimes look like grandparents' night at an elementary school. He said some responses have been received back by regular mail, but he didn't know how many.
Doheny spoke after Barie, listing off issues on which he and Owens disagree, such as the national health-care bill, which Owens voted for and Doheny favors repealing, and "card check," or allowing a union to form by a majority of a shop's employees signing up instead of by secret ballot as now. Owens favors this; Doheny opposes it.
These stances, Doheny said, show "why we need to make a fundamental change in the 23rd District."
Barie said UNYTEA has members all over the 11-county 23rd District, which stretches from Lake Champlain to Oswego and the Syracuse suburbs. Although they are concentrated in the eastern part of the district, Barie said there are a substantial number of members in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties as well.
Contact Nathan Brown at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.