SARANAC LAKE - Doug Hoffman has dropped out of the race to represent New York's 23rd Congressional District.
Hoffman's name will still appear on the ballot on the Conservative line; however, Hoffman said Tuesday morning that he wants his supporters to vote for Republican Matt Doheny.
"Our nation is at a crossroads, and it is imperative that on Election Day we wrest control of Congress from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat majority," Hoffman said in a prepared statement. "It was never my intention to split the Republican vote."
Doug Hoffman speaks during a debate with Matt Doheny in Saranac Lake on Sept. 7, a week before the Republican primary that Doheny narrowly won.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Hoffman, a certified public accountant and businessman who lives in Saranac Lake, ran against Doheny in a Republican primary. When Doheny's win became official almost two weeks ago after the absentee ballots were tallied, Hoffman said he would stay in the race on the Conservative line to offer an alternative to "a Wall Street lawyer and a Nancy Pelosi puppet," as Hoffman then described Doheny and incumbent Democrat Bill Owens, respectively.
Hoffman accused both of them of being "not truthful with the voters," citing Owens' vote for the national health care bill and Doheny's support of abortion rights in the first trimester, despite describing himself as "pro-life." Owens said during the 2009 campaign he wouldn't vote for anything that would raise taxes on the middle class and small businesses, which Hoffman argued the national health care bill did.
Now, Hoffman has decided to back Doheny.
"Matt Doheny and I may have differed on some issues during the course of our primary race," Hoffman said. "Now, we must put those differences aside and do what is best for our nation."
Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan wouldn't elaborate on the statement Tuesday morning.
Sources close to the story have said repeatedly over the past month that Hoffman's campaign didn't have the financing or staff to be viable this year. His campaign offices in Plattsburgh and Watertown closed after the primary. His main office on Saranac Lake's River Street has usually been closed since then, although there has been some activity visible over the past week.
"My reaction is, Doug has done the right and noble thing," said Mark Barie, chairman of the Upstate New York Tea Party, when informed of Doug Hoffman's decision. "By suspending his campaign, he is giving Matt Doheny a clear shot at the incumbent, Mr. Owens, and increased the likelihood that Matt Doheny will be victorious on Nov. 2."
UNYTEA backed Hoffman in the primary, gathering signatures for his Republican petitions and sending out letters on his behalf. However, Barie said before the primary that he hoped they would back the winner, and after the primary he blasted Hoffman's campaign as poorly run and out of touch.
"This had to be a difficult decision for Doug," Barie said. "He earned the right to be our next congressman. But for a poor choice of campaign staff, he might well have been our next congressman. I don't blame Doug for that, I blame his staff still. I compliment him on a wise choice that had to be painful, but a wise choice nonetheless."
UNYTEA's Steering Committee had been waiting for the results of a poll of its membership, which have been trickling in slowly, before deciding what to do in the general election.
"This will no longer be necessary," Barie said. "What I will ask is the Steering Committee formally endorse Matt Doheny as soon as the word is out. With Doug out, it makes no sense (to wait)."
Hoffman ran on the Conservative line in last year's special election against Owens and Republican Dede Scozzafava. The race garnered a lot of national money and media attention, and Hoffman won support from large national conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Republican notables such as former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Scozzafava dropped out of the race the weekend before the election and endorsed Owens, who won by about 3,600 votes.
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