Matt Doheny beat Kellie Greene in Tuesday's congressional primary to earn the Republican line in this fall's race for New York's new 21st Congressional District.
Doheny, a businessman from Watertown and former Wall Street financier, bested Greene 72 percent to 28 percent, unofficially. In his victory speech, he thanked his campaign staff and volunteers, as well as the voters across the North Country. He'll appear on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines this fall.
"We're quite excited and quite humbled," he told the Enterprise.
Poll workers at the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid had to rely on each other for company on Tuesday, as voter turnout was low for the Republican primary. From left are Madeleine Killeen, Suzanne Hanna and Mary Merrill, all of Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"To have the Republican nomination means a lot to me personally. We are very humbled that the Republican voters think enough of me to go ahead and give me the opportunity to unite the Republican, the Conservative and Independence Party, those lines together," Doheny added. "And we've done it; for the first time since Congressman (John) McHugh became secretary of the Army, all three parties, all three lines have been united with one candidate."
Doheny will marry his fiancee Mary Reidy on Saturday. After a few days of downtime, Doheny said his team will put together a campaign plan for the summer.
He said voters will have a clear choice this fall.
"We're going in the wrong direction," he said. "We are spending out of control. I want to be the growth candidate to make sure that people understand that when you're growing the economy, that's how you create jobs. Right now, with unemployment around 10 percent in our North Country county unemployment numbers, it's unacceptable. And I don't understand why you would send a congressman and a president back to office with that type of backdrop."
Greene said her campaign faced an uphill battle for a variety of reasons, one of which was the shortened campaign season due to the date of the primary. Doheny also outspent Greene by a wide margin.
"We had hoped that it was going to be a lot closer than it was, but we don't have any regrets," she said. "Every single person worked so hard on this campaign and I could not ask for a greater group of volunteers - and to think that I did not know any of these people, not one of them, seven months ago."
At this point, Greene said she won't endorse Doheny. In fact, she won't endorse anyone because she thinks voters shouldn't be influenced by anyone else's voting preferences.
"I am not endorsing Bill Owens; I want to make that extremely clear to people," she said. "I'm not a Democrat plant, as some people have suggested, so I will not be endorsing a Democrat. But I don't like endorsements, as I think many people have heard me say. I think they taint the process."
Greene said she wants to stay in politics. She said if Owens wins in November, there's a high probability she'll challenge him in two years.
"I would really hope that the GOP would wake up a little bit to me and take a good, hard look at the fact that I tried to run a clean campaign despite their lack of support, and tried to be pretty fair to my opponent," she said. "Hopefully, if they've seen anything, they've seen somebody who is smart, and who is a good Republican and who they would maybe want to embrace, as opposed to shun, for something going in the future. But I intend to stick around whether they support me or not."
Owens congratulated Doheny on his victory.
"I look forward to what I hope is a positive discussion on job creation, deficit reduction and how best to represent our friends and neighbors," he said in an emailed statement.
Voter turnout was low across the North Country. Tuesday's primary was the first June primary in about four decades. It was scheduled in June to comply with a federal rule requiring adequate time between the primary and general election to send absentee ballots to troops overseas.
In Saranac Lake, just 57 people had voted at the Harrietstown Town Hall as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Former Saranac Lake village Trustee Jeff Branch was among the few voters who did turn out for the primary. He cast his ballot for Doheny.
"I just think Matt is the guy who is going to bring to Washington what we need down there: a little common sense and the will to get something done," he said.
Branch said he didn't have anything against Greene. He said she just wasn't the right choice in this race, although he believes she has a future in politics.
Branch, who is active in the local Republican Party, said he thinks the timing of the primary resulted in the poor turnout.
"People aren't ready for it, they don't expect it to be this time of year - it's the last thing on their mind," he said. "Even I - and I've been involved in this for I don't know how long - I was at home and said, 'Oh, jeez, it's primary day.' And I had to shoot down here and do it. I'm number 57 today. It's just not on their mind."
Poll worker Clarence Duprey said he didn't think voters knew enough about the candidates. Dennis Dwyer, who also worked the polls Tuesday, agreed, but added that splitting up the primaries also hurt.
"Why have it now?" he said. "They could have combined some of these. That, I think, is probably the biggest concern with people who say, 'Another one? Another one?' Why didn't they combine some of these? They could have."
At the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid, poll workers had to rely on each other for company throughout the day. Some joked that the weather outside made it feel like a September primary, even though the calendar said otherwise.