As the New York 21st Congressional District race takes shape, local politicians and community members are weighing in on the candidates who have declared themselves so far.
Matt Doheny, a Watertown businessman who ran for Congress in 2009, 2010 and 2012, is the latest Republican to join the primary race along with Elise Stefanik from Wilsboro, Joe Gilbert of DeKalb Junction and Jamie Waller of Lake Pleasant. Aaron Woolf of Elizabethtown is the only Democrat currently running. Current Rep. Bill Owens has decided not to seek re-election.
Town of North Elba Councilman Bob Miller, a Republican from Lake Placid, said he is disappointed with the candidates so far.
"We have a Republican and Democrat frontrunner who don't live in the congressional district, and I find that problematic," Miller said.
This was a reference to Stefanik and Woolf, who have both been endorsed by their parties' county chairs. Miller's claim about where they live may not be entirely accurate - both Stefanik and Woolf have homes in the district - but it highlights concerns that even elected officials have about the candidates.
Stefanik lives in Wilsboro and previously worked in Washington, D.C. as a staffer for George W. Bush from 2006 to 2009 and later for Congressman Paul Ryan during his vice presidential run.
Woolf, a documentary filmmaker and grocery store owner, splits his time between New York City and Elizabethtown. He refused to answer reporters' questions after the county chairs nominated him Feb. 12 in Long Lake, and he hasn't answered questions since. His campaign stated in a press release on Feb. 13 that more information about his "official announcement" and planned events will be coming at a later date.
Sue Montgomery Corey of Minerva, a member of the Essex County Democratic Committee, endorsed Woolf, but she did not want to talk about him or the other candidates.
"I think we should all take a good look at what people are saying and thinking, and not rush to any judgments," Corey said.
Miller, a former member of the Essex County Republican Committee, said he is not impressed with Doheny, either.
"I know Matt," he said. "I was never comfortable with what his motives are for the community."
He added that just because Doheny was a successful businessman does not mean he cares about the community.
"And I hate to blast a Republican, as a guy who is a lifelong Republican, but politics is not the end game here," Miller said. "We need to be more educated about who we are putting in office."
He added that Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun seemed like an intelligent local candidate whom he could support. Maroun announced he was thinking about running a day before Doheny announced his candidacy, but since then Maroun has endorsed Doheny.
North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi also thought Maroun would be a good candidate.
"I like Paul Maroun," Politi said. "I think his heart's in the Adirondacks."
John Quinn, a Democratic town councilman from Tupper Lake, said he doesn't want a career politician to win the seat.
"I haven't voted a straight ticket in so long," Quinn said. "I don't want a career politician wannabe. The Republican ticket is flush with career politicians."
He said Stefanik's ties to Bush and Ryan worried him. Quinn doesn't know much about Woolf, the Democrat congressional candidate, except the little he's read in newspapers.
"Woolf, I want to know more about him." Quinn said.
He added that Woolf was not a career politician, which he thought was encouraging.
Doheny gets ballot access
Doheny was endorsed Thursday by the Independence Party, meaning he will be guaranteed a spot on the November ballot.
Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay wrote in a press release that he was pleased to see Doheny jump into the race.
"Matt is a natural leader," MacKay wrote. "He's been an outspoken advocate for our principles of limited government and lower taxes, which spur job growth. We think he is the best candidate to represent the interests of the North Country, Adirondacks and Capital Region."
Doheny formerly worked at Deutsche Bank on Wall Street from 2000 to 2008 and Fintech Advisory Inc. from 2008 to 2010. Since 2011, he has been the president of North Country Capital LLC, a private investment firm in Watertown.
Sticking with Stefanik
Former Franklin County Republican Chairman Jim Ellis, of Tupper Lake, said he was one of Stefanik's earliest supporters and that won't change any time soon.
"I think Elise brings a fresh face to the race," Ellis said. "Putting in a younger, diverse face to our party is good."
Ellis said that people talking about Stefanik not being local enough is not important.
"She's traveled throughout the North Country," Ellis said.
He said Republicans should remember they are dealing with candidates running at the federal level.
Doug Hoffman of Lake Placid, who ran for Congress against Doheny and Owens in 2010, is also supporting Stefanik. He challenged Republican newcomers to the race.
"Where were all these brave men when the incumbent was running?" Hoffman said.
Hoffman told the Enterprise he is comfortable with Stefanik's roots in the North Country.
"I think, from what I know about her, she has been working with her family business for about two years now," Hoffman said. "I think she has a lot of contact with people in the area."
Stefanik currently works for her family's business, Premium Plywood Products, a wholesale plywood distributor outside of Albany.
Hoffman said if anyone should be criticized for their ties to North Country, it's Doheny and Woolf.
"Mr. Doheny worked his whole adult life in New York City and came back up here to run," he said.
Hoffman also took a swipe at Woolf, saying he has more ties to Brooklyn than Elizabethtown.