The 21st Congressional District candidates are turning their focus to the November general election following Elise Stefanik’s victory by a wide margin in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Democratic candidate Aaron Wolff on Wednesday released a “bold reform agenda” calling for ending perks for members of Congress, while national conservatives who backed Stefanik crowed about her win in a nasty fight between two political conservatives.
“This decisive victory in the Republican primary is proof that she is the only candidate in this race who can win this seat for Republicans in November and be a champion in Congress for lower taxes and smaller government,” American Crossroads, a national political action committee, said in a post-election statement.
American Crossroads, the PAC of George W. Bush political strategist Karl Rove, said it spent $800,000 on mailings and TV ads attacking Stefanik’s primary opponent, Matt Doheny.
Democrats, however, on Wednesday called Stefanik a tool of established special interests, noting her support by PACs, former vice-presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and others. She worked on Ryan’s 2012 national campaign.
“The Washington, D.C., special interests must be elated to have their protege Elise Stefanik ready to carry the torch,” said Marc Brumer of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The 29-year-old former White House domestic policy staffer could become the youngest member of Congress if elected in November.
“The results from last night show our campaign’s positive message is resonating with voters across the 21st District and will drive our campaign to victory,” said Charlotte Guyett, Stefanik’s press secretary. “Elise will be a strong independent voice for the North Country that will unify the party as she focuses on jobs and the economy in upstate New York.”
At the end of the sometimes-bitter primary campaign, Stefanik carried a district covering all or parts of 12 counties by 61 percent to 39 percent. Unofficial results gave her 15,116 votes to Doheny's 9,621.
Just under 25,000 registered Republicans voted, out of 170,000 living in the district, which stretches from Ballston Spa and Johnstown to the Canadian border.
Stefanik, of Willboro, won in all counties except Herkimer, the sparsely populated northern end of which is in the 21st. Doheny had a four-vote lead there, according to unofficial state Board of Elections results.
The vote was 1,297 for Stefanik and 544 for Doheny in Fulton County, and 1,745 to 1,056 in Saratoga County.
The North Country was represented by Republicans for decades before Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh won a special election over split opposition in 2009. He was re-elected over Doheny, a Watertown investment fund manager, in both 2010 and 2012. Owens caught the political world by surprise this spring, however, by announcing he will be retiring.
The Democrats have nominated Wolff, a filmmaker from Elizabethtown.
Wolff, who is also backed by the Working Families party, on Wednesday released a statement saying Congress shouldn’t be paid if no federal budget has been passed. He also said members of Congress shouldn’t have travel and health care benefits that aren’t available to the general public.
“We should be directing hard-earned taxpayer money towards creating jobs, investing in our region and growing our economy, not plush congressional benefits,” he said.
Looking toward the November election, American Crossroads officials won’t say whether the PAC plans to put money into the race.
“We don’t announce our involvement in races in advance, but our support for Elise in the primary was based on our belief that she offers a fresh and exciting voice for the North Country and is the only candidate in this race who can win this seat for Republicans in November,” Paul Lindsay, American Crossroads’ communication director, said in an email.
Doheny will still have the Independence party ballot line in November. Spokesman David Catalfamo said he is evaluating his options and whether to actively campaign.
In a statement on his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon, Doheny blamed his defeat on the PAC-funded attack ads.
“If you are thinking of running for office — especially an office of any significance — you simply cannot run until you understand what these national or local SuperPACs’ intentions are and what they will or won’t do in your race,” he wrote.
Stefanik also has the Conservative party ballot line in November. Also on the Nov. 4 ballot will be Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello of Glens Falls, who owns a bread company.