Long before Douglas L. Hoffman became a conservative celebrity, Republican Matthew A. Doheny was offered the chance to help the Conservative Party demonstrate its disgust with their Republican brethren.
Michael R. Long, state Conservative Party chairman, said he asked Mr. Doheny’s “handlers” to tell the hopeful that if he had interest in running against moderate Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava in the 23rd Congressional District last fall, the third party would support his candidacy.
“The answer I got was: ‘No, he doesn’t want to alienate the Republican Party,’” the chairman recalled Wednesday. “He was in the mix as one of the guys I would have supported against Dede Scozzafava. He chose to play the inside baseball game.”
Mr. Hoffman, a Lake Placid account, took the party’s offer instead, using the line to push a social and fiscally conservative platform that received considerable support during the special election. He finished a close second to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, with Ms. Scozzafava far behind.
“Matt Doheny failed at that defining moment,” the chairman said.
Mr. Hoffman, he added, showed “courage” and “earned” the party’s endorsement and line again in this year’s race. Mr. Doheny, Watertown, and Mr. Hoffman will face each other in a Republican primary. If Mr. Doheny prevails, there will again be a three-way race.
Mr. Long said he told Mr. Doheny “up front that there was no opportunity” for an endorsement. The chairman reiterated that position Tuesday in a memo to the party’s county chairs and state committee members.
“I see no circumstances why we would not support Doug Hoffman in his bid to defeat Bill Owens,” he wrote.
Mr. Doheny, in a Wednesday reply to Mr. Long, said he and Mr. Hoffman only differ on two issues “when it comes right down to it.”
The first is Mr. Doheny’s support of abortion rights, a position he shares with Rick A. Lazio, the Conservative Party’s candidate in the gubernatorial election.
Both men support abortions being performed in the first trimester, but oppose federal funding for abortions and partial birth abortions.
“Doug Hoffman is pro-life,” the chairman said. “That gives me a clear choice. There is no 100 percent clear choice running for governor.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is anti-abortion, although Mr. Long did not mention him.
Mr. Doheny said the second difference “can best be defined by a ‘willingness to keep your word.’” He noted that both he and Mr. Hoffman, both hopefuls for the Republican nomination last fall, agreed to support whichever candidate emerged as the party’s pick.
“Doug decided to break his word when you offered him the opportunity to run,” Mr. Doheny wrote. “I declined this same offer by you because I decided keeping my word was more important.”
Mr. Long’s specific objection was that Mr. Doheny had donated $2,400 — the maximum allowed by law — to Ms. Scozzafava on Oct. 10.
“I certainly don’t think that he (Doheny) is a bona fide movement conservative when he ‘maxed out’ to Dede Scozzafava as late as October,” he said. “At that point in history, Dede’s campaign was really suffering and hemorrhaging. And you throw money at it?”
As for this year’s race, Mr. Doheny said “the best candidate will win the Republican primary and the other can be counted on to support the winner.”
Mr. Long reiterated Wednesday that Republicans should unite behind Mr. Hoffman, who he said can win the primary.
“This is a winnable seat,” he said. “The only guy enjoying this problem is Bill Owens.”