Local Conservative Party chairmen aren't feeling constrained by their state chairman's insistence Tuesday that Republican Douglas L. Hoffman will be their candidate in the 23rd Congressional District regardless of what happens in a GOP primary.
It's because Mr. Hoffman, a Lake Placid accountant, appears to be the consensus favorite among the party's six county committees.
Len Schick, the Oswego County Conservative chairman, said he doesn't see a scenario in which Mr. Hoffman's Republican opponent, Watertown businessman Matthew A. Doheny, receives majority support from Conservative committees.
"Any good executive is going to have a feel for the people that work for him, what they're thinking and what their support is," he said. "For (state Chairman) Mike Long to be that far off at this point in time, he'd have to be out of touch with things. And I don't believe he's out of touch."
Mr. Long said Mr. Hoffman had earned the party's endorsement by showing "the courage to step up and take on the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties last fall." Mr. Hoffman, as a Conservative Party candidate, finished second in the special congressional election, close behind Democrat William L. Owens and far ahead of Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava.
Mr. Schick said only one of the six local Conservative chairmen has advocated for Mr. Doheny, but declined to say which one. The Franklin County committee already has announced its support for Mr. Hoffman.
Henry R. "Hank" Ford, St. Lawrence County chairman, said he liked Mr. Doheny personally and thought he'd "be an excellent congressman if he gets there."
But Mr. Ford said some in his party soured on the candidate when he gave the maximum donation possible last fall to Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava, who ran for the seat in a special election against Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Owens, who won.
He said he didn't know whom his committee will back when it meets in June, but he was confident the party's state executive committee would consider the input before deciding on an endorsement.
"We've got a lot of people that like Matt and we've got people that like Doug," he said.
Kenneth A. Parks, Jefferson County chairman, said Mr. Doheny would get "more than a fair shake" from his committee members, but added of Mr. Hoffman: "It's very tough to throw someone under the bus that got us 47 percent on Row D."
Mr. Schick had a similar opinion.
"If we have a conservative candidate that we've endorsed in the past and done a good job and we're happy with the person, we're not going to throw somebody under the bus if someone else comes along," he said. "You've got a great candidate here that garnered national attention and has strong ties to prominent Republican people."