For the north country’s congressional seat, 2012 won’t be 2009, 2010 or 2011.
In those years, third-party conservatives entered races for upstate seats long held by the GOP and their presence on ballots helped pick off enough votes to usher a Democrat into Congress.
But the second candidate who will vie for conservative hearts and minds in 2012 said Tuesday that if he does not secure the Republican line for the race, he’ll bow out.
“The last thing we want is having another third-party candidate,” said Kelly S. Eustis, who announced last week that he was considering a run at Congress. “If I don't win the Republican primary, most likely, I probably would not stay in the race. Why drag it on further?”
Matthew A. Doheny, a Watertown portfolio manager, has announced that he’ll take a second run at the seat currently held by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.
Mr. Doheny first ran in 2010, but tea party darling Douglas L. Hoffman’s presence on the Conservative Party ballot likely drew enough votes to give Mr. Owens a slim victory in the right-leaning district.
And in a 2009 special election, Mr. Hoffman also spoiled Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava’s chance at defeating the Democrat by mounting a third-party candidacy.
Most recently, Jack Davis ran on a tea party line in a Western New York special election and may have taken votes away from Republican Jane Corwin, helping Democrat Kathy Hochul win in an upset.
Mr. Eustis has pledged to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I just think that people should suck it up and get out of the race if they’re not going to win,” he said. “I do think I'm the true conservative in the race. I’m heavily seeking the Republican and Conservative party nominations.”
Mr. Eustis boasts formidable fundraising talents — his political action committee, One Nation, has raised $300,000 since it was founded in 2009. He also says he has an email contact list of about 100,000.
“I think I stand the best chance at securing those ballot lines,” he said.
He added that he’s started reaching out to Conservative and Republican party leaders, and tea party activists, in the beginning of his possible campaign. He’s even enlisted the help of expats from Mr. Hoffman’s failed campaigns.
That Mr. Eustis would unify the right, even in losing, should soothe concerns among conservative activists, some of whom were spooked by his candidacy — no doubt scarred by previous brushes with similar circumstances.
“This time, we all have to stand together,” said Bart S. Bonner, a Watertown businessman and tea party activist. “That's the issue. It doesn't matter if we have small differences. We must stand together against the common enemy, which is the socialist, Marxist Democratic Party, above all else. Our country must come first.”