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Conservative Party chairman Mike Long on Doheny endorsement: ‘not impossible’

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When Republican Matthew A. Doheny lost the 2010 election to represent the north country in Congress by fewer than 2,000 votes, it was the no vote of one man — from Brooklyn — that may have cost him the race.

That man, state Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long, is changing his tune ever so slightly this year, which could provide Mr. Doheny thousands of votes and the opportunity to take on Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, by himself in 2012.

“My understanding is, he’s working very hard working with Conservative leaders,” Mr. Long said.

As for an endorsement of Mr. Doheny: “It’s not impossible, and it remains to be seen what the leaders want to do and who the candidates are. Like I said, it’s rather early. Matt is out working very hard.”

Out of about 362,000 active voters in the 23rd Congressional District, only about 5,500 are Conservatives, but fractures on the right — separate candidates for the Republican and Conservative lines — were enough to give the historically right-leaning district to a Democrat. That, along with razor-thin election results, gives the party clout magnified beyond its numbers.

More than 10,000 people voted for Douglas L. Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, on that line in 2010, even though he had bowed out of the race after losing the Republican primary and given Mr. Doheny a perfunctory endorsement.

Mr. Long’s pronouncement that “it’s not impossible” for the party to give Mr. Doheny its line in November 2012 is a far cry from 2010, when Mr. Doheny was declared persona non grata because of a few factors, including his financial support for Dierdre K. Scozzafava.

Ms. Scozzafava, in 2009, was running on the Republican line in a special election to replace John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, who resigned from Congress to become secretary of the Army.

But Mr. Long did not consider her conservative enough, so the party gave the line instead to Mr. Hoffman. He also considered offering the line to Mr. Doheny, who declined because he had promised to support whoever the Republican candidate was.

The rest is north country congressional history. Ms. Scozzafava began sagging in the polls, while Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Owens were neck-and-neck. With a few days left, Ms. Scozzafava dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr. Owens, who went on to win, becoming the first Democrat to represent the historically red area in generations.

“Matt is working hard to make sure he earns the support of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in the upcoming election,” said Jude R. Seymour, spokesman for the Doheny campaign.

Mr. Doheny has attended Conservative Party events and fundraisers as he gears up for his run. He has opened up his wallet to Conservative endeavours, as well. He donated $10,500 this year to the state Conservative Campaign Committee, which raises funds for the Conservative Party, and made smaller donations to Conservative committees in Oswego and Madison counties.

Mr. Long said reapportionment — the state’s process of redrawing congressional districts to account for population changes — could play a role in his decision. That is, incidentally, the same answer that Mr. Hoffman gives when he’s asked whether he’ll run for Congress again.

“I think once we get past November, once we get a feel for reapportionment, we’ll have a better idea and we’ll start focusing on all the congressional races,” Mr. Long said.

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