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Stefanik, Doheny meet for first time during Lewis County Republican meeting

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GLENFIELD — Meeting her new rival for the Republican nomination for Congress, Elise M. Stefanik told Lewis County Republican leaders Thursday night that she looks forward to a “robust discussion of the issues” with Matthew A. Doheny.

Mr. Doheny, who started his campaign Wednesday morning, said he wants a “fair fight” with Ms. Stefanik to represent the party in the 21st Congressional District race.

“It’s an open seat,” Mr. Doheny said. “Let’s have a primary.”

Before speaking to the county Republican Committee at the Central Hotel, Ms. Stefanik said she had remained focused on her own campaign since learning Tuesday night about Mr. Doheny’s entry into the race. Despite Mr. Doheny’s candidacy, she said she has received multiple endorsements and maintained her goal of cutting Washington gridlock.

“My opponents have changed, but that message is still resonating across the district,” she said.

Ms. Stefanik said her small-business experience, with her family’s company, Premium Plywood Products Inc., would help her distinguish herself from Mr. Doheny, whose background is in investment banking.

“We really feel the pulse of the economic challenges of the district,” she said. “That is very different small-business experience of the day-in, day-out challenges of upstate New York businesses and other small businesses.”

Mr. Doheny said he had spent the previous two days touring the district and talking to supporters. He also appeared excited about picking up the state Independence Party’s endorsement, and said he enjoyed campaigning in familiar places such as Lewis County.

“I know all these people,” Mr. Doheny said.

He used part of his remarks to highlight his own runs in 2010 and 2012, in which he lost to Rep. William L. Owens. He attributed his most recent loss to Mr. Owens’s incumbency and strong turnout for President Barack Obama.

Now, however, with Mr. Owens’s pending retirement, Mr. Doheny said the election had a “different atmosphere.” He said a high level of public support and the encouragement of his wife, Mary, also helped push him into the race.

“I still we think have what it takes to win. I think we have the background,” Mr. Doheny said.

Candidate Joseph M. Gilbert, DeKalb Junction, was invited but was not in attendance at the start of the meeting.

Prior to remarks by the candidates, Mr. Doheny was presented an award for his help to Republican county legislative candidates last year. The timing of the presentation was a coincidence, county Republican Chairman Michael F. Young said; it was planned months before.

Mr. Young, who said Ms. Stefanik “struck a chord” with her knowledge and enthusiasm, told the crowd of about 30 that the county committee’s endorsement of Ms. Stefanik would not change. However, he said, without a loyalty clause, individual committee members could vote for their preferred candidate.

Mr. Young requested that whoever loses the primary June 24 not attempt a third-party run in the general election.

“You know what that does,” he said. “We want the Republican candidate to be the strongest possible candidate overall, and I speak on behalf of our local committee for that.”

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