CANTON - The primary is still more than two months away but it appears the first serious showdown of the 21st Congressional District race on the Republican side will be over the Conservative line, which went to Matthew A. Doheny in 2012 but may be up for grabs this year.
Mr. Doheny and Elise M. Stefanik, a former White House aide who now lives in Willsboro, are seeking to get on the both the Republican and Conservative lines for the election.
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Stefanik put out a news release touting the large number of Conservative Party signatures her campaign has collected.
According to the release, she turned in more than 700 signatures to the state Board of Elections in Albany an amount her campaign cited as being more than twice the 361 signatures Mr. Doheny secured in 2012.
This high number of signatures includes over 12 percent of all active registered Conservative voters in the 21st Congressional District, the release said.
Responding to Ms. Stefaniks release, David M. Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Doheny, said his candidate was preparing to turn in more than 1,000 Conservative signatures on Thursday a number he said represented a signature from one in every five Conservative party members in the district.
New York state Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long said that the party will meet Friday to decide whether to endorse a single candidate, to authorize both candidates to appear on the ballot or to hold a primary.
Thats one of the races we have to look at, Mr. Long said.
Mr. Long said that only Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny have spoken to the Conservative Party executive committee about running on that line. Joseph M. Gilbert, the former St. Lawrence County Emergency Services director, is also planning to run as a Republican.
There were 5,741 registered Conservative Party members in the district as of April 1, 2014, according to the state board of elections.
According to state elections law, to appear on a ballot on the line of a given political party a candidate must secure signatures from five percent of the active enrolled voters in that political party or 1,250 signatures, whichever is less.
For the state Conservative Party, the minimum number of signatures was 281, five percent of the number of active Conservative voters on Nov. 1, 2013.
Though the numbers may seem inconsequential at first as both candidates collected more than enough to appear on the ballot, the two rivals are apparently viewing their returns as a show of strength and as a way to convince the state party apparatus of their political viability.
I want thank all the hardworking volunteers who went out in the cold and snow to collect signatures with me for caring as deeply about the future of our country as I do, Ms. Stefanik said in the news release. Our strong petition filing shows that registered Conservatives in the 21st Congressional District support a new generation of conservative leadership in Washington.
Mr. Doheny echoed her sentiments.
Weve been working extremely hard and we are continuing to work hard, Mr. Doheny said. Im excited, pleased, humbled and honored.
Mr. Doheny said he hoped the party representatives from all over the state who would be attending Fridays Conservative Party meeting would follow the lead of the people in the district in endorsing him as the partys candidate.
On Tuesday, Ms. Stefanik announced she had turned in 5,700 Republican petition signatures.
According to Mr. Catalfamo, Mr. Doheny is projected to turn in between 3,600 and 3,700 Republican signatures.
Aaron G. Woolf, one of Democratic candidates, has turned in 374 pages of signatures from members of the Democratic party, as well as 37 pages of signatures from voters registered with the Working Families Party.
Ms. Stefanik has also turned in 112 pages of Independence Party signatures, despite the fact that Mr. Doheny was endorsed by the party shortly after he entered the race.
Matthew J. Funiciello, the Green Party candidate, turned in 31 pages of signatures from his party.