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Gilbert down but not out of NY21 race; Doheny appears at Tommy John dinner

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A survey of the political scene in Jefferson County on Wednesday night underscored the fact that there are still many unknowns in the race for New York’s 21st Congressional District.

Joseph M. Gilbert, the tea party candidate who failed to file petitions to get on the ballot as a Republican, said he was still in the running.

“Just because I didn’t pursue a Republican petition to run in the Republican primary doesn’t mean I’m not in the race,” Mr. Gilbert said during a meet-and-greet event hosted by Jefferson County Legislator Patrick R. Jareo, R-Ellisburg, at the Barley Pub in Belleville.

Mr. Gilbert said he has been endorsed by the New York state Constitution Party and is considering submitting independent petitions to gain access to the ballot. The Constitution Party does not have official party status. Independent nominating petitions can be circulated beginning June 24, according to the state Board of Elections.

How Mr. Gilbert’s candidacy may affect the race remains to be seen, though he seems eager to engage with his opponents.

“I have a standing policy: I’ll debate anybody on any issue before any audience at any time,” he said.

While Mr. Gilbert was meeting and greeting potential constituents in Belleville, his ostensible Republican opponent Matthew A. Doheny was shaking hands and making the rounds at a sports dinner at the Italian-American Civic Association, 192 Bellew Ave., Watertown.

The dinner brought out several politicians, including Republican John R. Bocciolatt and Democrats Colleen M. O’Neill and Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau, who are all running for Jefferson County sheriff. Ms. O’Neill and Mr. Trudeau face a primary in September.

Mr. Doheny, an investment fund manager from Watertown, said he was undaunted by the challenge he faces in Elise M. Stefanik, a former White House policy adviser from Willsboro.

Ms. Stefanik also is running as a Republican and has been endorsed by the state Conservative Party — the same party that endorsed Mr. Doheny in his 2012 run against Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. Mr. Owens is not seeking re-election.

Competition between Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny has begun to heat up, with their campaigns trading jabs Tuesday over Mr. Doheny’s Conservative and Independence party petitions. Ms. Stefanik’s campaign accused Mr. Doheny of submitting “potentially fraudulent” petitions while his campaign accused hers of playing “reindeer games.”

Mr. Doheny has been endorsed by the state Independence Party.

“I wouldn’t put myself out here again except to make life better here for people in the north country,” said Mr. Doheny, who attended the dinner with his wife, attorney Mary E. Doheny.

“Not a single person” has asked him to step aside, Mr. Doheny said. “We’ve had tremendous support.”

Mr. Doheny addressed a statement issued by the Democratic Campaign Committee on Wednesday that accused him and Ms. Stefanik of not staking out a strong enough position on the budget proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“There are some things I agree with and some things I don’t agree with and some things I have questions about,” Mr. Doheny said.

Representatives from the National Republican Congressional Committee met with both Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny on Tuesday to check in with the candidates, Mr. Doheny said.

“We’ve done this before. We take every opponent seriously and treat every day like it’s our last,” he said.

Also at the Italian-American Club dinner, which featured former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John as a guest speaker, were state Assembly candidates John L. Byrne, a Republican from Cape Vincent, and Russell J. Finley, a registered Conservative from Lisbon. They are running for the 116th District seat held by Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

John S. Humphrey, Brownville, who also is running for the seat as a Republican, was at the meet-and-greet event in Belleville, which is outside the 116th District.

Mr. Humphrey said he had been invited to the event by friends.

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