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Doheny in primary: Voters should support Watertown resident as GOP candidate

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The two candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives believe they’ve run campaigns presenting a clear choice based on the issues.

Sadly, they are both wrong in this instance. What’s amazing about the contest is how incredibly similar they are to each other on most topics worth discussing. About the only item of note they differ on is whether the federal government should construct a four-lane interstate between Watertown and Plattsburgh, the so-called “rooftop highway.”

But only one of these candidates can win next week’s primary and advance to the general election on the GOP line in the 21st Congressional District. Thus, it is up to the voters to distinguish between these individuals when they cast their ballots Tuesday.

Our support in the Republican primary on June 24 is going to Watertown resident Matthew A. Doheny. He has tried for this seat three times before, leading many to argue that he had his chance and should step aside.

But Mr. Doheny is better suited to represent the interests of the north country, particularly the western part of this district, on Capitol Hill. He would bring a demonstrated familiarity of our communities and a business background that his primary opponent, Elise M. Stefanik, lacks.

Having been raised in Alexandria Bay, Mr. Doheny has intimate knowledge of the people and institutions of the north country and the problems we all confront on this side of the district. He has shown how he would integrate his instincts about our local concerns into practical policies that would serve our district well.

Ms. Stefanik was raised in Albany County and spent a good portion of her childhood summers at her parents’ vacation home in Willsboro. In fact, she now lives at this residence. She, too, is quite articulate about issues of concern that people in the north country have expressed, though she demonstrates less depth of understanding than a voter expects.

What’s most concerning about Ms. Stefanik’s tactics, however, is ceding control of the attack portion of her campaign to dubious interests from outside the district — all the while denying that she had anything to do with them. American Crossroads, a super PAC with links to GOP strategists Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove, has run character assassination ads against Mr. Doheny.

A political campaign running negative ads against a rival is not new or surprising. But that a PAC run by people with no local ties should try to decide who will better represent the north country is offensive. This choice must be made by the voters who live, work and raise their families here in Northern New York, not by a cabal of GOP operatives with no stake in this race other than stacking the political deck in Washington in their favor.

Ms. Stefanik has repeatedly enthused about how positive her campaign has been as she simultaneously tries to benefit from the petty, scurrilous and fraudulent ads being produced by American Crossroads. She should have put her money where her mouth is: Called on American Crossroads to stop the attack ads, acknowledged that she has little persuasion over her outside supporters or admitted that she approves of what the super PAC is doing.

Mr. Doheny has produced his own attack ads against Ms. Stefanik, and one of them falsely cited the Watertown Daily Times as a source of information. So it’s not like his hands are clean when it comes to slinging mud in pursuit of elective office. But Mr. Doheny has taken ownership of his ads, and he’s allowing the chips to fall where they may. He is not hiding behind a well-financed network of special interests whose goal isn’t necessarily to serve the people of the north country.

If he is beholden to anyone for a potential electoral victory in the GOP primary and general election, it will be the voters of Northern New York who put him into office. This is why Mr. Doheny has our endorsement for Tuesday’s Republican primary.

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Readers are invited to send Letters from the People in response to this editorial. Letters addressing this editorial will be accepted until 11 a.m. Friday, and the last day they will be published is Sunday.

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