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Exit poll: Voters cite ads’ influence in choosing a candidate

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JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS

Many Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis County Republicans who voted in Tuesday’s primary between Elise M. Stefanik and Matthew A. Doheny said in an informal exit poll that they were influenced by ads that negatively portrayed Mr. Doheny. Others said they wanted Ms. Stefanik to win because they thought she was the more conservative candidate.

Doris Bennett, Watertown, said she was voting for Mr. Doheny. She cast her vote at the South Massey Street fire station, which is located a few blocks from Mr. Doheny’s Paddock Street home.

“I like him,” she said. “I like what he stands for. I like that he comes from Watertown and he knows what we need.”

Dan Giles, Limerick, said he was also voting for Mr. Doheny.

“I’m a young Republican and I like his views about where the party is going,” he said. “He is from a working-class family and worked to get where he is.”

Kelly O. Casler of Lowville cast her vote for Mr. Doheny for what has now been the third time.

“I’m hoping this time he gets it,” she said.

The idea of voting in this year’s primary was a tough one for Ms. Casler, who was on the fence. Her indecision, she said, was because of the negative attack ads aired by supporters of both GOP hopefuls.

“I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to vote,” she said of the political mudslinging. “I didn’t like all that.”

In the end, she decided to turn out at the polls in support of Mr. Doheny, who she considers to be the better person for the job.

“He’s down to earth and he seems to be real,” she said. “And, he’s a little more mature.”

Brian P. Western, also of Lowville, said he also voted for Mr. Doheny, having met him previously.

“I’m a little more familiar with him than Elise,” Mr. Western said of his decision to vote for the Alexandria Central School graduate. “Their policies seem pretty similar in a lot of ways. I’m just more comfortable with him.”

Like Ms. Casler, Mr. Western said he, was put off by negative political ads run by supporters of both campaigns. Having served in village politics in Lowville, Mr. Western said while he never participated in that kind of political strategy, he understands it’s all part of the game.

“It’s part of the race to get votes and dissuade others. It’s a necessary evil,” he said.

In Ogdensburg, voter turnout was moderate to heavy, according to election inspectors who said 270 people had voted at 6 p.m.

An informal exit poll found voters favoring Mr. Doheny.

“I voted for Doheny because I voted for him before. I’m hoping the third time is the charm,” said Timothy A. Amo, Ogdensburg. “I’m hoping he is the party choice. I just don’t like the other one.”

Donna L. Reagen said she voted for Mr. Doheny because he represents the boot-strap philosophy often touted by the GOP.

“He started from nothing and worked his way up, That speaks for something,” Mrs. Reagen said. “He’s also from this district and a very nice person. I think he’ll do a good job down in Washington.”

In the St. Lawrence County seat of Canton, Mr. Doheny was also praised, although some of those questioned after voting suggested Ms. Stefanik offered a fresh, young face for a Republic representative from the north country.

“The campaign ads kind of drove me nuts. I think they were doing a disservice to Doheny,” said Howard T. Blair Jr. as he left a polling district in Canton. “I think he’s just as good a candidate as any of them. I don’t care if he owns two islands. What does that have to do with it? All I care about is whether he can do the job.”

American Crossroads, a Republican super political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove, spent more than $770,000 on ads critical of Mr. Doheny.

Some voters said they preferred Ms. Stefanik.

“I liked her ads better,” said Stanley G. Infantine, Canton.

His wife, Evelyn F., said she also preferred Ms. Stefanik.

“She might be a breath of fresh air,” Mrs. Infantine said. “I think we have to give our youth an opportunity. Maybe this will encourage others.”

Richard F. Sheridan, Canton, said he voted for Mr. Doheny because of his stance on issues.

“I think he talks pretty good,” Mr. Sheridan said. “I liked the girl, too, but you can only vote for one. I think he knew what was going on better.”

In Massena, some voters said contributing factors swaying their balloting included negative advertisements and experience. Supporters of Ms. Stefanik pointed to Mr. Doheny’s perceived election failures in the past as a reason to vote for the challenger.

“I did not vote for Doheny or whatever his name is. I just say give (Ms. Stefanik) a chance. He’s had two,” Jeanette Penny said.

Larry Ralston said negative campaign rhetoric swayed his decision to back Mr. Doheny.

“(I voted) for Doheny. He’s got the background and is a proven businessman - a fiscal conservative,” Mr. Ralston said. “I didn’t like the negative campaign on either side. It was getting personal, it was getting nasty and they were talking more about each other than they were about the issues.”

The Massena Community Center saw 174 voters as of 5:20 p.m.

In the neighboring towns of Louisville and Norfolk, a higher-than-usual turnout was reported by election inspectors shortly before 5 p.m.

The Louisville Municipal building and Norfolk Rescue Squad building had 72 and 59 votes respectively just past the halfway point of voting.

Polls across the region close at 9 p.m. today. The 21st Congressional District includes all or part of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington counties.

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