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Doheny joins 21st Congressional District race; campaign will focus on jobs, health care

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The race for the 21st Congressional District seat has become a lot more interesting, as former Republican candidate Matthew A. Doheny announced Wednesday that he will run for the third time.

Mr. Doheny, who narrowly lost twice to U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, in 2010 and 2012, will challenge front-running Republican candidate Elise M. Stefanik, Willsboro, and tea party favorite Joseph M. Gilbert, DeKalb Junction, in the Republican primary June 24.

Democrats have endorsed an Essex County man, Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker who divides his time between a home in the Adirondacks and Brooklyn, as their candidate.

Mr. Doheny, an investor from Watertown, spent more than $3 million of his own money on his previous efforts. He would not say how much he is prepared to spend this time.

Announcing his intent to seek the GOP nomination in a news conference at the Times on Wednesday morning, Mr. Doheny said he would not have entered the race had Mr. Owens sought re-election.

“I was shocked when Mr. Owens announced he wouldn’t run,” Mr. Doheny said. “I would not have entered the race otherwise. We had two fair fights and he won them both.”

The Owens decision not to run, however, made Mr. Doheny reconsider.

“It’s a wide-open race,” the candidate said. “It looks like there could be three primaries — I read in your paper there even will be a Green Party primary.”

Mr. Doheny said a Republican primary was not daunting, noting he had primary fights in both 2010 and 2012 before gaining the GOP nomination.

He would not characterize how he would run against Ms. Stefanik.

“I take every race seriously,” he said. “I’ve been to all 194 towns and cities in this district, I know the district and I’m going to make sure our message gets out all across the district.”

Mr. Doheny said the level of support he has received encouraged him to run again.

“I would go to Target, someone would say, ‘You should run,’” he said. “I’d like to carry that level of support right through the election.”

In both 2010 and 2012, Mr. Doheny’s campaign received a higher number of individual campaign contributions than did Mr. Owens’s. He said he would like to take that level of financial support with him into the 2014 campaign.

While Mr. Doheny was a bachelor when he ran in 2010, he has since married, and in 2013 he became a father. He said that experience has made him a different candidate than the one that ran before.

“Having a wife and a young son is the most wonderful experience I’ve had,” Mr. Doheny said. “It has broadened my view of life.”

As a result, he said, he enters this campaign with a different outlook. “I’ve got more emphasis on the needs of a young family in the north country,” he said. “I’ve become Mr. Diaper Changer and I’m good at it.”

Mr. Doheny said his platform would focus on three things: better health care; creating jobs, especially in the north country; and providing constituent service.

The candidate said that health care is one of the most important issues facing the nation, but said “Obamacare isn’t doing what we need.” He said a priority would be helping to find a better solution.

Mr. Doheny said he has been following what has been written about the North Country Health Systems Redesign Commission, but wants to hear their conclusions before he recommends a particular solution to north country health-care needs.

“I think it’s important that they’re getting everyone in one room to talk,” he said. “There are a lot of small clinics and small hospitals in the region and a regional solution or subregional solution could be the answer.”

Mr. Doheny also said that Jefferson County having the second highest unemployment rate in the state is “simply unacceptable,” and pledged to use his business acumen to help find a path to more economic stability. Mr. Doheny’s most recent economic development project was helping restructure and realign Kodak, which last year emerged from bankruptcy.

He also said he would provide strong constituent services across what is geographically one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi.

“You only have one point person for this district,” he said. “Constituents have needs, and I’m going to focus on helping them.”

News of Mr. Doheny’s announcement spread quickly.

Ms. Stefanik said she has been the only Republican candidate in the race for the past year, when it appeared Mr. Owens would be running as a third-term incumbent.

“We need a new leader to represent us in Washington,” she said, adding she is focused on her campaign, “no matter who enters the race.”

She made that comment after hearing Wednesday that another Republican, Tupper Lake Mayor and Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun, also may seek the nomination.

With the possibility of Mr. Doheny funding a campaign with his own money, Ms. Stefanik said she will go after small donations from individuals “in every corner of the district,” adding that she was “not a self-funder” candidate.

Ms. Stefanik appeared to criticize Mr. Doheny’s background in corporate finance.

“As the only candidate in this race with small-business experience in upstate New York, I believe my background provides the experience and perspective needed to best advocate on behalf of the challenges of our struggling Main Street economy in the 21st District,” she stated in a news release.

Mr. Doheny, 43, is a graduate of Allegheny College and received his law degree at Cornell University. After practicing law in Syracuse, he joined Deutsche Bank, where he managed accounts and worked in the acquisition and rescue of large troubled companies. He started his own business, North Country Capital LLC, Watertown, in 2010.

Mr. Doheny and his wife, Mary, live in Watertown with their 7-month-old son, Declan.

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