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Stefanik attends meeting of top-tier GOP donors; Doheny focuses on voters ‘on the ground’ in 21st

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Facing a serious challenge in a Republican primary and needing money for the general election, 21st Congressional District GOP candidate Elise M. Stefanik took a road trip last week seeking help from the big boys of campaign finance.

Ms. Stefanik was one of a “handful” of House candidates who attended a weekend meeting in Aspen, Colo., called by Republican billionaire Paul Singer. The conference was to discuss individual party candidates at several levels. The goal of the group is to more carefully direct contributions to individual candidates, rather than just providing money to super political action committees based on general political philosophies.

“These are top-tier fundraisers and donors who are looking to rethink party structure,” Ms. Stefanik said Monday. “They’re looking for the ideal candidates to carry the party’s banner into the elections.”

She said the weekend meeting was a “very targeted group” looking for candidates that transcend some of the negatives that the party has faced in prior elections.

Fellow Republican candidate Matthew A. Doheny said Monday that his fundraising efforts to date have focused on people within the district, including Republican and independent voters, and said Ms. Stefanik’s apparent head start at the national level doesn’t necessarily give her an edge, noting the national Republican Party will give its support to the candidate that wins the primary.

“I’ve been very active across the district meeting people here on the ground. They are the people most important to my campaign,” he said.

Petitions for the June 24 primary go out today and must be returned by April 10.

Anyone who returns petitions with at least 1,250 valid signatures will appear on the primary ballot.

A story in Sunday’s New York Times detailing the move to more involvement between candidates and big donors noted Ms. Stefanik’s appearance at the weekend meeting. In detailing participants who attended, the Times wrote “So did Elise Stefanik, who is running for an upstate New York congressional seat and whom many of the donors regard as an up-and-comer who can help broaden the party’s appeal to women.”

That issue is important to the party, Ms. Stefanik said, as it tries shore up “some of the support we lost in prior elections.”

Ms. Stefanik said that in her travels throughout the district, women have been especially enthusiastic about her campaign.

“I’ve had women tell me they’re following my campaign, and their daughters are following me,” she said.

Ms. Stefanik said the north country has long had an independent electorate that has not been gender oriented, pointing to the election of state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie and three female district attorneys in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties as examples.

Ms. Stefanik acknowledged that her participation in the meeting is likely to give a boost to her fundraising efforts.

“With the primary campaign and the general election, I will raise whatever it takes to win,” she said.

Her campaign said two weeks ago that her fundraising has exceeded $250,000. While she would not give specific numbers to update that, she noted that the next filing deadline for the Federal Election Commission, which tallies campaign spending, is March 30, and said that her report is going to show “strong numbers.”

Ms. Stefanik said her campaign “is going very well,” noting that the county committees that supported her before Mr. Doheny entered the race have all re-endorsed her.

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