The war of words between Republican Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny shows no signs of stopping as the June 24 primary nears in the New York 21st Congressional District.
Stefanik told the Enterprise in a phone interview Friday she wanted to clear up the differences between the two campaigns.
"I'm focused on raising the issues that face North Country residents, such as jobs," Stefanik said. "I've been out on the campaign trail focusing on economic opportunity, protecting Constitutional liberties. Our campaign hasn't engaged in the policies of personal destruction."
Last week, Doheny sounded confident in his chances of winning the primary. In an interview with the Enterprise, he called into question Stefanik's ties to the North Country, calling her a "Washington insider."
Stefanik responded to Doheny's recent "Washington insider" comment by saying there are two clear choices for Republican primary voters.
"Someone who represents new leadership and a vision for the path forward based on positive ideas and solutions for this country," she said, "versus a candidate who has run unsuccessfully three times and has failed to provide the vision to help move this part of New York state in the right direction."
Stefanik, a former staffer for George W. Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan lived in Washington, D.C. for several years during that time. In 2013, she moved back into a family home in Willsboro and also remained the part-owner of a home in Washington, D.C. She currently works for her family's plywood business outside of Albany.
The "Washington insider" comment refered to the Washington, D.C. townhouse partially owned by Stefanik. EMS DC Properties LLC, an Albany-based company, owns the property located on 610 Independence Ave. Stefanik claimed on her financial disclosure form that she owns between a $250,000 to $500,000 stake in the nearly $1.3 million property. She said "private investors" own the property but did not specify who the owners are. She did say the company is in no way affiliated with her family's business. The Hill reported the owners of the property have made late tax payments.
"All taxes this year were provided according to the terms of the D.C. property tax office," Stefanik said.
Stefanik threw a fundraising party for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty there after his failed presidential campaign, according to Politico. She was his policy director at the time.
Stefanik chose to jump on what could be Doheny's Achilles heel - the fact that he has run three times before and lost twice to the retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) in close elections. Many of the Republican county chairs, 11 out of 12 of whom endorsed Stefanik, voiced similar opinions when Doheny jumped into the race.
David M. Catalfamo, spokesman for Doheny, doesn't see it that way.
"I think it takes a tremendous amount of effort and drive (to run again)," Catalfamo said. "I think it's disingenuous to compare her experience in the region with Matt's."
The mudslinging marks a pivot in strategy for both campaigns. Stefanik stated early in the race that she would be running an all-positive campaign, and Doheny said he would be focusing his efforts on Democrat Aaron Woolf of Elizabethtown and Manhattan.
What changed? That depends on who you ask. The Stefanik campaign claims that, as they gain more momentum, their opponent is resorting to personal attacks out of desperation. Catalfamo said Stefanik's "all positive campaign" does not match her actions behind the scenes.
The two campaigns first exchanged words when they submitted petitions to the Board of Elections. Stefanik's lawyer said Doheny had inflated his signature count to appear more successful.
Doheny recently pressured Stefanik to sign a pair of conservative pledges. Stefanik said she doesn't want to be beholden to Washington, D.C. special interest group pledges. Now the Stefanik campaign is claiming Doheny has sent out a mailer to North Country residents full of inaccuracies about her.
"Line by line, lie by lie, this mail piece is exactly what voters are tired of and a great reminder why our opponent has lost twice before," wrote Stefanik spokesman Charlotte Guyett in a press release.
The candidates will have a chance to debate the issues soon. Televised debates, set for May 27 and June 12, will be hosted by Time Warner Cable and WWNY in Watertown, and other partners.