GLENS FALLS - Northern New York primary voters have chosen Elise Stefanik of Willsboro, a 29-year-old former staffer to President George W. Bush, to represent the Republican Party in November's election.
Stefanik, 29, defeated Watertown investor Matt Doheny in Tuesday's vote in New York's 21st Congressional District. She will face Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker from Elizabethtown and Manhattan, and Green Party's Matt Funiciello, a bakery owner from Glen Falls, in the Nov. 4 general election.
The results, as of 12:40 a.m. today, were 61 percent for Stefanik and 39 percent for Doheny, according to nearly complete but unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.
Republican congressional Elise Stefanik hugs a supporter Tuesday night at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls, her campaign headquarters for primary night, when she defeated fellow Republican Matt Doheny to carry the party banner into the Nov. 4 general election.
(Enterprise photo — Matthew Turner)
Matt Doheny gives a concession speech at his primary night campaign headquarters in Watertown Tuesday night.
(Photo — Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times)
Stefanik won Franklin County by the widest margin of any county, 72 percent to 28 percent, with all precincts reporting. She won Essex County 69 percent to 30 percent, with eight write-in votes.
Tuesday's result doesn't necessarily knock either Republican out of the race. Stefanik is the chosen candidate of the Conservative Party and Doheny of the Independence Party. In debates, they didn't say whether they would stop running if they lost the primary.
Stefanik grew up in the Albany area, where her family owns a plywood business. She went to Harvard University and worked in the Bush White House after graduation. She later coached Rep. Paul Ryan for his vice presidential debate in 2012. She moved to her family's summer home in Willsboro last year to run against Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who announced this January that he wouldn't seek re-election.
At Stefanik headquarters
Stefanik's family, friends and supporters gathered at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls around 7 p.m. One concern lingering in the air was whether negative attack ads aired in the race would affect voter turnout and Stefanik's chances. The candidate was reportedly still on the campaign trail up until around 9 p.m., when she arrived, just in time for the polls to close.
The crowded room watched the results live as they came in from the state Board of Elections office. The results were displayed on a large projector screen in the corner of the room with Stefanik coming ahead early at around 9:30 p.m.
In those early minutes it was looking good for Stefanik, who had a 2-to-1 lead. One of the key signs that Stefanik would win was the fact that the results were neck and neck in Jefferson County, where Doheny grew up and lives now.
Doug Hoffman of Lake Placid, a former Conservative Party candidate in the district and an early Stefanik supporter, was there cheering on his choice. He was optimistic early on in the evening but did not rule out a Doheny comeback.
"From the races I ran, I always expected the worse," Hoffman said.
The worst did not happen for Stefanik. Doheny conceded his defeat at around 10:30 p.m.
"The primary voters have spoken," Doheny said. "I just hung up the phone with Elise Stefanik. ... This results tonight was not reflective of the level of effort and the kindness of all our friends; we'd like to thank them for all their hard work. I didn't go the way I wanted to, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of effort.
Doheny also called out Washington, D.C.-based super PACs, saying the attack ads against him made a difference in the race. One PAC in question is Karl Rove's American Crossroads.
"We were outspent in a meaningful way," Doheny said. "My opponent had a good night; Karl Rove had a good night."
After Doheny conceded, several county Republican chairpeople and Stefanik committee members spoke.
"She was bright, she was engaged, and she represented a demographic we have not seen - a millennial," Franklin County Republican Chairman Ray Scollin, of Saranac Lake, said of his first impression of Stefanik. "Pick the right candidate, and then pick the right team. All of you in the room, that's who I'm applauding tonight.
Stefanik gave her victory speech shortly after.
"Thank you for putting your faith and trust in me," Stefanik said. "We have the opportunity to unite Republicans and Conservatives this November."
Stefanik commended Doheny on a hard-fought race and said she would "work hard to build bridges to unite Republicans."
She also thanked her parents, who were standing behind her on the podium.
"Thank you for always believing in me," she said, turning to her mom Melanie and dad Ken.
Stefanik said she will work for everyone in the North Country if elected, no matter their party label.
"Let's work hard," she said, firing up the lively GOP crowd. "We are going to win this November."
Republican state Chairman Ed Cox congratulated Stefanik on her win, saying in a press release, "Elise represents the next generation of Republican leaders and is poised to win the general election and go to Congress to push back against the Obama agenda and promote opportunity, economic growth and the repeal of Obamacare."
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a less complimentary statement.
"Elise Stefanik's victory in the Republican primary race to the right proves just how far Karl Rove and the Washington special interests will go to add another loyal rubber stamp to their ranks," DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward said. "The Koch Brothers and billionaires like them are behind Elise Stefanik because they know she will stack the deck in favor of the special interests and the ultra-wealthy at the expense of hardworking New York families and seniors."
The 21st District covers all of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, Washington and parts of Herkimer and Saratoga counties.