By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Republican challenger Matt Doheny won eight of the 12 counties in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Bill Owens in the race for the 21st Congressional District race Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough.
Owens is the apparent winner by an unofficial count of 115,131 votes to 110,449 for Doheny for a 50 to 48 percent margin.
Green Party candidate Donald Hassig got 3,358 votes, or 1 percent.
Although about 16,000 absentee ballots are still left to be counted on Nov. 25, Doheny conceded the race late Tuesday.
Owens, of Plattsburgh, won Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, while Doheny, of Watertown, won Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.
“When you look at the counties that Bill won, he really rolled up big numbers in those counties where he has been the congressman for the past three years,” Clinton County Democratic Party Chairman Martin Mannix said.
Owens took those four counties by 16,925 votes, which more than offset Doheny’s showing in the new part of the district, made up of Warren and Washington counties and part of Saratoga County.
In that portion of the district, Doheny held a 6,515-vote advantage, but more was expected since Republicans outnumbered Democrats in voter registration there by about 32,000.
Overall, Doheny, who also ran on the Conservative and Independence party lines, held a voter-registration advantage of about 84,000 over Owens, who also ran on the Working Families Party line.
‘DEGREE OF EXPERTISE’
Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Donald Lee said he felt Doheny’s campaign did not successfully tell his story of working his way up to Wall Street, where he tried to save struggling companies.
He pointed to one advertisement by Owens’s campaign that took Doheny to task for cutting about 500 jobs from some of those distressed companies.
“He didn’t refute that, and I think that cost him,” Lee said. “He might have had to cut about 500 jobs, but he also saved about 13,000 jobs when he helped those companies, and that didn’t come across strong enough.”
Mannix said he thought voters in the new part of the district just related to Owens better.
“Bill just looks and acts more like a congressman,” he said.
“I am sure Matt Doheny is a good guy, and I am sure we would have a great time on his boat, but when people are looking for a congressman, they are looking for a degree of expertise, and Bill is cut from the same cloth as John McHugh.”
McHugh served as congressman in the district from 1993 until June 2009, when he was appointed secretary of the Army.
That set off a special election for his seat.
Owens won that race in a tight contest against Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman. Republican Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava dropped out of the race three days before the election as her poll numbers lagged, and she threw her support to Owens.
Doheny had sought the Republican nod in 2009 but did not get it.
He ran again in 2010 and fought off Hoffman in a Republican primary to get a shot at Owens.
But he lost to Owens in a tight race that included Hoffman, who was still on the Conservative Party ticket. Even though he did not campaign, Hoffman still got 6 percent of the vote, possibly tipping the election to Owens.
This year, Doheny had to defeat Kellie Greene of Sackets Harbor in a June primary to set up a rematch with Owens, which he did easily.
Doheny had significant support from the National Republican Party and spent large amounts of his own money during the campaign. Owens also had national support.
Mannix said Owens’s win is all the more impressive when you consider the voter-registration disadvantage he faced and the financial resources Doheny had.
“This is a major win for him, and I think puts him in a national spotlight,” he said.
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