Three-time loser Matt Doheny has decided to jump into the Republican primary for New York’s 21st Congressional District despite overwhelming local support for candidate Elise Stefanik, according to reports.
Doheny announced in a statement on Wednesday that he would vie for the GOP nomination after he said he "received an outpouring of encouragement from friends, family, neighbors, party leaders, elected officials, and a few local newspapers."
Republican hopes to win the seat in this fall’s midterm elections were bolstered after Rep. Bill Owens (D., N.Y.), a three-term incumbent, announced his retirement last month.
"I was humbled by strangers who stopped me in the grocery store or at the gas station and urged me to run again," Doheny, a wealthy investor, said. "Several friends I met on the campaign trail called and offered an encouraging word."
However, sources say Doheny has entered the race at a potentially inopportune time.
Stefanik, a small businesswoman and former economic and domestic policy staffer for the George W. Bush administration, has already secured endorsements from 11 of the 12 GOP county chairpersons in the district as well as community leaders and elected officials.
Stefanik said in a statement that she welcomed new entrants to the nomination race and looked forward to discussing issues on the campaign trail.
"Over the past year, I have crisscrossed the district and worked hard to build grassroots support," she said. "I am honored by the support and momentum my campaign has earned from Republicans, conservatives, and Independents."
"Our campaign will continue to make the case that we have the best opportunity to win back this seat this Fall and provide new representation and new ideas to Congress on behalf of Upstate New York," she added.
Local Republican leaders are reportedly sticking behind Stefanik.
"Political opportunists are unfortunately a dime a dozen," said Franklin County GOP chairman Ray Scollin in a statement, an apparent reference to Doheny.
Doheny’s announcement marks his fourth attempt to win the seat, located in a mostly rural swing district that voted for President Barack Obama in the past two elections.
Doheny lost the GOP primary in a 2009 special election and narrowly lost both the 2010 and 2012 elections to Owens. His campaigns were plagued by ethical issues, including previous charges of boating under the influence and photos that appeared to show him kissing a campaign consultant while he was engaged to his current wife.
Political observers in the district also said Owens’ campaign effectively portrayed Doheny as an out-of-touch Wall Street investor with a party hard lifestyle.
Stefanik, by contrast, has touted her small business background and directly engaged the district’s residents, sources said.
"This sets up a contrast between a new fresh face who represents new ideas and the future and a three-time loser with a boatload of baggage," said one source familiar with the district.
GOP disunity was a key factor in Owens’ previous victories in 2009 and 2010. Conservative Doug Hoffman garnered more than 10,000 votes after deciding to run as a third-party candidate in the 2010 election, which Doheny only lost by about 2,000 votes.
Hoffman told the Weekly Standard last month that he was endorsing Stefanik as a candidate that could unite factions of the GOP and independents for the first time.
Democratic county chairpersons unanimously endorsed filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who owns a seasonal home in the district, last week.
The Cook Political Report has rated the district a toss up in this fall’s elections.