Interview: Republican Matt Doheny, candidate for 21st Congressional district

Jun 22, 2012

June 26  is Congressional primary day in New York.  In the newly redrawn 21st district in northern New York.  Republican Matt Doheny is running against Kellie Greene. The winner of that race will face incumbent Democrat Bill Owens in November. Doheny lost a close race to Owens two years ago, and he's back for another run this year. Doheny recently he spoke with WRVO's Catherine Loper.

I just would like you to sum up your campaign platform and why you think you should be the next congressmen for the new 21st district.

"Appreciate the opportunity, Catherine. My name is Matt Doheny and I am running for Congress here in the new 21st Congressional district which is a large almost 17-thousand square mile vast land that includes the entire North Country, just about all the Adirondacks, and a chunk of the capital land, Glens Falls area.

"I'm running for Congress because we in America are going in the wrong direction. And I think people like myself, I'm a business person, what I've done professionally is invested in and turned around troubled companies. I've traveled all over this district, far and wide, and I understand what the needs and what the challenges and what the people face on the ground.  And I understand that. I've been working hard, I've been very fortunate to be endorsed by the Conservative Party, the Independence Party, all twelve Republican county committees, and we look forward to being successful next Tuesday in the Republican primary. And make sure your voters, Catherine, go out and vote on June 26th in the new federal primary date.

"And I believe I have the background, the understanding of the issues, and values, and the hopes of people all over the North Country and this 21st Congressional district have, and that I can be an effective advocate for our needs on the ground and help with the overarching national issues that we face."

Why do you feel you should be the republican candidate to face Congressman Owens over your opponent Kellie Greene?

"I've got an extensive business background.When I talk to business people, I mean, I talk in terms in actual operational issues and not just political talk. And so that's why I’ve gotten great support from that entire community. And you know, I've been working hard.  As you might remember, I ran in 2010. I have extensive and vast knowledge of all one-hundred-and-ninety-three towns and cities in this great new vast congressional district. I understand the problems and I understand the values, as someone who grew up in little Alex Bay, I understand what small town life is about. And on top of that as I mentioned, I am fortunate to already be the I Independence and Conservative Party nominee, and for the first time since congressmen McHugh became Secretary of the Army McHugh, if I’m successful on June 26th, voters get for the first time, a clear choice about which way this country will go. More top down management, less freedom, more government intrusion in our lives like Congressman Owens and President Obama want? Or things like more free market, and greater opportunity for business people and more entrepreneurial, to go ahead and take risks, which will lead you to the growth and get you to the jobs? And we have unemployment that is in double digits in a lot of places Catherine, for instance, 10.1 percent in Jefferson County; it's unacceptable. We need to change and I believe I have the background, the understanding, and the structural positioning to know the ballot, to not only give us a clear choice, Catherine, but to lead us to victory in November."

The economy is one of the primary issues for this election season for everyone, and you've called  for reduction in some taxes. Could you explain what you would like to see done in taxes?

"Well sure, as you said, I've been traveling far and wide from Massena to Plattsburgh, Clayton, all the way to Ballston Spa, and I keep hearing two things over and over again. How are you going to jump-start the economy, what are you going to do to promote growth and lead us to jobs? Second of all, what are you going to be doing about the debt, the deficit? We’re spending out of control, we’re spending our children's and grandchildren's, and children who are yet to be born's money, and its just wrong. And when you focus on those two things, those are the two twin challenges we face today.

"On the growth side, we need to have pro growth policies on the side of the federal government. The whole idea, that right now we have people, business people, companies, entrepreneurs, sitting on the sideline not willing to invest and take the risk that we need that will lead to growth and get us jobs. It's unacceptable. Right now when you think about health care hanging in the balance we don't know if taxes are going to increase at the end of the year. Payroll taxes, debt ceiling,  the list goes on and on. That this type of uncertainty leads businesspeople, like myself, to stand on the sidelines, and we need to have these policies. So at a minimum we cannot be in the mode of increasing taxes, we need to be in the mode of increasing revenues. And the way to do it is, guess what? If more people go back to work, they pay taxes. People make more money, they pay more taxes. People who have held investments off on the sideline, not to jump on there, they go ahead make investments, make profits, pay taxes. That's how we’re going to grow revenue, and that will lead to revenue and greater employment in our district, and will lead to better, better opportunities for our people."

You mentioned the problem with the deficit. Where do you think the federal government should look to make spending cuts, if the government should, to reduce the deficit?

"Right now, the government has to make cuts. We need to make government down to the size that we can afford. And right now, when we think about how we can achieve that, part of it becomes somewhat of, how much the overall economy should the federal government take. Back in the time of Bill Clinton, Democratic days, that you know eighteen percent of gross domestic product, the total goods and services that we produce as an economy, was taken by the federal government. We’re up to twenty-four percent, and President Obama wants to continue on these high numbers which leads to the $1.3 trillion, the $1 trillion, of annual deficits that will bankrupt us. This spending is unsustainable. I'm a businessman Catherine, and when I look at what do we need to do, we need to go hunt overall, and come up with what the government decide what we afford. And doing that is not an ideological endeavor, its what can we afford, and what government should be doing, and in terms of what programs have been effective, and not been effective.  And does it go to the core mission of protecting our national defense, having a real robust infrastructure, having courts, police and those types of things. So when you think about the overall numbers, we have to get back to the Clinton years, of having 18 percent or 20 percent less of GDP as a percentage of what the federal government takes out of our economy."

As a Republican, how do you balance being for spending cuts, but still helping your constituency by bringing home federal dollars to help the northern New York economy that's really struggled in recent years?

"Sure, and that's a great question, because at the end of the day, if you get back to the core mission of what federal government, or government for that matter, should do, its to provide the infrastructure. It's to provide a robust and strong national defense. So that means for Fort Drum, it's the top military installation for the country. For the Adirondacks its to make sure that we have the infrastructure for investments for the 21st century. We need to have cell phone coverage, we need to have broadband in the Adirondacks, so we can go ahead and have economic growth, and give the opportunity for those who live in the area currently, grew up here, or maybe just want to live in one of the best places in the country. And so, it's an easy balance because, guess what,  if we stick to the core knitting of what government should be doing, all of those things can happen in the North Country and we will benefit greatly from it. It's just that we have all this corporate welfare, bloated bureaucracy, and all these programs that have either come and gone or were originally meant to be short term or temporary. And, Catherine, I say it all the time, but there's nothing more permanent than a temporary government program."

And just to move off the economy for the moment, that's clearly the biggest issue for this election year, but social issues are of great importance to people and come close to the heart, how would you describe your stance on social issues such as immigration, current discussion on contraceptive funding, that sort of thing?

"I let other people describe me, and I go out and work hard every single day and just try to understand the needs and the issues of the people all over the 21st congressional district, the North Country, the Adirondacks, or the capital land region. You know when you talk about those kinds of issues, I just try to bring my common sense business perspective to it, and actually come to a solution that makes sense. And whether the issue is immigration in particular, which has seen a lot of press in the last week, it's unfortunate that our president just goes ahead and plays politics, four months before an election when he could have actually dealt with immigration in a wholesale bipartisan fashion over the past three and a half years, and just chose to duck it. Certainly people like myself, don't want to go ahead and give and reward people who are here illegally, and just loosely we think that amnesty is not the answer, we tried that, and it didn't work as a country. But by the same token I'm a business person, Catherine. I understand what the labor market needs are here, whether you're a dairy farmer or a tourist business, all over this 21st district. You need to make sure you have the right type of labor to make sure you continue to be profitable and continue on as a business. Again, I try to bring my business experience, my common sense and thinking to these tough issues, but in some ways we have to face these issues as a federal government and we have to deal with these issues and not face them in a political way like the president did."

You came very close to beating Congressman Owens two years ago, the district has changed a little via redistricting. If you do win the primary on Tuesday, what will you do this time to run your campaign differently so you can beat Owens?

"Well, the first thing that has been the most important is to make sure that we have all three right of center lines. We were the Republican, Independence nominee last time. I have the conservative line. So when people ask what's different, well the difference is there's going to be a clear choice, Catherine, between someone who believes in the free market, and entrepreneurial ability and someone who says, 'you know what, the government is taking too much from us right now, we need to right-size the government.' That's a clear change because in 2010 my opponent stayed on the Conservative line, so that's a fundamental change. And number two, I am a smarter, better candidate and I certainly learned through some hard lessons through the last two years, and by coming up short, by such a short, you know there were only 1900 votes. It was one of the closest races in the country. And third, the district is new. The 21st congressional district has 60 percent of the old 23rd, which I ran last time, but 40 percent is new, which provides great opportunity and challenge. And the challenge is people who don't know me in Warren, Washington and Saratoga, but we've been certainly trying to correct that and get known. But guess what? Bill Owens is not known either. And he has not run ads there, and he's not sent a lot of wasted taxpayer dollars and frank mail to this area. So he has an equal challenge today in Washington, and we’re out campaigning today. And so, we have the conservative line, I'm a great candidate, and we have a great new area. And by the way, Catherine, by registration its certainly Republican in the new four counties we have."