When you turn on your kitchen faucet you probably don’t give it much thought, yet it’s a marvel of modern history.
For centuries, to get water into the house it was necessary to fill your buckets from a fast moving stream and lug them home. Later, you might have filled them from a well or cistern, but still had the chore of lugging them back to the house. Every drop of water you wanted for drinking, cooking or washing had to be transported this way and it was a seemingly endless task. In winter, you might have to carry an axe with you so you could break through the ice that had formed overnight. Here in the Adirondacks, wells were sometimes dug right under the house so getting water wouldn’t be quite so arduous, especially in winter. Common indoor plumbing with water to a faucet didn’t arrive in most homes in the Adirondacks until the 20th century. But there were exceptions, one of which was the LeRay Mansion near the town of Leraysville in Jefferson County. » Continue Reading.
A pair of North Country men, born just a few miles apart in Jefferson County, left New York in their adult years and settled about 65 miles apart in Illinois, where each left his lasting mark. Together, their names were also attached to an institution in Arkansas that lives on nearly a century and a half later.
John Budlong was born in February 1833 in Rodman, New York, about eight miles south of Watertown. The Budlong family has many historical connections dating back to the Revolutionary War. John attended several of the best schools in the region: the Rodman Seminary, the Jefferson County Institute at Watertown, the Adams Institute, and Falley Seminary at Fulton in Oswego County. At the age of 18 he began a wide-ranging teaching career, working in North Carolina, Texas, and Missouri before returning to Rodman, where he continued teaching and began studying law. » Continue Reading.
Historically, the northwestern foothills of the Adirondacks have been home to a number of inventors.
Among the most notable from Jefferson County is a man whose work had a tremendous impact on products used widely by many industries.
One of his inventions is credited with preventing many accidents, thus avoiding an untold number of deaths and injuries.
Edward G. Shortt was just one year old when his family emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1847. John and Esther Shortt settled in Redwood, about 20 miles north of Watertown, finding work in several nearby communities. Edward, the oldest of about a half-dozen children, attended schools in Redwood and Philadelphia. At about the age of 14, he began working with his father in John’s carriage-making shop, where the young boy’s aptitude for invention and problem solving was revealed. » Continue Reading.
For many property owners in Inlet, the abstract of title invariably lists James and Jennie Galvin as early, if not the first, owners. But until I began researching this narrative, I believed, as have other Inlet landowners and early 20th century newspapers, that the Galvins were sole owners of the 6,000 acres surrounding the Head of Fourth Lake. I learned that Galvin was an agent for the Fulton Chain Club and it was through his efforts that the land was sold for hotels and camps, and ultimately to the first residents of Inlet.
James Galvin, the son of an Irish immigrant, was born in 1835 in Wilna, Jefferson County. His father Edward was a successful farmer and also managed a prosperous charcoal production trade. James was listed as a farmhand and a farmer on the 1850 and 1860 censuses, respectively, but from the age of fifteen, he dealt in horses and cattle and became successful in buying stock both in New York and Canada. He commanded large credit with banks in both regions. » Continue Reading.
The invasive plant sometimes called dog-strangling vine doesn’t harm pets, but it lives up to its name as a strangler, choking out native wildflowers as well as Christmas tree plantations and fields of prime alfalfa. In Northern New York, in Jefferson County, a nearly 1,000-acre tract on an island lies blanketed under this perennial Eurasian vine.
Dog-strangling vine grows in almost any soil type, has a prodigious root system, and is particularly good at making and dispersing seeds. It is so toxic that no North American bird, mammal or insect will eat it, and it bounces back from the most powerful herbicides. No wonder biologists and agronomists have been losing sleep over it. » Continue Reading.
When New Yorkers say with pride that they come from the North Country, strength, courage and rugged individualism can be seen written all over their faces. In addition, everyone knows they have the ability to withstand abnormally cold and miserable weather, and to survive natural disasters, such as the Great Ice Storm of 1998. But, exactly where is the North Country?
Yes, it is in the northern part of New York State, but north of what? Yonkers? Albany? The Erie Canal? The Adirondacks?
The term North Country was first widely popularized for use in New York State by the author, Irving Bacheller, when his novel, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country, became a literary sensation in 1900. Bacheller was born in Pierrepont, St. Lawrence County, NY in 1859 and graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1882. Two years later, he founded the first U.S. newspaper syndicate and introduced the writing of Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad to American readers. Bacheller retired from newspaper work in 1900 to concentrate on writing novels. Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country was his fourth novel and it became a runaway best seller. » Continue Reading.
In “The Road Not Taken,” poet Robert Frost wrote of encountering two roads diverging in a wood: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” That’s life in a nutshell: it’s all about decisions. When confronted with options, we make a choice. Sometimes even the first few moments that follow can change our lives forever. Such was the case with a North Country soldier, Private Joseph Lonsway of Clayton, New York (in Jefferson County, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River).
Lonsway was a member of the Union Army’s 20th NY Cavalry which, in October 1864, was on a mission to assess the enemy’s strength and destroy army supplies near Murfree’s Station, Virginia. They soon found themselves in a standoff with rebel troops based on the opposite bank of the Blackwater River. Heavy fire was exchanged, but Union troops clearly had only one option to pursue the enemy: a ferry, operated by a rope connected to both shores. But there was a problem: the ferry in question was tied to the far bank, and was only about 10 yards from the rebel breastworks. » Continue Reading.
Modern media includes television, radio, newspapers, and Internet sources, together bringing us news from local to international. But until about a century ago, newspapers did the job. By the mid-1800s, the process of delivering timely news to the nation’s dailies was achieved, courtesy of the telegraph. It wasn’t until the 1920s when other forms of media (radio and newsreels) began carving their own niche in reporting the news.
When newspapers ruled, editors wielded great power and thus bore great responsibility. Ethics were critical but weren’t always adhered to. It took men of courage to do what was right, and among the best of them was Chester Sanders Lord, a man with roots firmly embedded in northern New York State. » Continue Reading.
A few weeks ago, I wrote here about Joel Aldrich Matteson, a Watertown native who became governor of Illinois―and among other things, established a level of corruption perhaps matched by recent governor/inmate Rod Blagojevich. To balance the scale, here’s a look at another Watertown native who, during Matteson’s tenure, served as governor of Illinois’ neighbor to the north, Wisconsin. Though there was plenty of corruption in Wisconsin’s government during that time, the governor was not believed to be directly involved.
At worst, the wrongdoings of others may have soiled his good reputation, but he left plenty of accomplishments behind as well. He also became tied to a pair of signature events in American history. » Continue Reading.
If one were researching the careers of highly accomplished New York natives, you might encounter the glowing, capsulized review of Joel Aldrich Matteson’s life as offered on a website titled, “National Governors Association: The Collective Voice of the Nation’s Governors.” Matteson was born in Watertown, New York, in 1803. As the website notes, he “taught school in New York, and built railroads in the South.”
Moving to Illinois, he “established a career as a heavy contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal [the canal connection will be key to this story], and opened a successful woolen mill.”
After attaining financial success through business endeavors and the sale of land to the state, Matteson became an Illinois state senator in 1842. After a decade in the senate, he took office as governor in 1853. » Continue Reading.
In days of yore (pre-internet times), I once subscribed to more than a dozen different magazines. Further back, in the 1960s and 1970s, there seemed to be a magazine for just about any subject that anyone was ever interested in. I was reminded of this recently when a saw a cover titled TWINS. The subject matter was everything related to twins: having them, being one, doctoring them, parenting them, and so on.
What really surprised me was the subtitle: The Magazine for Multiples Since 1984. I’d never heard of it, but it has been around for nearly three decades. It also reminded me of some twin-related North Country stories I’ve collected over the years. Here’s a sampling. » Continue Reading.
No bones were broken. It’s a statement of relief that frequently appears in accident reports, emphasizing the fact that perhaps bones should have been broken, but due to amazing luck or some other reason, the victim survived perilous circumstances to emerge relatively unscathed. Stories of that type appear occasionally, and they’re always interesting.
It’s remarkable that in July 1895, three North Country survival stories appeared on a single newspaper page. Forget broken bones—it’s amazing that any of the victims survived. Yet among the three, there was only one broken bone. Fourteen-year-old Frank Blanchard of Buck’s Bridge, about eight miles north of Canton in St. Lawrence County, was driving a load of hay when he fell from the wagon. He unfortunately fell forward, and as the horses drew the loaded wagon down the road, it ran over his shoulders and neck.
Despite the brush with death, young Blanchard was apparently intact and reportedly on the way to a quick recovery.
Along the Black River in Jefferson County, Mrs. Carl Hart was performing a routine chore in the field, untying a cow for milking. As she did so, a train passed by, spooking the cow, which bolted for parts unknown.
The rope became wrapped around Mrs. Hart’s ankles, and in an instant she was being dragged to almost certain death. Her body bounced terribly across the rough ground and then into the underbrush, where branches and thorns tore at her clothing and skin. The resistance of dragging through the brush caused the rope to slide down until it finally pulled her shoes off. That may well have saved her life.
The cow continued, but Mrs. Hart was left lying unconscious in the brush, bleeding from a multitude of cuts and scrapes, and nearly naked, her clothing having been shredded. Noticing her unusual absence from the home for so long a period, Mr. Hart began searching, and about thirty minutes after the incident, he found her.
After carrying his wife’s limp form to the house, Mr. Hart tended to her wounds and summoned a doctor. When Mrs. Hart finally regained consciousness, it was determined that she had suffered a broken bone in her right arm. It was termed “a miraculous escape from a terrible death.”
In Chateaugay, ten-year-old Delor Bushey and some friends spent a hot summer day playing in the river above a waterfall. The strength of the current proved too much, and young Delor was swept downstream over the 35-foot-high falls.
Landing on his head and shoulders, he was drawn into the whirlpool at the base of the falls, and it was five minutes before his friends finally managed to pull Delor ashore, an apparent drowning victim.
His body was taken to the Bushey home, where a doctor found signs of life in the boy. But Delor remained unresponsive, and as the hours passed, hope faded.
Then, in the unlikeliest of outcomes, he regained consciousness about eight hours after plunging over the falls. On the very next day, he was out and about as usual.
Despite sliding along the rocky riverbed and dropping 35 feet, Delor’s final assessment was — no bones were broken.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
In 1870, Watertown’s John L. Dunlap was named as a candidate for Congress, and in 1872 he declared once again for the presidency. When General William Tecumseh Sherman toured the North Country, Dunlap met with him and suggested they become running mates. Included in his proposed platform was a single term of only four years for any president, and the elimination of electors in favor of counting the peoples’ votes.
An Ogdensburg newspaper supported his candidacy with these words: “Dr. Dunlap is a staid and conservative old gentleman. If elected, he would lend honor, virtue, dignity, and character to the party.” The Watertown Re-Union added, “Whatever may be said of the other candidates, Doctor Dunlap is a genuine Jackson Democrat, one of the real old stock.”
Of eight candidates, the Ogdensburg Journal said Dunlap was “the most consistent, if not the ablest, of all named. … If the people should be so fortunate as to elect him as their President, they will find him a true man.”
In Albany, the doctor’s old haunts prior to 1850, a Dunlap Club of 6,000 members was organized, and in Vermont, adjacent to his longtime home in Washington County, N.Y., he enjoyed strong support. For a campaign with meager resources, things were going quite well.
But then, as if to legitimize his candidacy, the unthinkable happened: an assassination attempt. The Troy Weekly Times reported that an effort to shoot Dr. Dunlap had failed, and that he had also been offered money in exchange for withdrawing his candidacy. Other newspapers denied the bribe story.
Meanwhile, the good doctor continued giving speeches in major cities (including his old July 4th oration from two decades earlier, which was ever popular) and continued selling his medicines. He sought the nomination at several different party conventions, but was unsuccessful. Just weeks after the 1872 election, Dunlap was off to Europe.
It was at this point in his life that certain events occurred, events that would somewhat cloud his career and paint him as truly eccentric—and for good reason. Through his decades as a Washington County physician, his years of selling medicines to anyone that he met, and a lifetime of politics, Dunlap had always been a vigorous self-promoter.
He loved the limelight, and it seemed to love him as well. The media was more than happy to offer the latest news on Dunlap’s unusual life. Yes, he was different, but he was clearly an intelligent man who enjoyed living life to the fullest.
Out of Europe came a cable from the doctor, informing his hometown friends that Louis Thiers, president of France, had welcomed and befriended the North Country’s most prominent physician and statesman. So impressed was Thiers with Dunlap’s support of the common man that, according to the doctor’s telegram, a statue was to be erected in his honor.
A detailed description of the sculpture was provided, to be done in the finest Carrara marble and placed in the Capitoline Museum in Paris or “beside that of the Apollo of the Belvidere in the Vatican at Rome.” In keeping with Dunlap’s politics, the sculpture’s inscription was to read, “The will of the people is the supreme law.”
The cost of commissioning Cordier was placed at nearly $70,000 for the five-year job, and the unveiling was scheduled for March 4, 1877—the day John Dunlap planned to be sworn in as America’s 19th president. Now that’s advertising.
Yes, it was all starting to sound a bit bizarre. On the other hand, it may have been a clear-minded effort aimed at self-promotion, truly the doctor’s forte.
Raising the bar a bit, Dunlap had begun claiming that he was engaged to Queen Victoria. In July 1873 was held the grand opening of the Thousand Island House, a spectacular hotel at Alexandria Bay. Since it was the social highlight of the summer season, Dunlap informed the media that he would be in attendance—and planned to meet Queen Victoria there.
The event was huge, with an estimated 10,000 visitors. Dignitaries from across New York State and Quebec were invited to the gala, and some did attend. Newspaper coverage humored readers with a report on Dr. Dunlap’s appearance.
“The doctor came down from the city for the purpose of meeting Queen Victoria, who, from some unexplained cause, did not arrive. Several scions of English nobility were introduced to the Doctor, and were much pleased with his scholarly attainments, his commanding figure, and splendid personal appearance, as well as the extempore remarks made by him on that occasion. The Doctor wears next to his heart a beautiful likeness of the Queen, presented by her at the time of their betrothal.”
Did this behavior suggest a mental problem, as some have claimed, or was this just an old man (he was 74) having a lot of fun and enjoying the attention?
In early 1874, Dunlap was taken ill, but managed to recover and mount another run for governor. The Watertown Times offered its support, noting that “The Doctor was swindled out of his matrimonial engagement with the British Queen and cheated out of the Presidency, and yet it is said he will accept the office of Governor of the Empire State.”
At the July 4 celebration at Sackets Harbor, General Grant was expected to speak (he had served two stints there). Dr. Dunlap was invited to give another of his stirring talks, this time on Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s famous debate opponent.
In August of that year, the newspapers had more fun with this report: “We are informed that Alexander, Emperor of Russia, has abdicated in favor of Hon. John L. Dunlap of this city, who will henceforth be known as Emperor John the First.”
At the time, it may have been all in good fun. Dunlap was a likable guy and unabashedly open, providing great copy for newspapermen. After all, his medicinal claims, political forays, decades of seeking the presidency, and supposed connections to foreign leaders were very entertaining.
Viewed 150 years later, they suggest an oddball character, and maybe someone not playing with a full deck. But perhaps the truth lay in his love of attention, his devotion to politics, and his great talent for promotion. What seemed eccentric or erratic may well have been a carefully contrived personal marketing plan.
Whatever the case, it worked. Throughout his life, John Dunlap was prominent in the media, a successful physician, and financially well-off from the sale of his medicines. In December 1875, he died at the home of his son and daughter in Parish (Oswego County). His estate was valued at about $30,000, equal to approximately a half million dollars today. He apparently was doing something right all those years.
Four days after his death, the Jefferson County vote totals from the most recent elections were published. True to form right to the end, Dunlap had received a single vote for Poorhouse Physician, tied for last with “Blank” (representing a blank ballot) behind four other doctors.
There’s no doubt that John Dunlap was an unusual man. His contemporaries referred to his “harmless idiosyncrasy” and his fervent love for and involvement in politics. They smiled at his loquaciousness, his many love letters to the queen, and his insistence that the people truly wanted him as president, but that political parties had constantly foiled his efforts.
But even at his death, there were those who suspected he was perhaps “crazy like a fox,” as indicated in one writer’s eulogy. “And yet, despite these singular mental aberrations, the doctor was a moneymaker. He would never pay anything to advance his political or marital schemes. Herein was ground for the belief of many that the doctor only feigned his peculiarities, the better to be able to sell his medicines, for no matter with whom he talked on the subject of politics or the like, he was sure before the end of the conversation to pull out a bottle of his medicine, urge its efficacy, and try to make a sale.”
John L. Dunlap—tireless salesman, dyed-in-the-wool patriot, presidential aspirant, and Watertown legend—truly a man of the people.
Photo: Advertisement for one of Dunlap’s syrups (1863).
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Eccentrics—they’re part of virtually every community, and, in fact, are usually the people we remember best. The definition of eccentric—behavior that is peculiar, odd, or non-customary—certainly fit Watertown’s John L. Dunlap. Historians noted his “peculiar kinks of mind,” and referred to him as “a person of comic interest,” but they knew little of the man before he reached the age of 50. His peculiarities overshadowed an entertaining life filled with plenty of substance. And he just may have been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.
Dunlap’s story began more than 200 years ago, rooted in the American Revolution. In 1774, his father (John) and grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Washington County, N.Y. In 1777–78 they fought in the War of Independence and saw plenty of action. According to a payroll attachment from his regiment, Dunlap served at Ticonderoga.
Years later, he became a Presbyterian pastor in Cambridge, N.Y., and in 1791 married Catherine Courtenius. It took time for the reverend to see the light about the rights of man—records indicate that he freed Nell, his slave, in September 1814, not long after several of his parishioners had liberated their own slaves.
Among the children born to John and Catherine Dunlap was John L., who arrived in the late 1790s. He was reared on stories of his dad and grand-dad battling for America’s freedom. While his father ministered to the spiritual needs of several Washington County communities for many decades, John L. became a doctor in 1826 and likewise tended to their physical needs for more than 20 years, serving in Cambridge, Salem, and Shushan.
Dunlap focused on two passions in life: his line of self-developed remedies for all sorts of illnesses, and a consuming interest in politics on both the state and national level. He pursued both with great vigor and developed a reputation as an orator in the Albany-Troy area.
On July 4, 1848, John delivered a stirring oration at the courthouse in Troy, an event so popular that reportedly “thousands were unable to find admission.” Repeat performances were so in demand that for the next two years he gave the same speech in Troy, Utica, and elsewhere, at the same time marketing and selling his various medicines. Dunlap’s Syrup was claimed to cure Consumption, Dyspepsia, Scrofula, Liver Complaints, and other ills.
Just as his father had left Washington County decades earlier to help establish churches in several central New York towns, Dunlap took his speech on the road to Schenectady, Utica, and other locales. Crowds gathered to hear his famous lecture and purchase his line of medicines.
He had sought public office in the past, but his increasingly high profile and passion for politics presented new opportunities. At the 1850 State Democratic Convention in Syracuse, Dunlap’s name was among those submitted as the party candidate for governor. Horatio Seymour eventually won the nomination.
Shortly after, Dunlap resettled in Watertown and announced his Independent candidacy as a Jefferson County representative. He was as outspoken as always—some viewed him as eccentric, while others saw in him a free thinker. Fearless in taking a stand, he called for the annexation of Cuba and Canada, and was a proponent of women’s rights.
Viewed from more recent times, some of those stances might sound a little off-the-wall, but there was actually nothing eccentric about the annexation issues. The Cuban idea was a prominent topic in 1850, and the annexation of Canada was based in America’s Articles of Confederation, which contained a specific clause allowing Canada to join the United States. And as far as women’s rights are concerned, he proved to be a man far ahead of his time.
In late 1851, Dunlap went on a speaking tour, including stops in Syracuse and Rochester, and announced his candidacy for President. The Syracuse Star said, “We suspect he is just as fit a man for president as Zachary Taylor was.”
From that point on, Dunlap was a perennial candidate for office, always running but never winning. In 1855–56, he announced for the US Senate; not gaining the nomination, he announced for the Presidency (he was promoted as the “Second Old Hickory of America”); and not winning that nomination, he announced for the governorship of New York. And he did all of that within a 12-month span.
All the while, Dunlap continued selling his medicines and seeing patients in his office at Watertown’s Hungerford Block. An 1856 advertisement noted: “His justly celebrated Cough and Lung Syrup, to cure asthma and bleeding of the lungs, surpasses all the preparations now in use in the United States.”
Another of his concoctions was advertised in verse:
“Let me advise you ’ere it be too late
And the grim foe, Consumption, seals your fate,
To get that remedy most sure and calm,
A bottle of Dr. Dunlap’s Healing Balm.”
His vegetable compounds were claimed as cures for dozens of ailments ranging from general weakness to eruptions of the skin to heart palpitations. There was no restraint in his advertisements, one of which placed him in particularly high company.
It read: “Christopher Columbus was raised up to discover a new world. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, captivated by her charms two Roman Generals, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony. Napoleon Bonaparte was raised up to conquer nearly all of Europe and put down the Inquisition in Spain. George Washington was raised up to be the deliverer of his country. Dr. John L. Dunlap of Watertown, N.Y. was raised up to make great and important discoveries in medicine, and to alleviate the sufferings and prolong the lives of thousands of human beings.”
In 1863, urged by New York’s 35th Regiment to run for President, Dunlap consented and was again promoted as the Second Old Hickory of America. He wanted Ulysses Grant as his running mate (Grant was busy at the time, leading the North in the Civil War), and he received impressive promises of political support at the Chicago convention.
A poll of passengers on a train running from Rochester to Syracuse yielded surprising results: For Abraham Lincoln, 50 votes; George B. McLellan, 61; John C. Fremont, 6; and Dr. John L. Dunlap, Watertown, 71.
History reveals that Lincoln did, in fact, triumph, but Dunlap didn’t lose for lack of trying. He secured the nomination of the Peoples’ Party at their convention in Columbus, Ohio, and none other than Ulysses S. Grant was selected as his vice-presidential running mate. Dunlap received congratulations from New York Governor Horatio Seymour for winning the nomination.
The widely distributed handbill (poster) for Dunlap/Grant used the slogan, “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry,” and promised, “Clear the track, the two Great War Horses of the North and West are coming! The one will suppress the rebellion with the sword, and the other will heal the nation with his medicines and his advice.”
Among Dunlap’s early campaign stops in the 1864 election were Troy, Albany, and Washington, D.C. He was handicapped by having to stump alone since Grant was still pursuing Lee on the battlefield. But as always, Dunlap gave it his best effort. Known as a fierce patriot and a man of the people, he was very popular at many stops.
Two years later, he sought the nomination for governor and also received 12 votes for representative in the 20th Congressional District—not a lot, but higher than four of his opponents.
In 1868, Dunlap again pursued the presidency, this time seeking General Philip Sheridan as his running mate. Had the effort been supported, he would have squared off against two familiar faces—his former running mate, Grant, was the Republican nominee, while his former opponent for governor, Horatio Seymour, won the Democratic nomination.
Shortly after President Grant’s inauguration, he received a special congratulatory gift: a case of medicines from Dr. John L. Dunlap. In a related story (from the Watertown Daily Times in the 1920s), the Scott family of Watertown claimed that Dunlap once sent a bottle of cough syrup via Judge Ross Scott to Secretary of State William Seward (in Auburn, NY).
Seward delivered the bottle to Lincoln, who reportedly said, “Tell Dr. Dunlap I’ve tried it on my buckwheat pancakes and it’s the best substitute for maple syrup I know of.”
Next week: Part 2 of the John Dunlap story.
Photo: Official handbill of the People’s Convention promoting the candidacy of Dunlap and Grant (1864).
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
I’m about to muse about the 2012 elections. And yes, I am fully aware that those elections aren’t happening until the next time we see an NFL team suit up and take the field (I’m already working under the assumption that there won’t be a season this fall – it helps, a little).
Watertown banker Matt Doheny made it known last week that he will run, again, for New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat Bill Owens, and it’s starting to feel like Owens is defending his seat on a yearly basis. Doheny gave Owens a run for his money last fall but fell short in the end – only a few thousand votes separated them.
Many political observers blamed Doheny’s loss on Saranac Lake accountant Doug Hoffman, who challenged him in the GOP primary and lost. Hoffman tried a third party bid on the Conservative line, but pulled out of the race weeks before the election.
Despite his decision to exit the race, more than 9,000 Hoffman supporters cast votes in his favor. It’s a crude way to do the math, but if you hand those votes to Doheny, he’s flying back and forth to Washington instead of Owens.
Doheny touts himself as a fiscal conservative, but was noticeably more moderate on social issues – perhaps explaining the lingering support for Hoffman on Election Day.
Hoffman had tea party support from the beginning, with hordes of volunteers teaming up with the Upstate New York Tea Party to pound the pavement across northern New York.
But after the primary, UNYTEA’s chairman, Mark Barie, endorsed Doheny, noting it was important to rally around one candidate. The rest of his organization was slow to follow suit, but in the end, most of the group got behind Doheny.
Following the election, there were two distinct lines up thought on the so-called “Hoffman effect.”
On one side, you had people like Jefferson County lawmaker Carolyn Fitzpatrick, a Republican:
“Matt didn’t lose this race. Doug Hoffman lost this race for the Republicans,” she said at the time. “I only wish that Doug Hoffman had come out, stood on stage and campaigned with Matt and said, ‘I support him.’ But that didn’t happen.”
On the other side, there were those who believed the Republican Party in NY-23 failed to roll out a candidate who represented the region’s conservatism. (Read more on the fallout/reaction from last year’s NY-23 race here and here).
And that GOP divide isn’t likely to go away next year.
The national media reported Kathleen Hochul’s victory as a voter referendum on the GOP’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-style program. Hochul, a Democrat, beat out Republican Jane Corwin in a fairly conservative district.
But the national media zeroed-in on the Medicare issue – in fact, a lot of reporting failed to mention Jack Davis, the tea party candidate, who most likely pulled votes away from Corwin.
Here’s what I’m wondering: is Doheny’s early announcement an attempt to rally the GOP and keep this a two-way race? Or is it just that, an early announcement for a candidate who wants to get the ball rolling?
Your thoughts are welcome.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Jude Seymour is joining the Doheny camp. Seymour wrote a great political blog for the Watertown Daily Times (All Politics is Local) and is currently wrapping up at WWNY television.
Seymour will serve as deputy campaign manager and spokesman for Doheny.
Photo: Matt Doheny (Courtesy Doheny For Congress).
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