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Hoffman’s endorsement could cool tensions with Doheny


Just a few months ago, Douglas L. Hoffman was huddling at the North Side Improvement League in Watertown with former supporters of his congressional campaigns, trying to find a more conservative alternative to run against Matthew A. Doheny in a Republican primary.

The effort failed, and Mr. Doheny won the primary Tuesday to take on Rep. William L. Owens in the fall. And now, in a sign that a years-long feud between the two candidates and between warring factions of the conservative movement in the north country could be headed for a mutual armistice, Mr. Hoffman is supporting Mr. Doheny’s effort to unseat Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“Matt won the primary,” Mr. Hoffman said. “Let’s unite everybody and let’s make sure that we win this time. Yeah, I did a lot of things, but that’s all behind us.”

Mr. Hoffman’s unsuccessful congressional campaigns on the third-party Conservative line in 2009 and in 2010 put him at odds with many in the Republican Party. His relentless criticisms of the Republican candidate to succeed Rep. John M. McHugh in the 2009 special election forced her out of the race; Dierdre K. Scozzafava dropped out and endorsed Mr. Owens, who went on to beat Mr. Hoffman by a slim margin.

And in 2010, Mr. Hoffman lost the Republican primary to Mr. Doheny, leaving hurt feelings and a paper trail of attacks. Mr. Hoffman’s camp felt that GOP leaders should have coalesced around his candidacy before the primary; those GOP leaders felt that after losing the primary, Mr. Hoffman should have more forcefully campaigned for Mr. Doheny. The rift, and Mr. Hoffman’s continued presence on the ballot, is often blamed among Republicans for Mr. Owens’s second win in an overwhelmingly Republican district. A news release from the National Republican Congressional Campaign on Tuesday referred to Mr. Hoffman as a “spoiler” in that race, an epithet that each side in the battle has used to describe the other.

“I think time has healed all wounds,” said Donald G.M. Coon III, the Jefferson County Republican Party chairman who was one of Mr. Hoffman’s most vocal critics for not supporting Mr. Doheny after the 2010 primary. “There’s a difference between when you’re in the midst of a battle. Japan was our enemy in World War II. They’re not now, are they?”

If a comparison to the war in the Pacific sounds hyperbolic, consider this snippet from the archives of North Country Public Radio: When asked in 2010 under what scenario Mr. Hoffman would vote for Mr. Doheny, Mr. Hoffman responded: “If I died.”

Democrats gleefully forwarded reporters those quotes to highlight the previous disagreement, but Mr. Hoffman said his differences with Mr. Doheny are a thing of the past — they’re in sync on business issues, he said, and they’re in sync in believing that Mr. Owens must be defeated. Unlike in 2010, when he did not actively or visibly campaign for Mr. Doheny, Mr. Hoffman said he’s willing to do everything he can to get Mr. Doheny elected.

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