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Doheny outlines aggressive outreach approach

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Republican Matthew A. Doheny said that if he is elected to the House of Representatives, he will have a congressional office in all 12 counties in the district and that by the end of his first term, he will have town halls in every town and city — 194 in a two-year span.

He also said his staff would personally respond to every correspondence that comes their way. The plan is without known precedent in Congress, and Mr. Doheny’s Nov. 6 opponent, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, questioned whether it was physically or financially possible.

“Just because people haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Mr. Doheny said. “It will become the hallmark of constituent service.”

Mr. Owens, in an interview, suggested that Mr. Doheny’s approach is not feasible.

“I would raise questions about the financial and physical capacity to do some of the things that are proposed,” Mr. Owens said.

His office receives 35,000 pieces of correspondence a year, including email, Mr. Owens said. To save time, the office will respond to some inquiries about his position with an identical response outlining what he thinks — a common practice among members of Congress. That’s because many of those letters are identical themselves; interest groups ask their like-minded followers to send representatives letters on issues.

Responding to each one personally “would be very difficult, given the amount of work that we need to do.”

Mr. Owens frequently holds telephone town halls, and his staff has held 125 events called “mobile office hours” where they address constituent concerns in the far-flung district.

Mr. Doheny said he would pay for his plan by cutting out franked mail privileges. Mr. Owens has sent about $500,000 in free mailings via the U.S. Postal Service, according to Mr. Doheny’s campaign.

The plan would include having a district office even in rural, sparsely populated counties, but it’s possible that the offices won’t be open full-time and would share employees among one another. Hamilton County, for example, has fewer than 5,000 residents.

Will Mr. Doheny’s math actually work out? Mr. Owens’s office says it has spent $440,000 less than his original budget from when he took office in November 2009, if we’re taking into account budget-cutting that he’s voted to approve. Mr. Doheny, a financial portfolio manager by trade, said that it’s possible.

“Of course we ran the numbers. I’m a businessman,” Mr. Doheny said. “The answer is, you betcha.”

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