WATERTOWN - Thursday was the last of 12 candidate endorsement meetings held by the Republican county committees of New Yorks 21st Congressional District the culmination of a solid month of driving and campaigning across the districts 16,000 square miles.
And while different paths await the three candidates present at the meeting, they all said it was just the beginning of a journey that will ultimately end in the districts voting booths as the snow clears and the primary and general elections come into season.
The Republicans process received renewed attention after Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, announced that he would not be seeking reelection.
Elise M. Stefanik, Willsboro, the former White House staffer and the candidate with the most money and the most active campaign committee, said she is optimistic heading into a district-wide meeting of the Republican Partys county chairmen and women next week.
The Republican Party is expected to endorse a candidate during that meeting.
Joseph M. Gilbert, DeKalb Junction, the retired Army officer, former St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Director and Tea Party candidate, said that no matter who the super committee of county chairpersons endorses, he will stay in the race and seek the Conservative endorsement.
And Michael F. Ring, Adams Center, a broadcast engineer and computer consultant, said that he would bow out of the race but stay registered with the Federal Election Commission to help drum up support for the party.
But for one night, the three candidates were able to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with a hard road and a regular grilling by ones peers.
Ive gotten very positive responses and a lot of support, Ms. Stefanik said of her prospects for winning the partys endorsement. One of the highlights of this process has been getting to know Mike and Joe.
The three posed for a picture in front of a map of Jefferson County at the Black River Valley Club in Watertown while the Republican committee members of that same county deliberated upstairs.
The committee ultimately decided not to endorse a candidate, according to committee chairman Donald G.M. Coon III.
Instead, committee members will pass the ballot petitions of all candidates who have filed with the FEC.
Were letting all registered Republican in the county decide who their candidate is in the primary, Mr. Coon said, adding that there is still plenty of time left before ballots petitions can start circulating in early March.
Of next weeks district-wide meeting, Mr. Coon said that the plan was still to endorse a single candidate.
Im going to convey the feelings of my committee to them and well see how things go, he said.
Since Mr. Owens announcement, the name and the presence that has hung over all the committee meetings, especially in the western part of the expansive district, is Matthew A. Doheny, Mr. Owenss two-time opponent and the man who almost beat him twice.
Mr. Doheny was expected to make a decision about entering the race last weekend, but no announcement came and it has been radio silence since then, to borrow a description from Mr. Coon.
But, perhaps tellingly, committee member and Jefferson County Legislator John D. Peck, R-Great Bend, reported that he recently received a poll call sponsored by the National Republican Campaign Committee during which he was asked about the familiarity and favorability of four names: Elise M. Stefanik, Matthew A. Doheny and rumored Democratic candidates Darrel Aubertine, a former state senator and former commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and M. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, a venture capitalist and former Congressman of the 20th District.