NY-21: The Mysterious Snub of Tea Party’s Joe Gilbert

Joe Gilbert

Joe Gilbert


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UPDATE: Listen to the author discuss this article on Conservative Commando Radio Show:

By Susan D. Harris

If you’ve been wondering, New York’s 21st Congressional District is still in a rotten mess.

Back in January, Democratic Rep. Bill Owens announced he was retiring.  The New York Times reported:

Mr. Owens is the latest Democrat whose decision to leave Congress may hurt his party’s chances of gaining in the House in November. Democrats have now lost several incumbents in districts where the party is vulnerable to Republican challenges — including one in Utah and one in North Carolina, both of which the Democrats are expected to lose.

Owens had come to power in 2009 after a special election that followed a harsh ideological war between Republicans and Conservatives. Republicans endorsed moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, while Conservative/Tea Party voters endorsed a previously unknown accountant named Doug Hoffman.

Conservatives didn’t just endorse Hoffman, they clamored around him. Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty backed him. Conservative radio talker Laura Ingraham and Rep. Michelle Bachmann talked up Hoffman on Ingraham’s radio show. In a nationally followed bitter campaign, Scozzafava dropped out of the race just three days before the election citing “spending” and an “inability to define herself.” Most of Hoffman’s supporters thought this was a great development, until Scozzafava threw her support behind Democrat Bill Owens — highlighting a nasty chasm between establishment Republicans and strengthened, confident Tea Party Conservatives.

Owens beat Hoffman by a small margin, possibly boosted by unified labor efforts in the last days of the campaign.

Apparently embracing the label “RINO,” Scozzafava later joined Gov. Cuomo’s administration.  And, until she withdrew her name in February, she was also the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to replace Bill Owens.  (If you are confused, you’re not alone.)

The Democratic nominee to replace Owens is Aaron Woolf, a filmmaker from Elizabethtown, NY, best known for his documentary King Corn. He divides his time between a home in the Adirondacks and Brooklyn. Frankly there isn’t much else to say about him.

It seems the time is finally right for a true Conservative to easily take the 21st Congressional District right? Not so fast.

Elise Stefanik had already announced she was running against the Democratic incumbent before he announced he wouldn’t run. A 29-year-old former intern in the Bush administration, she seems to be toeing the party line. As yet, her best elucidated plan seems to be: “We just need people with new ideas.” While it’s clear she graduated from Harvard with honors, it isn’t clear what she earned her degree in. I’m assuming from her D.C. internships, it was likely Political Science.  The scariest part is — here we have a young person trained exclusively in D.C. politics with no experience in the real world; and because she’s young and female the Republican Party, along with some Conservative groups, are embracing her like a rock star to help widen their proverbial base. The Weekly Standard has published numerous articles on her.

With all the years she supposedly spent in the Beltway, Stefanik still claims to be an entrepreneur at her father’s long-held lumber business. Pro-life groups are endorsing her simply because she’s pro-life; but I have yet to find any real substance in her campaign. A recent article in the Daily Kos detailing some of her D.C. connected campaign contributions was craftily titled, “NY-21: Slick Marketing Campaign aims to turn a wealthy DC Insider into a North Country Woodchuck.”

Another candidate, Matt Doheny, doesn’t sound too promising either. He runs his own investment firm from Watertown, NY, and is on the board of several national companies. He spent millions of dollars of his own money to run unsuccessfully in two previous elections, and is willing to do it again. Beltway insiders already in Stefanik’s pocket are wondering why Doheny is even bothering; even bringing up that his former campaigns were plagued by “ethical issues” including charges of boating under the influence and video of him engaged in some serious smooching with a campaign consultant (while he was engaged to his current wife).

The biggest mystery is why the Tea Party leader doesn’t seem to be getting more traction and endorsements.  Joseph Gilbert is a retired Army major who has an impressive résumé as director of emergency services for St. Lawrence County. He spent 24 years in the military, completing three tours in Iraq. He joined the Army immediately after high school, and earned his college degrees while studying nights and weekends on top of his armored personnel carrier.

His service to his country is well documented and stellar. His degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Maryland has served him well. A lifelong conservative, he attended the very first Tea Party rallies at Boston Harbor in April, 2009. He talks about things like freedom, liberty, limited government, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, strong national defense, the sanctity of life, and abolishing the IRS. He makes statements such as: “The people are guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms. A true representative republic has nothing to fear from an armed populace.”

Looking at this guy’s website and listening to his interviews, you can’t help but wonder whether 21st Congressional District Republicans and Conservatives have gone completely out of their minds by not endorsing Gilbert in a big way. Now, even though Gilbert entered the race about the same time as Stefanik back in August 2013, without more endorsements he has a dwindling chance to raise enough funds to make a difference against the seemingly already crowned frontrunners.

To make matters worse, former Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman has endorsed Elise Stefanik; which makes one wonder if maybe Hoffman wasn’t “all that” to begin with.In the big push to unite Conservatives and Republicans behind the same candidate and avoid another mess like the 2009 election, both elements seem to be endorsing the wrong people.

The truth is New York State has set the standard in exposing glaring similarities between establishment Republicans and their Democratic opponents. Obviously money, power and connections speak louder than ideology and principles.

Frankly I’m tired of America putting people in office who have done nothing but study how to promote themselves to get into office. I’m tired of people buying a seat at the top. Give me a regular man or woman who fought for their country, studied at night and got their hands dirty in the soil instead of from sleazy handshakes. The Tea Party movement was supposed to be about rejecting career politicians and raising the voice of the common man. Being a Conservative in New York is an almost insurmountable task, but now is not the time to cave in and become a CINO.

Shame on the 21st District.

  • Jay

    Sandra, you are right about so much, but misdirected.

    I’ve met the top three republican candidates. I’ve talked with each one on the phone, talked to each one in person, spent time trying to get to know them.

    Of all the stated congressional candidates, Joe Gilbert has the best resume on paper. Hands down. Celebrated military career, dedication to local government and good government and limited government. On paper, Joe Gilbert is a great candidate.

    In person he has all the presence of toast. He does not project confidence. Despite his outstanding resume, he does not strike me as a leader of men.

    I like Joe. I WANT to like Joe. And I sound like a teenage girl trying to let him down easy.

    “I like you, Joe, but I don’t LIKE YOU like you.”

    Gilbert is not electable.

    Your criticism of Elise Stefanik is dead to nuts. She’s a pampered Washington Insider whose only business experience is selling girl scout cookies to her daddy’s employees.

    She is substanceless bluff and bluster. She is all thunder and no lightning.

    She made a fine sacrificial lamb, but her resume is more “Congressional Staffer” than “Congresswoman.”

    At worst, she represents the true Washington DC insider who exists to strip us of our rights and perpetuate the government state for its own perpetuation.

    At best, she is a puppet.

    What you discount in the race is Matt Doheny’s compelling backstory.

    With a wave of your hand, you dismiss the fact that he lost in ’10 because the Tea Party split the vote. Hoffman was not a great candidate, but I supported him in ’09. Hoffman cost the right the seat in ’10, hands down.

    Should Lincoln have stopped running for office the first time he lost? Should Reagan? Should Doheny?

    Doheny is not a perfect candidate. We disagree on issues. But he’s actually FROM THE DISTRICT, unlike Stefanik and Woolf.

    He’s a kid who grew up in Alexandria Bay who lost his dad, worked hard, and got ahead in life. He made the opportunities he took. They weren’t handed to him like Stefanik.

    He’s a true conservative on the issues that matter and he can connect with enough voters to turn my home district back to the GOP.

    Gilbert is a well-intentioned nice guy.
    Stefanik is self-serving slick marketing.
    Matt Doheny is my next congressman.

    • Susan D. Harris

      Thank you for your comment and I respect your opinion.

      I just don’t see where someone needing some public speaking classes disqualifies them for the decisions they will make and legislation they will sign.

      You just said Gilbert had the better resume but you are voting for Doheny because…he can win. I guess because he has more “presence” and apparently better confidence in his speaking abilities.

      Churchill had a better resume than Hitler too. One was a great orator and the other had the presence of a rock. I think we know which was which.

      • Jay

        That was a textbook example of Reductio ad Hitlerum (Godwin’s Law). We’re not dealing with Churchill (who was an excellent orator of great wit) and Hitler, we’re dealing with Gilbert and Doheny (who is nothing like Hitler).

        I was in the room with the 9 people interested in running for McHugh’s seat in 2009. Hoffman was only better than one: Scozzafava. Truth be told, I thought Paul Maroun was a strong candidate.

        I was here, on the ground, when the TEA Party lost this district to Bill Owens in 2010. The Conservative Party wanted to be the tail that wagged the dog and insisted we support a weaker candidate when others – who are equally conservative and equally qualified, but have a superior skill set – were running.

        Yes, I’m voting for Doheny, but I’m carrying petitions for Doheny and Gilbert. Many of us are, and I’d love to see Gilbert do well.

        • Susan D. Harris

          I don’t think that was one of Strauss’s finer points; in fact I think it should be swept into the trash bin because it has hindered Conservative’s ability to identify the enemy.

          Yes, when all was said and done, Churchill was actually considered a great orator himself. My point is better illustrated in this quote from Ian Chamberlain, a Leadership, Management and Sales training Consultant in the U.K.:

          “Of course leadership itself is neither necessarily good nor desirable (Hitler, Stalin, Mao et al). Neither is it all about “charisma”. Of course many leaders have been described as charismatic, many were not.

          Churchill, like Abe Lincoln, was not a particularly charismatic leader. This is in contrast to the devilishly charismatic Hitler.”

          I should not have said Churchill had the presence of a rock, that was not true. I only meant it in comparison to Hitler.

          “It has been said that after meeting Churchill you beleived you could achieve anything. After meeting Hitler you believed that he could achieve anything!”

          We are really in total agreement — Except for my audible gasp at your saying Gilbert has the better resume, BUT the guy with whom you don’t completely agree, the guy who has the better chance to win – is the guy you’ll support.

          I also agree with you about the Tea Party’s misguided support of Hoffman, which I inferred in my article.

          The bigger point is that people have to STOP settling and choose a candidate strictly on whether they are aligned with their principles or not.

          I hope that you choose the best candidate. In truth I don’t have a dog in the fight; yet in a way we all do.

          Thank you for your intelligent input and thoughtful responses.

          (By the way, my name is Susan, not Sandra.)