As Matt Doheny has pointed out through this year’s campaign, there is a new chunk of territory in the 21st district that wasn’t part of the old NY23 House district where Democrat Bill Owens is an incumbent.
Redistricting grafted a new slice of the North Country onto Owens’ old turf, including chunks of Essex, Warren and Washington County. In those areas, according to today’s Siena poll, Doheny is actually running slightly ahead.
According to the Siena cross-tabs, in areas outside the old NY23 boundaries, Doheny is attracting 40% to Owens’ 37%. That area also has a really high margin of voters who don’t yet know either candidate well enough to have an opinion — around 13%.
What does that mean? First the downside for the GOP: In a very Republican-leaning area where you would think a lot of voters would just stick to the party line, one might expected Doheny to be winning by more than 3 points.
Now the upside: It appears that in the part of the district where the two men are, effectively, running as equal challengers, Doheny is running slightly ahead and probably has significant room to grow.
Another wrinkle in the numbers is that the “new” part of NY21 appears to be measurably more conservative than the North Country as a whole.
In Fulton, Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties, Doheny leads 41-37 percent. But in the far northern reaches of the district — on Doheny’s home turf of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties — the Republican is getting walloped, losing 32-60 percent.
Indeed, Owens is faring better on the western side of the district than he is in his own greater Plattsburgh area.
I’d say the take-away here is that Owens is clearly claiming a big boost from his incumbency, but with new voters taking a fresh look at the race Doheny might have a real opportunity to make up some ground.