Lacking the resources, name recognition and political experience of her most-likely primary foe, Republican Kellie Greene is relying on gumption and God to help bring her to Congress in 2012.
“I wouldn't be starting this if I didn't believe in this country,” Ms. Greene said, kicking off her campaign in front of a crowd of more than 60* at the Ramada Inn on Arsenal Street. “One, I have God almighty. Two, I have a really big mouth, and my feet, and a really cute pickup truck I inherited from my dad. And I will drive all over.”
Ms. Greene's 20-minute speech Wednesday night criticized the federal government, which has grown too large and intrusive, she said. She also took aim at Congress and the north country's current representative, the man she'd like to take on in November, William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. But it wasn't until after her speech, prodded by reporters, that she criticized the man who would present her first challenge: Matthew A. Doheny, a Watertown businessman who unsuccessfully ran in 2010. A Republican primary would occur on June 26, if a federal judge's ruling withstands possible appeal. That is also assuming the candidates can get the required petitions in a potentially squeezed time frame.
Mr. Doheny has been laying the groundwork for a rematch since his 2010 loss. He has $316,000 in his campaign account, a hefty starting hand, especially for a challenger. His institutional know-how and support give Mr. Doheny the inside track.
But Ms. Greene said he lacks conservative credibility. She said she's a “staunch, far-right conservative,” and she doesn't think Mr. Doheny is.
Ms. Greene mentioned abortion rights first when asked about substantive differences. Ms. Greene is anti-abortion. Mr. Doheny believes that abortion should be legal in the first trimester of a pregnancy. When asked, Mr. Doheny's staff says that Mr. Doheny's voting record will reflect the wishes of anti-abortion groups. He is against federal funding for abortion.
The crowd — which added “born and unborn” to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance's typical coda, “with liberty and justice for all” — was receptive to Ms. Greene's anti-abortion message.
Ms. Greene, 44, is a Sackets Harbor resident and an Oswego native. She moved to Sackets in October after an eight-year stay in Arizona. She works in logistics and international trade, but much of her time these days is dedicated to her campaign, which is on a “shoe-string budget,” she said.
She said that one limited role of the federal government would be to build a port that could better handle ocean freight. She also said that America's trade policy should be re-evaluated. While shying away from the term “protectionism,” she said the nation should get tougher with other countries that don't play fair. China is the most obvious example, she said.
That message, and the anti-abortion message, will play well with voters in today's electorate, said Charles E. Ruggiero, the chairman of the Jefferson Tea Party.
The Jefferson Tea Party, which does not endorse candidates, has invited Ms. Greene to speak at one of its meetings.
“Competition in the political process is the best thing people can ask for,” Mr. Ruggiero said. “It gives an opportunity for all opinions to come to the table.”
*An original version of this article misstated the number of attendees.