After losing a Congressional race by 1,995 votes two years ago, Matt Doheny went back to his home in New York's 21st District to recharge. He asked long-time girlfriend Mary Reidy to marry him (she said yes, "of course") and announced he would re-challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Owens in 2012.
Last week, Doheny went to the National Republican Congressional Committee's Washington "candidate school" to prepare for the campaign—and ended up in the arms of campaign consultant Monica Notzon. Matt and Monica swear they're "just friends." The pictures may tell a different story.
According to the National Journal, House GOP leaders hand-selected fifteen candidates—"the strongest GOP challengers in the country"—and brought them to D.C. for two days of campaign workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. John Boehner was among the featured speakers.
Matt Doheny was among the chosen fifteen. Fiancée Mary (at right) stayed at home while Matt went to D.C. After the first day of workshops, he met up with Monica and other friends at Bobby Van's, a steakhouse popular with lobbyists and political creatures. Monica confirms that she was there, but refuses to specify whether or not a kiss took place. "We're just friends, and it was a whole big group of us," she said. She would not discuss whether she or Matt had been drinking.
Doheny press secretary Jude Seymour sang a similar tune, refusing to discuss the specifics of the candidate's contact with the consultant or the contents of their drinks:
These pictures demonstrate nothing more than horsing around between two old friends as they sat together with other friends. Frankly, it's sad that some Democratic operative is going to infringe on the private moments of some friends enjoying an evening.
Note that we only showed one picture to Jude.
We didn't show any pictures to Monica—she refused to look at them, but was certain they were "out of context." Repeated inquiries about what context, exactly, caused the "old friends" to mash faces like teenagers in a dark movie theater were rebuffed. Jude and Monica both refused to "get into specifics."
Doheny's 2010 race was "one of the ten closest House races that year," according to his campaign website. It was a three-way race, and were it not for Conservative Party candidate who snagged 6 percent of the vote, Doheny might have won.
According to FEC filings, Doheny spent $3.4 million, outspending sitting Democrat Bill Owens by close to half a million dollars. Among the firms the campaign employed: Bellwether Consulting Group, Monica Notzon's employer.
Doheny's engagement is still on, his press secretary says. The wedding is scheduled for June 30, and invitations go out next week. Asked whether she plans to attend the wedding, Monica Notzon laughed. "I'm not commenting on anything else," she said, then repeated the refrain about "just friends."
Doheny is the second New York politician to get into an arguably sexy situation during a GOP retreat. Last year's Craigslist Congressman scandal occurred while New York Rep. Chris Lee was attending the 2011 Republican Retreat.
UPDATE: Matt Doheny 4 Congress responds with fancy letterhead, scolds, theories: