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Second Primary Debate Held In Republican Race For 21st Congressional District Seat

Thom Hallock/Mountain Lake PBS

Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny held their second debate last night. They are running in the Republican primary for the 21st Congressional district seat, which encompasses all of northern New York.

The debate was taped in the studios of WWNY in Watertown. This is Matt Doheny’s third attempt to capture the congressional seat for the 16,000-square mile district. It’s Stefanik’s first run for office. The debate was more subdued than their first as moderator WWNY Anchor Brian Ashley kept the candidates, for the most part, from interrupting each other.

The debate was divided into questions of national and regional interest. There was a lightning round and one segment allowed the candidates to pose a single question to one other.
On many issue,s the two Republicans agreed or their philosophies were closely allied.
Doheny stated “I would be a dogged advocate for missile defense to be right here in Fort Drum.” and Stefanik agreed saying “I would also advocate for Fort Drum to be the missile defense site for the east coast.’  Doheny and Stefanik praised small hospitals in the district. “With hospitals small like Alex Bay or large like CVPH or what Mr Carmen runs here in Samaritan, they’re doing great work.” “I agree.” The two also supported gun rights. “I’m 100% against the Safe Act. It is unconstitutional.” “I don’t support the Safe Act because I believe in the Constitution.”

During a lightning round of questions, single word answers solidified their agreements: they both say same-sex marriage is a states’ rights issue. They support medical marijuana and also favor hydrofracking. Both are opposed to the Common Core education standards. And both have milked a cow.

In the wake of the recent federal Department of Transportation safety advisory for trains carrying volatile crude oil through parts of the 21st district, the candidates were asked whether there should be stricter oversight. Doheny said there is a solution that is not being addressed in Washington.  “This is why we need the Keystone Pipeline. Number two - we do need greater federal oversight.” Stefanik added “I have a number of concerns. One is the local communities, our local fire departments, our local emergency services don’t have the resources to deal with the ‘if’ situation if there is a catastrophic incident. I agree with my primary opponent that we absolutely need to make the Keystone Pipeline legal now. I absolutely think there’s a federal role to regulate trains. So I think this is another issue that we agree on.”

The candidates expressed a slight disagreement over the tightness of security along the northern border.  “There is a balance we need to strike to insure that we have a secure border. But also to continue to encourage economic commerce. I believe we’ve struck the correct balance in Canada, but I think nationally what concerns me is that so much of the debate dealing with our border issues focuses on our southern border.”  On the other hand Doheny said “I think it’s a little too tight and I think it has a negative impact on commerce. The more difficult it is to get in and out the lessened chance that people want to come, invest and continue to reinvest in our area here. I think we need to have a little bit easier egress and ingress. Part of it’s physical upgrades. But part of is in terms of coming up with programs to let people come in and out easier.”

The most acerbic exchange was early in the debate as the candidates discussed government bailouts. Stefanik began by saying that her family business didn’t benefit from any bailout.  “My primary opponent was working on Wall Street at the time. He actually received deferred compensation from Deutchbank. Even your own hometown newspaper, Matt, called out the untruthful statements. I do not support TARP. I was not part of the process building TARP.”   
Doheny countered “Look, this is D.C. double-speak. I mean, she was there, but she didn’t believe in it.”  Stefanik broke in “Were you not on Wall Street? You were on Wall Street.”
Doheny responded “I worked for institution Deutchbank.  Deutchbank didn’t get bailed out. The companies, the banks, the insurance companies, and the auto companies that could have actually survived would have survived within chapter 11.”

Audio is courtesy of WWNY Watertown, Mountain Lake PBS Plattsburgh and North Country Public Radio, which co-sponsored the debate.

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