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Congressman Bill Owens Joins Democrat Aaron Woolf To Discuss Congressional Campaign

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New York Congressman Bill Owens held a conference call this morning with fellow Democrat Aaron Woolf, who is seeking to replace the retiring Owens. The two criticized the Republican challenger in the 21st Congressional District race and called on her to support bills to enhance economic opportunity.

Congressman Bill Owens announced in January that he would not run for re-election to the seat representing the more than 16-thousand square mile district that stretches across northern New York.  Republican Elise Stefanik had announced her candidacy last August and subsequently won a June primary. Aaron Woolf was chosen by the district’s Democratic leaders as their candidate for the seat.

On the call, Woolf noted that House Speaker John Boehner will host a fundraiser for Stefanik later this month in Glens Falls. He called on Stefanik to press the Speaker to act on bills that would help the North Country.  “Elise Stefanik should call for passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. She has repeatedly refused to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act. In fact, she has no plan at all to address wage disparity. Elise Stefanik should also call for the passage of the Buffett Rule which would insure that millionaires and billionaires don’t pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. But again I doubt she’ll come through. She has called the Buffett Rule a sham. And while she’s talking with Boehner, Elise Stefanik should also call for the passage of legislation that would help make college more affordable, close tax subsidies for big oil, and close the gender wage gap.”

Woolf doubted Stefanik would deviate from Republican ideals.  “I’m a little concerned that she is willing to say to anyone she thinks might support her, what she thinks they want to hear.”  Press Republican Reporter Joe LoTemplio asks “Do you think that’s a symptom of her ties to Washington and the national Republican party?” Woolf responds “Absolutely Joe. This is the crucible in which she was nurtured. These are the people that have invested heavily in her campaign, like Carl Rove. And these are the people that are going to want a return on their investment.”

Congressman Owens weighed in, saying one of the principle difference is which candidate is district vs. Washington centric.  “I believe that Aaron in fact will be district-centric. Which means paying attention to veterans, to working with farmers, with the folks at Fort Drum, with our small businesses. This is something that really needs to be explored as part of this process.”

In a series of emails prior to the Democrats’ conference call, Stefanik called on Woolf to release his tax returns. Woolf said he will release a portion of his income information.  “I do plan on actually releasing our effective tax rate this week.  I think as to the actual returns there is a line that is a personal line that I don’t think we should cross in a Congressional race.” What do you mean?  “I think it’s fair for the public to know what our effective tax rate for our family because we are advocating for things like the Buffett Rule that means that people of means should be paying their fair share. But I think with respect to the returns themselves that’s crossing a personal line.”  North Country Public Radio’s David Summerstein queried whether he would be subject to the Buffett Rule if it were made law. “Yes we would.” And I assume that you’re willing to accept that tax rate increase? “Yes we would, absolutely.”

Despite a 13-point deficit in a Siena poll released last week, Woolf said he is optimistic.  “I don’t think it’s insurmountable at all. In fact many of the national pundits still refer to this as one of the most closely contested races in the country. My opponent emerged from her primary with a significant amount of name recognition and we have built from the ground up.  We have an incredibly solid campaign and incredibly solid field operation. My strong sense and those of our staff is that we are doing all the right things and moving in the right direction.”

The 21st Congressional District includes all or part of 12 counties in northern New York. Green party candidate Matt Funicello is also running.

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