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Democratic Congressional Candidate Talks To Chamber Members

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Hours after the release of a new poll that shows him scuffling, the Democrat running to replace retiring incumbent Democrat Bill Owens in the 21st Congressional District spoke before a roomful of business and community leaders in Plattsburgh this morning.

The Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce holds a series of forums with officials and candidates who may come to be in a position to assist with the chamber’s agenda.

President and CEO Garry Douglas noted that a recent survey indicated that the region’s business wants a number of issues addressed at the federal level.  “Here in the North Country our Congressional election matters perhaps even more to us as business people as economic developers than it does in most upstate Congressional districts. Because so many of our strategic interests, our opportunities, our challenges are federal in nature. Border fluidity. We are in the Canada business. Airport development. Agriculture. Energy connections particularly with Canada. And transportation funding and the federal Transportation Authorization Act.”

Democrat Aaron Woolf talked about a number of his priorities and emphasized his ability to bring people together to work in a bipartisan manner.  “I think it’s rotten in Congress. But why is it that people are feeling more hopeful about the North Country’s economic prospects?  Whether it’s the Regional Economic Development Council or the Common Ground Alliance, which began to bring together towns and villages and conservationists in the Adirondacks, or the Go-Digital-or-Go-Dark campaign. Each of these brought together people that did not agree. We are different. We have been able to shed the national trend of obfuscating and polarizing and we’ve been able to invest in ourselves. And that is why I’m running for Congress.”

The Democrat was quizzed on a number of issues including the Common Core education standards, gun rights, veterans’ services and student debt. One businessman wanted to know if Woolf would support a flat tax.  “A flatter tax is not a fairer tax.  You’re right that I have talked about spending money. But I would like to call it investment. You’re wrong that spending is as out of control as some people would have you think.  Spending this year is growing at less than the rate of inflation. Spending is really finally under control. Deficits are coming down.”

Primelink President Greg McConnell, Chair of the Chamber’s Government Affair’s Committee, calls this midterm election critical for the region’s economy.  “Bill Owens did a great job for the district. Everyone is hopeful that whoever is elected will pick that up and continue in a consensus mode between both sides of the aisle in Washington. I think people are looking for someone that can work back and forth across the aisle.  We can’t have any more government shutdowns. That was just so debilitating for small businesses and those of us here in the North Country that interface with any type of federal program or any type of federal agency. That has been underestimated by the public. That just can’t happen again.”

Woolf’s appearance before the chamber came the morning after a new poll showed him 18 points behind Republican Elise Stefanik, another political newcomer. But the Democrat says he’s remaining optimistic.  “One of the things we’re not seeing in any of these measurements is all of our incredible get out the vote efforts. We’ve got four field offices, lots of young people and lots of enthusiasm. I think our message is resonating even if it’s not always measured in a way we would like. Our message of fighting for the middle class, investing in our future whether it’s in students or infrastructure really makes sense to people. I think part of what’s happening is that our message is resonating but also some of the sheen seems to be falling off our opponent.”

The WWNY-7News/Siena College poll has Stefanik with 50 percent to Woolf’s 32 percent. Green candidate Matt Funiciello garnered 11 percent.

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