Candidates for the newly drawn 21st Congressional District said job creation would be a high priority should they win election Nov. 6.
Seeking a seat in the district are Democrat Bill Owens, Republican Matt Doheny and Green Party candidate Donald Hassig. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, currently represents the 23rd Congressional District. He was first elected to Congress in 2009. Owens and Doheny faced each other in 2010, with Doheny losing by 2,000 votes. Hassig did not respond to calls for comment.
Matthew A. Doheny
BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative and Independence
EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Allegheny College, bachelor of arts in political science, 1992
Cornell University, juris doctorate, 1995; president, North Country Capital, 2010-present
BALLOT LINES: Democrat, Working Families
EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor of Arts, Manhattan College; law degree Fordham University School of Law; seeking third term to Congress.
BALLOT LINES: Green Party
EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor of Arts, SUNY Potsdam; full-time volunteer director of Cancer Action New York
The new 21st District, which takes effect Jan. 1, includes the counties of Fulton, Saratoga, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer, Washington, Warren, Essex, Franklin, Clinton and St. Lawrence. It contains 717,707 people, the majority of them white. Approximately 33 percent are registered as Republican, 31 percent as Democrat and 27 percent as nonpartisan. Approximately 6 percent belong to the Independence Party and 2 percent to the Conservative Party, the two largest minor parties in the district. Doheny, 42, is a venture capitalist who runs his own company, North Country Capital LLC. The company lends startup funds to entrepreneurs who don’t have access to traditional funding sources. It also provides working capital to existing businesses to help them grow.
He identified himself as a strong fiscal conservative and as a self-made businessman. He said he “wants to move Washington forward and get things done,” that he is “looking out for taxpayers” and that he wants to have balanced federal budgets while promoting growth in the district.
“Jobs are a high priority,” Doheny said. “We have three of the highest unemployment rates in the state. It is unacceptable.”
The latest unemployment figures from the state show Fulton, Clinton and St. Lawrence counties with rates at 10 percent or higher, among the highest in upstate New York.
“When I get elected, jobs will be my main focus. The federal government makes life and employment more difficult for the very job creators who we are hoping will create jobs,” Doheny said. “Job creators are small-business people who live down the street, and they are entrepreneurs.”
Doheny said the key to job creation is to not raise taxes on small businesses and the middle class, to rein in the federal regulations, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it through “common sense measures,” such as tort reform and allowing people to shop for insurance plans across state lines.
Owens, 63, was a managing partner at Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane & Trombley, where he specialized in business law, international law and estate and tax law before his election to Congress.
He describes himself as a moderate and as someone “who is always looking to compromise” on issues of benefit to his constituents.
Owens said job creation is key to the district and that he would look to “fill the 3,200 unfilled jobs” in the district after his election. “I want to bring companies down from Canada. As you bring them down, that creates significant job growth,” he said.
The new 21st Congressional District shares a border with Canada.
Owens said the “renewable energy industry,” otherwise known as the forestry industry, is a sector that can be expanded through Canadian relationships. He mentioned wood pellets as a growth industry. The 21st district contains large swaths of forests, most of it within the “forever wild” Adirondack Park.
Both Owens and Doheny said they recognize agriculture as a key industry in the district and one they would focus their attentions on in Congress.
“I want to pass the Farm Bill because that is a jobs bill,” Owens said.
Congress failed to approve the Farm Bill when it expired in September. It stalled in the House when conservative Republicans said it didn’t cut farm subsidies and food stamps enough and Democrats said food-stamp cuts were too harsh.
The Farm Bill authorizes billions of dollars of taxpayer spending, is the largest source of support for America’s farmers and the programs that form the food safety net that provides food to this country’s needy.
Owens said the Farm Bill would aid the district because “agriculture is the largest single contributor to the gross domestic product,” involving farm equipment, orchards, dairy farms, specialty crop farms and grain, feed and feed suppliers.
Doheny said passing the Farm Bill gives “certainty to farmers.” Other agricultural initiatives he supports include extending H-2A visas and changing the complicated federal milk order pricing system. “We need to make sure milk pricing is transparent, that we simplify milk pricing,” he said.
Both candidates said they would work to eliminate “onerous” federal regulations that burden the agricultural industry. Doheny said, “We have labor restrictions and EPA [federal Environmental Protection Agency] restrictions and labor challenges, where you can’t have children working on a farm.”
Owens said as a congressman, he has been involved in a wide variety of disputes involving federal agencies and his constituents. “I have had the disputes withdrawn or repealed,” he said.
If elected, each candidate said he would work with both sides of the political aisle in Washington to break the gridlock that has stalled legislation like the Farm Bill.
Said Doheny, “We know the reputation, we see the polling. We need outsiders to run for Congress and we need compromise to move the country forward. I view myself as a business person who gets things done. You have to go out and collaborate with other members of Congress and work toward a common goal to help move America forward.”
Owens said gridlock in Washington is a “real problem,” but one that he can overcome. “The public needs to send a message to Congress to get things done. One way is to defeat people who are the problem. I am not one of those people,” he said.
He said he votes 35 percent of the time with Republicans in Congress. “That is how you reach compromise. I vote with my district foremost in mind.”