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Hoffman visits the Times

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We just had a wacky hour at the Watertown Daily Times.

Blogger Robert Stacy McCain, who is following Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman around today, banged out a story at my desk while I was inside the editor and co-publisher's office watching the fireworks.

John B. Johnson Jr. was clear in this morning's editorial in our paper: The issues germane to the 23rd Congressional District are not being talked about because that discourse is getting drowned out by the cacophony from special interest groups outside the district.

Mr. Hoffman, it appeared, had not taken the time to read the local opinion page before visiting.

When asked about the rooftop highway that could connect Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Hoffman said he was "open to reviewing and studying it."

When asked about winter navigation on the St. Lawrence Seaway, he took no position. When asked about widening and deeping the Seaway, he again said nothing.

The atmosphere was tense, at times.

Mr. Hoffman said at one point that if we were going to question him, that he needed to know in advance what we were going to ask him about.

That's not the way it works. Mr. Hoffman would likely find that out if he kept his commitment to the Clifton-Fine Development Corp.'s "meet-the-candidates" night tonight in Wanakena, instead of ditching them for an appearance on Glenn Beck's television show.

UPDATE: WWNY-TV is reporting that Mr. Hoffman's appearance with Mr. Beck is off, but that he will "not attend the Wanakena event anyway because he would be doing national press interviews."

Constituents ask questions about subjects that impact their lives, just as Mr. Johnson asked questions that he believes are in the best interests of our readers.

Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, watched as the back-and-forth unfolded. And then he offered an argument that we'll know is right or wrong on Nov. 3. The former Texas congressman said that Mr. Johnson had the right to base his endorsement on parochial issues, not national ones. But Mr. Armey said this race was going to be won or lost on national issues - taxes and the economy to name two - instead of issues of only local importance.

If Mr. Armey is right, then we're sunk. There's no learning curve here. Come Nov. 4, someone is going to represent us. They don't wait until Jan. 1 to take office. Let's make the right choice, whoever you believe that may be.

I give Mr. Hoffman a tremendous amount of credit for scheduling the meeting and keeping it, even though he likely knew this would not be a great-to-know-you-smiles-all-around affair. And I give the candidate even more credit, after being criticized for nearly a half-hour straight, for telling my publisher that he'd like to call him periodically for advice if he wins.

Mr. Hoffman may have not learned everything he needs to know in the four months since he declared his candidacy, but he's smart enough to realize that there's a network of support for him if he desires it.

I'll have video from his AM appearance with Mr. Armey later today.

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