During his nine-term tenure as Northern New York's congressman, Republican John McHugh ably served by focusing on issues critical to the north country and its residents.
Whoever succeeds him will need a similar focus on Northern New York's bread-and-butter concerns. The special election for Mr. McHugh's seat is the opportunity to discuss those issues germane to the 23rd Congressional District.
So far, that has not happened. Outside interests have hijacked the three-way race between Republican Dierdre Scozzafava, Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Douglas Hoffman.
Endorsements come from afar. Fundraisers are held outside the district. National party committees comment daily on the race. National debates on social issues and partisan concerns get rehashed here to the exclusion of questions specific to voters in the 23rd district.
The only candidates' debate will be held in Syracuse in a television studio with no live audience. Syracuse is outside of the district.
One of the candidates, Mr. Hoffman, does not even live in the district. Mr. Hoffman will not be able to vote for himself and his wife won't see her husband's name on the ballot.
The candidates need to describe their positions on north country topics and how they would govern.
Here is a short list of issues which have been consistently important in the north country.
n How do they feel about federal attempts to widen and deepen the St. Lawrence Seaway to accommodate larger oceangoing ships?
n Do they support winter navigation in the Seaway?
n How would they help protect the waterway from encroachment of invasive species?
n Where do they stand on the development of a rooftop highway from Watertown to Plattsburgh?
n Would they approve of plans to transform the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. into a federal power-marketing entity, as proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio?
n What factors should determine the location of power-generating facilities in the rural district? Should any areas be off-limits?
n How should the routing of electrical transmission lines to convey power from rural to urban areas be located and permitted?
n Will the candidates commit to protecting the power generated at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam that makes possible thousands of jobs in Northern New York?
n How do they stand on border issues? Should security override citizens' desire to travel freely between Northern New York and Canada and the need for smooth commercial travel? Should the federal government interrupt fishing trips, picnics and boating excursions in the name of protecting the border?
n Acid rain. Adirondack issues. Water levels. Dairy issues. Fort Drum. Wind power. In their campaigns so far, the candidates have only touched upon the many areas in which they will be expected to govern if elected.
Voters know where Assemblywoman Scozzafava stands since she has held elective office for 20 years.
However instead of focusing on any of Ms. Scozzafava's work on all of the above issues, outside interests keep reminding us of what we already know about her positions on abortion and gay marriage.
The scarcity of discussion and debate on the nuts-and-bolts issues of the complex 23rd Congressional District does a disservice to its residents.
No one in Washington votes in this election, but inside the Beltway cadre's efforts to decide this election is an arrogant abuse of political ambition.
Northern New Yorkers are wise, politically experienced, and should see that there is more to this election than a series of right- and left-wing television advertisements that ignore what is important in the coffee-shop conversations across this vast area of New York state.