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Owens, Doheny to face off on Tuesday

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More than three years of campaigning, $19 million spent, days and days of television ads, thousands of miles on the road, untold hands shook and backs patted.

For the two men running for the north country, it all comes down to Tuesday.

The stakes in the race between Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Republican Matthew A. Doheny of Watertown are high. And although the congressional district was reshaped by Albany’s decennial redistricting process, the major driving issue remains the same: the north country’s economy.

The candidates themselves said they’re best equipped to face that challenge.

“The issue of this election is the economy and jobs,” Mr. Doheny said. “As a self-made business man from Alex Bay, I understand the challenges of creating and growing businesses. My record, my hard work, my attention to detail — I will provide the opportunity on the ground that will help the people in the district have better lives.”

Mr. Owens stressed he has spent the past three years helping lure Canadian companies to the United States, rattling off a list of business-related events in Canada and the United States he’s attended as a member of Congress.

“Those are really the kinds of things that a member of Congress can do to help the local economic developers create jobs,” Mr. Owens said.

For Mr. Doheny, the race represents what some of his closest advisers acknowledge would be his last shot at representing the north country in the House of Representatives, a goal Mr. Doheny had set early in life. It is a goal he has spent about $3 million in personal loans to his campaign to attain.

His campaign has hammered home a simple message: The economy in the north country is not good, Mr. Owens is to blame and Mr. Doheny deserves a chance.

And he deserves a chance because he knows how the economy works and how to fix it, he argues. Democrats are also keen to highlight his work history, with their own interpretation. Mr. Doheny, a lawyer by training, has spent a decade and a half working for investment or law firms that tried to turn around struggling companies.

Mr. Doheny says the United States faces similar challenges. Democrats say he’s out of touch.

For Mr. Owens, it will be the third hotly contested election in his three years in office. He has proved resilient in a heavily Republican district in part through his moderate track record. Mr. Owens rarely makes it through an interview without making use of the word “reasonable.” He has assiduously avoided linking his tenure to broader trends and has shown a willingness to buck his party on certain measures in Congress.

He says he’s not particularly interested in the national political rigamarole, and often deflects questions about votes in Congress by pointing out some sort of local impact. On “cap and trade” environmental legislation, for example, Mr. Owens points out his Republican predecessor also supported such legislation and says he’s looking out for the Adirondacks.

Donald L. Hassig, a Colton resident, is on the Green Party line, but neither the party nor the candidate himself thinks anyone should vote for him. His party denounced him after party leaders objected to his remarks about Mexican farmworkers, and he said Saturday people should vote for Mr. Owens.

No matter who wins, the election would serve as a bookend for an era in north country politics. John M. McHugh resigned from Congress to serve as the Secretary to the Army in President Obama’s administration in 2009. Mr. Doheny put his name forward as a candidate for the special election that year, but was passed over by the Republican Party. Mr. Owens, then a practicing Plattsburgh attorney and a political independent, ran on the Democratic line and won in a race that garnered national attention.

In 2010, Mr. Doheny won the Republican line but lost narrowly to Mr. Owens.

By 2014, only one of the men — Mr. Owens or Mr. Doheny — will likely run for office again.

The district encompasses a broad swath of upstate New York, from Lake Ontario in the west to Lake Champlain in the east, running north along the Canadian border and diving south into the suburbs of Albany. The district includes most of the Adirondack Park.

What will actually come up in Congress? Republicans are expected to hold onto the House, while Democrats are expected to remain in control of the Senate. But the result in the presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will determine much of the agenda in Washington.

No matter the agenda, each candidate has spent three years telling people he, not the other guy, is best prepared to take on the challenge.

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