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Candidacy in absentia


It’s been a week since Democratic Party members from the north country endorsed a business owner and filmmaker as their preferred nominee in this year’s race for the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Man of the Hour has yet to even make a cameo appearance.

After a closed door, daylong selection meeting in Long Lake on Feb. 12, Democratic committee chairs from the 12 counties in the 21st Congressional District announced that they were endorsing Aaron Woolf to succeed U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. Mr. Owens said last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election this year, which led activists from various political parties scrambling to see who would run for the seat.

“We unanimously agree that Aaron Woolf is the best candidate to continue Rep. Bill Owens’s work to protect our seniors and the Medicare guarantee, middle class families and reflect the independent spirit that makes the north country strong,” according to a statement released by Sheila A. Comar, Washington County’s party chairwoman and the appointed spokeswoman for the group. “Woolf is a problem-solver who will take a common-sense approach and is committed to working together to find solutions that create more jobs and spur New York’s economy.”

That’s a strong statement of support on the part of the Democratic committee chairs who blessed Mr. Woolf’s candidacy. There’s no doubt he takes comfort at having these individuals in his corner.

There is, however, a problem with the notion of Mr. Woolf representing the 21st Congressional District. While he has a residence in Elizabethtown, he has strong ties to New York City.

He is a long-form documentary filmmaker whose work includes “King Corn,” a Peabody Award-winning movie focusing on the industrialization of farming. He also owns an organic food store and deli in Brooklyn called Urban Rustic.

If Mr. Woolf is serious about representing the north country as a public official, he has concealed his enthusiasm for the task very well. As of late Tuesday, staff members of the Watertown Daily Times have been unable to get in contact with him. And it doesn’t appear that other media outlets have had any success in interviewing him.

That’s curious behavior for someone wishing to serve in elective office. Mr. Woolf has scheduled no known public forums as far as we can tell, and tracking down phone numbers for him has been a real challenge.

When will he emerge from his winter hibernation to answer questions from local news outlets as well as residents about what policies he intends to pursue if elected? As an endorsed candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, here are a few things we’d like Mr. Woolf to address:

n How familiar is Mr. Woolf with the major points of interest in the north country, particularly Fort Drum? The U.S. Army base is the single-largest employer in New York state, and it would be helpful to know how Mr. Woolf views Fort Drum’s ongoing role in our community, what he plans to do to enhance it and his attitude about defense spending.

n What policies would Mr. Woolf pursue to maintain the delivery of high-quality medical services in the north country? Local health care providers face extraordinary challenges, and we need to know what kind of leadership our representatives in Washington will provide to keep our medical options plentiful and affordable.

n What are Mr. Woolf’s thoughts on gun control measures? The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, passed a year ago by the New York State Legislature without advanced notice or public comment, has proven unpopular in the north country. Does he support or oppose the ideas contained in the law?

n What are the biggest economic challenges in the north country, and how would Mr. Woolf address them? Some counties in Northern New York share the highest rates of unemployment in the state. What is the best way to preserve our agricultural industry? How can the resources of the north country best be used to turn our economy around?

n How does Mr. Woolf view the Common Core State Standards? Supporters believe they are necessary to improve public education while critics state they usurp local control of teaching criteria. Where does Mr. Woolf stand on this debate?

n What are Mr. Woolf’s thoughts on the proposed Interstate 98? Some community leaders in the north country want to see a highway created that would connect I-81 in Watertown eastward to I-87 in Champlain. But another approach to upgrading our infrastructure is to improve bypasses along U.S. Route 11 around communities such as Canton and Potsdam. Does Mr. Woolf have any thoughts on the issue?

We are patiently waiting for Mr. Woolf to come out of hiding and declare how he intends to run his campaign. This should include his stances on a variety of issues, especially the ones we’ve outlined here.

The people whom Mr. Woolf wishes to represent on Capitol Hill deserve to know what he thinks about their day-to-day concerns — or that he even understands what their concerns are. He is urged to contact voters at his earliest convenience; operators are standing by!

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