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The 21st Congressional District race shapes up to be a good cure for insomnia


A couple of months ago I wrote in this column that the 21st Congressional District race was shaping up to be an interesting one.

Whatever interest it was building between then and now has decidedly taken a nosedive. I have not seen any of the candidates captivating north country voters. None of them have deviated from their respective national political parties’ talking points or offered any substantial information about how they are going to make the north country a better place to live, work and do business.

Sure, when we have asked them specific questions they answer with a little detail about how they want to jumpstart the north country economy or protect Fort Drum or whatever. But even those details have not lent a lot of substance to where they stand on specific issues.

They are all in favor of jobs. They all want lower taxes. They all want Fort Drum to stay where it is. I am sure they all also like Mom and America and apple pie.

None of them has outlined exactly what their goals are or how they could accomplish them. It’s all well and good to say you want to lower taxes, but how are you going to do that? How are you going to create jobs? How are you going to jumpstart the north country economy? How?

As I was pondering this column, I wondered if maybe I was being unfair. So I went to each of their campaign websites, hoping to uncover information that maybe I hadn’t yet seen.

The campaign sites for Republican Matt Doheny of Watertown and Democrat Aaron Woolf of Elizabethtown give a good amount of biographical information about the candidates but do not offer much information, if any, about where they stand on the issues. Republican Elise Stefanik of Wilsboro, in addition to offering comprehensive biographical information, has multiple bullet points on her website that offer two-paragraph blurbs about her feelings about the economy, finance, the environment and a bunch of other issues. But alas, only a few of the pages about specific topics seemed to be working Friday. Even those that did work didn’t really didn’t say much about anything she could do to support her beliefs if elected. I looked for a website for Republican Joseph Gilbert of DeKalb Junction, who says he is still in the running, possibly as an independent candidate, but could not find one. His Facebook page contains a lot of information about his feelings about various topics, which I am sure some voters would find helpful, but no information about specific goals or how he would accomplish them.

The only way a voter would get anything close to substantial information about these candidates is to read the profiles our newspapers and other media outlets have written about them. Even then, those profiles only offer a glance into their views and goals. And no one has a specific plan to accomplish whatever goals they have outlined.

To make matters worse, the campaign rhetoric has already devoled into sniping, with the Doheny campaign painting Ms. Stefanik as a “D.C. insider” and Mr. Woolf as a carpetbagger. Mr. Woolf’s campaign has been attempting to tie Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal to Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik. The Stefanik campaign so far has kept its blows above the belt, but seems to mostly want to talk about repealing Obamacare.

I wonder if any of them has actually met the people of the north country. The average north country voter doesn’t pay enough attention to the House of Representatives’ inner workings to know what’s in Paul Ryan’s budget or why they might be inclined to care about it. They might not particularly care that Ms. Stefanik while in her early 20s was a White House aide under President George W. Bush. Since when does taking aim at an opposing candidate’s college internship lead to campaign victory? And how can a freshman lawmaker set repealing a newly enacted federal law as a realistic goal? Good luck with that.

At least they all say they aren’t fond of the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act. That’s nice, but the mathematical calculations associated with the probability a federal representative will be able to do anything to do away with a state law work out to exactly zero.

North country voters need and deserve substance from their congressional candidates, and so far none of them has delivered. Until any of the candidates can outline some realistic, attainable goals to make the north country a better place, the only conclusion any of us can draw is that whoever gets our vote will just be a mouthpiece for whatever national political committee is supporting his or her congressional bid. North country voters deserve better than that.

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