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Congressional candidates must take a stand on north country issues

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When driving around Northern New York, it’s easy to get lost if you aren’t familiar with the countryside.

The rolling hills and wooded areas make for a great postcard, but one region can look very similar to another. A county road could turn into a dirt path, which may end up becoming someone’s driveway.

The north country is expansive and requires some knowledge of the geography to navigate. And as vast as upstate New York is, the political issues on the minds of its residents are even larger.

This makes the upcoming election for the 21st Congressional District so important. This district goes from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River on the west to New York state’s border with Vermont on the east.

The issues that people care about are as varied as is the topography. And just like knowing the backroads is helpful to getting around, understanding the political lay of the land is essential.

U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, won’t seek re-election this year. The candidates who have lined up to succeed him are Matthew A. Doheny, Watertown, who will seek the Republican nomination; Matthew J. Funiciello, Glen Falls, who will appear on the Green Party ballot; Elise M. Stefanik, Willsboro, who will also seek the GOP nod as well as appear on the Conservative Party ballot; and Aaron G. Woolf, Elizabethtown, who will be on the Democratic Party ballot.

Anyone who would represent this district in Congress must articulate their positions on north country issues and how they would govern. Unfortunately, far too much time has been wasted on trivial matters. This campaign has seen political capers, fraudulent mailers, bickering over irrelevant issues and harassing investigations.

Political consultants from Washington, each taking directions from disparate political factions, think they know what is best for the residents of this vast district. They do not understand. They do not vote here. They do not live here.

The candidates have not had many public, substantive discussions about the things that concern north country residents the most. The GOP primary is in about a month, and voters are demanding that candidates state their opinions and provide insights on the future of this congressional district. Here are some questions the candidates need to answer:

n With the proposed cuts in military troops, how can the candidates ensure that Fort Drum remains an essential part of our armed forces? What are their thoughts about locating an anti-ballistic missile defense facility or expanding the use of drones there?

n With one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, what measures will the next representative support to add jobs to a stagnant local economy? How will those policies support “living wage” jobs?

n What do the candidates believe is the best approach to keeping the St. Lawrence River clean and vibrant? How would they protect the waterway from the encroachment of invasive species?

n With rural hospitals facing financial crises on almost a daily basis, how can the healthcare system be modified to ensure rural residents have adequate access to the medical care they need and deserve?

n What can be done to preserve and expand the Environmental Protection Fund?

nGiven that agriculture is the predominant industry in the north country, what would the candidates do to protect farms and reinvigorate agri-business here?

n How effective and necessary are federal subsidies for wind farm projects?

n What are the candidates’ thoughts on controlling the water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River?

n Where do the candidates stand on border issues? Should national security override the desire residents have to travel freely between Northern New York and Canada and the need for smooth commercial travel?

n Should the federal government create a “rooftop highway” between Watertown and Plattsburgh?

This upcoming election is of utmost importance. We urge the candidates to delve into those items that will most impact this region’s future.

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