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Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. Photo: Mark Kurtz

NY 21: GOP's Sayward backs DEM Bill Owens

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One of the North Country's top Republican lawmakers says she's backing Democrat Bill Owens in the race for congress. Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who is stepping down at the end of this year, campaigned with Owens over the weekend.

The Democrat is facing a stiff challenge from Republican Matt Doheny, who lost narrowly to Owens two years ago. Sayward's endorsement comes as both candidates work to win over moderate voters and women who could decide the race.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward from Willsboro is one of the Republican Party's veterans, a top vote getter in Essex and Warren County for years. But she has bucked her party before on big issues.

She led the fight to champion gay rights in Albany and was an early supporter of same-sex marriage. She's also announced that she'll be voting for Barack Obama in the presidential race. Now Sayward says she's crossing party lines to back Plattsburgh Democrat Bill Owens, saying he's been "doing a great job”. "I've known Bill for many, many years. He's a businessman and he works in a nonpartisan way in Congress." 

Sayward campaigned with Owens in Port Henry over the Labor Day weekend. In order to win another term in Washington, Owens will need support from voters like Sayward: Moderate Republicans and women. 

Owens spoke yesterday with North Country Public Radio, and said if you look back on the last two elections, it’s clear that many people voted across party lines, “and they recognized that I'm someone who is moderate or centrist or whatever you want to call it."

Owens has also won the backing of Moriah's popular Republican town supervisor Tom Scozzafava. But Jude Seymour, a spokesman for Republican challenger Matt Doheny, points out that the vast majority of GOP leaders are working hard to defeat Owens.

Asked whether Sayward's endorsement could sway moderate Republicans in the North Country, Seymour answered this way: "It's really impossible to determine who's swayed that block more. Obviously we try to appeal to all types of Republican and moderate Republicans...hear Matt's message of pro-business. You know Matt. He's not an ideologue, he's not a bomb thrower."

Seymour also said she rejects the idea that Owens is a moderate, pointing to the Democrats' vote for the healthcare reform legislation sometimes referred to as "Obamacare": "So he can cast himself any way he like, but savvy voters know the difference.”

It's important to note that Sayward isn't just bucking her party on this endorsement. She's also parting ways with other moderates, including Assemblywoman Janet Duprey from Peru. Duprey describes Owens as "a friend" but says she's backing Doheny. "I support Republicans, I always have. I've supported Matt in each of his runs, each of his campaigns, and will continue to do that through Election Day."

It's always unclear how much endorsements matter to voters. But if the 21st District race turns out to be as close as it was in 2010, when Owens beat Doheny by fewer than 2,000 votes, even small factor could help decide the outcome. 

 

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