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NY21 Debate: Candidates spar in Plattsburgh

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Two of the three candidates for the North Country's congressional seat squared off in Plattsburgh Tuesday night for a debate sponsored by WPTZ television.

Green Party candidate Donald Hassig wasn't included in the debate, but the forum did include an opportunity for Republican challenger Matt Doheny and Democratic congressman Bill Owens to question each other about issues ranging from Medicare reform to trade with China.

The exchange was heated at times, with the two men accusing each other of misleading voters and embracing policies that hurt the North Country.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Tuesday's debate at the Valcour Conference Center largely rehashed themes that have played out in a barrage of TV and radio ads, with Republican challenger Matt Doheny accusing Democratic congressman Bill Owens of embracing high taxes and big government programs.

"We cannot tax our way to growth, it's simple," Doheny argued.

"I've been involved with hundreds of businesses. And guess what? Never once have I heard, 'You know what, Matt? If you raise my taxes, hit me with more regulations and ladle on mandates, I’m going to grow.'"

Owens counterpunched, accusing Doheny of trying to privatize Medicare. "You would allow private insurance companies to participate in the Medicare program," Owens said, arguing that the proposal is "in fact privatization"

Why do you support Barack Obama for president of the United States?
The liveliest segment of the debate on WPTZ came when the candidates questioned each other directly. Doheny asked Owens about his loyalty to President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

"Why do you support Barack Obama for president of the United States?" Doheny said.

Owens argued that Obama "has the interest of the middle class at heart" and claimed that Doheny's policies would hurt middle class Americans.

Doheny countered, arguing that Democratic policies embraced by Obama and Owens "don’t let businesses thrive."

Owens, meanwhile, said that he would push for tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans. He asked Doheny how he would pay for lost federal tax revenue that would result if Bush-era tax cuts are left in place. "You did not tell us how you would pay for those tax cuts," Owens said. "Do you not have an answer?"

"Reduce spending," Doheny said. "Reduce the size and scope of government."

"What are you going to cut?" Owens pursued.

"Reduce spending," the Republican repeated. Doheny then explained that he would cut "corporate welfare," including subsidies for alternative energy and oil companies. "That's how I'll pay for it," he concluded.

This race remains the highest-profile contest in the North Country, but questions remain about how competitive Matt Doheny is in this second run against Owens.

Owens has led in every poll, leading by 13 percent according to the last independent survey issued by the Siena Research Institute.

Tuesday, the Watertown Daily Times reported that the Owens raised nearly three times as much money as the Republican in the last filing period.

According to the newspaper, going into these final weeks, Owens has nearly twice as much cash on hand, with Doheny forced to loan his own campaign $300,000.

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