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A collage of some of the yard signs on display around the North Country. Photo: Mark Kurtz
A collage of some of the yard signs on display around the North Country. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Reporter's roundtable: Election 2012

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We are coming down to the wire of the 2012 election. In the Nation, New York State, and the North Country, much could change between this morning and Wednesday morning.

The race for Congress in the North Country is an apparent dead heat between Democratic incumbent Bill Owens and Republican challenger Matt Doheny. That race is fueled by millions of dollars in donations from outside the district, much of it from undisclosed donors.

St. Lawrence County voters face a dramatically redrawn set of electoral districts that divide the county into four Assembly districts and three state Senate districts. And incumbent Assemblywoman Janet Duprey faces a Conservative surge in the 115th district.

Martha Foley talks with Brian Mann and David Sommerstein about the races, and how tomorrow's vote could shape the region's political landscape.

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We have to start with the Bill Owens-Matt Doheny race, which for one thing is down to a neck-and-neck finish.

Brian Mann: Yeah, I think that's right, it's incredibly tight in the polls. The latest polls from Siena and also an in-house poll from the Doheny campaign show this is a one-point race. Matt Doheny clearly finishing with a lot of momentum, a huge barrage of campaign ads, and he's been out on the trail and Bill Owens also stepping up his campaign in the final days, and so this one is going to be very, very close.

And a lot of money in this race.

BPM: There's been just a huge outpouring of money from within the district, but…the vast majority of dollars in this race coming from outside. We've added up with help from Open Secrets more than $2.5 million in outside funding to the Doheny campaign, and also, independently supporting his candidacy, a little over a million and a half dollars going to Bill Owens, so that's a lot of dollars coming to the little old North Country to try to tip this balance.

And then at the last minute, the third party candidate, Don Hassig, throwing his support to Bill Owens. Is that significant?

David Sommerstein: Yeah, it could be very significant. If it's a one point lead, he had been polling at one point at about six percent, Don Hassig, the Green Party Candidate…and the latest poll put him at…four percent. So yeah, that could make a big difference—you would assume most of those votes would otherwise go to Owens, the Democrat, and so Hassig just said over the weekend that he's encouraging his voters to vote for the Democrat Owens.

What's sort of ironic about this whole thing is that in the last two elections that Owens won, he won perhaps with the aid of a third party spoiler, the Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.

Let's turn to a quick recap of the state races. We're looking at a pretty contentious race over on your side, Brian, the 115th Assembly District race. How's that shaping up in the last day or so?

BPM: Well again, there's a third party interest here. We've got Karen Bisso, who is a Conservative party candidate, running on the right flank of Janet Duprey, the longtime moderate Republican, also Tim Carpenter who is a Democrat running in that race, so a three-way.

You know, in the past, Duprey has survived these kinds of Conservative challenges, but this again is one that looks like it could be very close, to me. It's been a fierce race, Duprey's support for same-sex marriage, and her pro-choice stance has angered a lot of conservatives in her district.

And she also faces redistricting—there are new chunks of turf that she has to try to win over this time, people who don't know here very well in St. Lawrence County, so we'll have to see how that one plays.

David, you reported on poor St. Lawrence County being chopped up between four Assembly, three Senate districts…

DS: It's pretty crazy, I mean St. Lawrence County really got sort of the bum end of the stick from Albany's redistricting this year, and will be sort of the small population cluster in seven different districts.

So the population centers with the most people and therefore you would imagine the most electoral force, being in places like Plattsburgh, or Glens Falls, or even down in Fulton County, and also SLC voters have to learn who these lawmakers they would be voting for, are. We have a story on our web site that says exactly that, and also says exactly which town you're in and what race you're going to be voting for…We have a nice chart.

Brian, back to the larger implications, these are all dead heat races. If the North Country tips conservative, what do you see there?

BPM: This could be very interesting. We've had this kind of strange phenomenon where this traditionally conservative area has gone very Democratic recently. We had two members of Congress from our region for a while who were Democratic, we had Darrel Aubertine who was a Democratic Senator in a big part of the North Country, of course Bill Owens has maintained his hold on the 23rd and now the 21st district.

But what we could see on Tuesday is a big reversal of that whole trend, if Karen Bisso wins, a very moderate Republican, again, pro-choice, pro-same-sex-marriage will be out, we know Teresa Sayward is hanging it up, she's a very moderate Republican assemblywoman who again supported same-sex marriage, she's going to be replaced by a more conservative Dan Stec, very likely, from the Republican party.

So if Matt Doheny also pulls off a win here, and ousts Bill Owens, we could really see that kind of high tide of Democratic support in the North Country reversed, and some very, very conservative politicians like Bisso and like Matt Doheny stepping in and kind of changing the political climate. So this is an election where we really could see kind of a change of temperature across the region.

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