The candidates have been chosen for an anticipated special election in the 23rd Congressional District.
Committee members in the major parties have selected their candidates to fill the seat of Rep. John McHugh, who is expected to have his presidential nomination as Secretary of the Army confirmed in the next few weeks.
Republican candidate Diedre "Dede" Scozzafava, Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, and Democratic candidate Bill Owens have emerged as the frontrunners in a three-way race for the yet-to-be-vacated seat.
Scozzafava, 49, of Gouverneur, is a State Assemblywoman representing New York's 122nd district, which makes up Lewis, much of St. Lawrence, and Jefferson Counties. She was chosen July 22 by a committee of GOP party chairs in each of the 11 counties within the Congressional District.
"I'm very honored to have received the nomination," she said, praising the open process by which party chairs interviewed the field of nine candidates. She has also been endorsed by the Independence party.
Scozzafava said she plans to focus her campaign on issues like job creation, economic development, and energy costs, which she sees as important.
"I think there's a very independent streak of people in the 23rd Congressional District," said Scozzafava, "and I think there are a lot of people tired of party politics."
Essex County Republican chair Ron Jackson described Scozzafava as an excellent candidate and a proven vote-getter. Though she tends to be more moderate on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, he said her record of fiscal conservatism should outweigh concerns that she is too liberal.
"I think that the majority of people understand her and will support her," said Jackson. "I don't think she will lose as (many voters) as she will gain for her consistency."
Some of Scozzafava's left-leaning views have put off many conservative Republicans, however, and Conservative party leaders chose Lake Placid accountant Doug Hoffman to challenge her.
Hoffman, 59, is the managing partner of Dragon, Benware, Crowley & Co., an accounting firm with offices throughout the North Country. He had originally run as a Republican, but sought the Conservative nod after GOP leaders chose Scozzafava. He was chosen Aug. 6 by a committee of party chairs.
"I have not left the Republican Party," Hoffman said at an Aug 5. press conference in Plattsburgh. "The Republican Party has left me and has turned its back on the voters of the 23rd Congressional District and on the values that made our party strong."
Hoffman said his more socially conservative views better reflect the moral fiber of North Country voters, and that Scozzafava is too willing to allow government spending.
"I am a fiscal conservative who believes that our government leaders are spending money we don't have," he said. "Ms. Scozzafava may say she is a fiscal conservative, but her record in Albany says otherwise."
Though he has never been an elected official, Hoffman said his experience as a business owner and former board member of the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation speaks to his ability to create jobs.
The field of candidates expanded once more on Aug. 10 when Democratic party chairs decided on Plattsburgh lawyer Bill Owens as their candidate.
Owens, 60, is an attorney with Stafford, Owens, Pillar, Murnane & Trombley PLLC in Plattsburgh. He is a veteran of the Air Force and has had a hand in forming the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC).
"I've devoted my career to serving our country and helping create jobs in New York State," Owens said. "I am running for Congress to use my experience to get our local economy moving again and create good paying jobs."
Owens said he was proud to have the support of Democratic party leaders, who called him "an effective, independent voice for our priorities."
"I'll work to bring home federal investments for our infrastructure and schools, private business investment like we brought into PARC, and help for our dairy farmers who are suffering from severe price deflation. And I'll work to make sure our servicemen and women at Fort Drum get the support they deserve."
If history is any indicator, Owens may have his work cut out for him. No Democrat has been elected to Congress in the region since the 1870s. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district about three to two.
Governor David Paterson, who is charged with setting a date for the special election, has yet to do so. Jackson said holding the special election along with the rest of the November 2009 elections would save money and effort for the 11 counties involved.
"I think the Governor will show some common sense and have it then," he said.