The race to replace Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), the well-liked two-termer who announced his retirement in January, has grown putrid.
This isn’t the fault of either one candidate or the other, but rather the natural byproduct of our political system and the modern-day political warfare hatched by Lee Atwater and perfected by Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove, the political operative who caused waves last week with the suggestion that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential Election, had suffered brain damage following a 2012 head injury.
Just sayin’, he later shrugged.
But upon being released into the cesspool that constitutes our national dialogue, the facts or the context behind his statements were no longer important: the well had been poisoned, which was the original goal.
The race to fill Owens’ seat hasn’t been defined by the critical issues facing the district, but rather around the revolving carousel of cheap talking points that even the dimmest and most feeble minds would probably find transparent.
Perhaps the most insidious is the residency issue that has both sides and their entourages — including the national committees for the two major parties who are now pumping major resources into a crucial race that will help determine which party will control the House — crying foul.
We think that candidates don’t have to be North Country natives in order to adequately represent the district. You don’t have to live here full-time.
Elise Stefanik, one of two Republicans seeking to capture the seat, was born in Albany County. After spending her twenties working in a series of unspecified jobs with fancy titles in Washington, she moved to Willsboro in mid-2013 and announced her candidacy.
That’s perfectly okay.
Aaron Woolf, the Democratic candidate, has been dogged since the rollout of his candidacy in mid-February that he is a cosmopolitan carpetbagger from New York City who only resides in Elizabethtown seasonally.
Matt Doheny, a sixth-generation North Country resident, prides himself on being the only candidate in the race who is really, legitimately, truly from here (never mind Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, who was born in Saratoga Springs and lives in Glens Falls but doesn’t wear it on his sleeve) and has used it as a common talking point through his campaign, his third for the seat.
Good for him.
What are you going to do for the North Country?
The relationship between residency, place of birth and job effectiveness are only connected by the most tenuous of strands.
We should instead be focusing on more important skills like communication, negotiation and the ability to secure federal funds that can boost the district’s moribund economy.
The candidates should be grilled on their ability to propose practical, common sense legislation and avoid the wedge issues that generate the pure emotional responses that derail rational discussion.
This is what the voters want. This is what local lawmakers want. This is what the candidates themselves appear to want. The only people who give a toss about the residency issue are the Karl Roves of the world.
The demographics for the district are not in our favor: We’re older than the rest of the country. We’re losing more people. We’re sicker, poorer and less educated. Public services and civic institutions that were once thought of as inviolable — schools, fire departments, emergency responders, churches, non-profits — are crumbling into dust.
We are dying.
So if we’re facing an influx of outsiders — whether they’re seasonal residents, Adirondack admirers or simply folks who want to better the quality of life here and want to the district to have a loud voice at the national level — we should listen to what they have to say and push them on where they stand on the issues, not where they sleep at night.