Bill Owens and Matt Doheny, candidates for the 23rd Congressional District, continued their scorching campaign on the floor of a local television station Wednesday.
Doheny and Owens spent the hour-long debate going after each other on taxes, government spending, job creation, health care and party loyalties.
Their answers to questions posed by three panelists and the general public mirrored those used in the numerous television commercials that have been running in recent weeks, many with a negative tone.
"More lies. He's lying right here on television," Doheny said in response to Owens's claim that Doheny, with his Wall Street background, supports big corporations and not middle-class Americans.
The debate was presented by Mountain Lake Public Television and featured panelists Susan Arbetter, the news and public affairs director for WCNY in Albany; Myra Decker, president of the Plattsburgh League of Women Voters; and Jack LaDuke, a Mountain Lake PBS reporter.
The debate also featured televised questions from area residents and questions from e-mails around the region.
Owens, an attorney from Plattsburgh, won the seat last year in a special election over Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman.
He is the first Democrat to win the seat since 1852.
Doheny, a Republican from Alexandria Bay who now lives in Watertown, is an investor who spent 10 years working on Wall Street helping restructure companies.
Owens defended his vote in favor of the health-care bill last March, saying that if Congress did nothing, costs would have continued to skyrocket.
He said he spent 27 years working on the health-care issue as the attorney for CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh and for other hospitals in the region, and hospital executives urged him to support the bill.
"If we took no steps, we would have seen rapid increases in costs with no opportunity to control it," he said.
Owens also acknowledged that the bill was not perfect, and he and others in Congress will monitor it and make changes that are necessary.
For instance, one provision of the bill calls for a 1099 form to be filled out for every transaction more than $600, which could drive costs way up for businesses.
Owens said he supported a bill to eliminate that portion of the bill, but it was defeated by Republicans.
Doheny said the new health-care bill gives way too much control to the government, which has proven it cannot do the job.
"It sounds like he is backpedaling," Doheny said.
"Do we really want the government running one-sixth of our economy—"
Doheny also said that the uncertainty the government has created regarding taxes has stymied business development.
"Businesses will stay on the sidelines, and they won't invest with uncertainty," he said.
Owens said the country got into the recession largely because of the behavior on Wall Street.
"He's (Doheny) spent most of his career there," Owens said.
"He wasn't creating jobs on Main Street."
Doheny repeatedly tied Owens to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, seen by Republicans as a tax-and-spend liberal.
"We have to get rid of Nancy Pelosi and Bill Owens," he said.
Owens often answered Doheny's charges by saying that he, not Pelosi, is running in the 23rd District.
He also said that it was eight years of Republicans under former President George W. Bush that caused the country's deficit.
"They wiped out the surplus, and Republicans don't have any rational plan to cut the deficit."
The debate will air tonight at 8 on Mountain Lake PBS.
It will also run at 5:30 a.m. and noon Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday; and 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday.
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