July 29, 2009

Dems to make pick for Congress



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PLATTSBURGH — Democrats will choose their candidate for the 23rd Congressional District at a meeting Aug. 10.

The field is now up to 11, with two from Essex County, two from Franklin County and one from Clinton County.

"We will continue to review the applications we have received," Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Sean Hennessey said in a statement.

"We will nominate a strong candidate who will campaign aggressively and win this special election before heading to Congress to work to create jobs in our district and get our economy back on track."

The seat in the 23rd District will open when incumbent John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) is confirmed as the new secretary of the Army in the next few weeks.

A special election will likely be held either in September or November, depending on Gov. David Paterson's choice.

Republicans have chosen Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman from Gouverneur in St. Lawrence County as their candidate.

She was picked from a field of nine candidates last week.

Her choice has angered some Republicans who feel that she is far too liberal to be the GOP candidate.

James Kelly, a retired New York City detective who now lives in Wilmington, announced that he wants to run as the Conservative candidate, in opposition to Scozzafava's nod as the Republican candidate.

Republicans have held the seat since the Civil War era, but Democrats believe that they have a legitimate shot in this special election.

Democrat Scott Murphy won a special election in February against Republican James Tedisco in the heavily Republican 20th District near Albany.

The 23rd District is the largest east of the Mississippi River, containing 11 counties from Lake Ontario in the west to Lake Champlain in the east.

William Owens, a longtime Plattsburgh attorney, is the Clinton County candidate in the field of 11 Democrats.

Stuart Brody, the former Essex County Democratic Party chairman and head of the Democratic Rural Conference, and Andrew Bisselle, executive director of Camp Dudley YMCA in Westport, are the Essex County candidates.

Bisselle was one of the nine who sought the Republican nod, but he has since switched parties because, he said, Scozzafava is far too liberal for Republican voters in the district.

"I would be a candidate who works to attract new jobs to the area, support the military, be a fiscal conservative and someone who takes moderate to conservative positions on social issues," Bisselle said.

"I am trying to create an option through the process that will give the voters in the district a candidate who is in sync with them."

Scozzafava has said that she supports individual rights and respects different opinions, but she believes the economy is the No. 1 issue and, on that, she is fiscally conservative, a trademark of the Republican Party.

In Franklin County, Rudolph Johnson, an engineer and Vietnam veteran from Malone, and David Ryan, who is from Saranac Lake, are also seeking the Democratic nod.

Michael Oot of Madison County, who ran against McHugh and lost decidedly last year, is also seeking the party's endorsement, as are Dr. Robert Johnson and Danny Francis of Jefferson County, who both lost to McHugh twice before.

The Democratic Party heads of the 11 counties will meet on Monday, Aug. 10, at Syracuse University's Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake to decide on a candidate.

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