PLATTSBURGH — It was no surprise that the two candidates participating in Sunday night's 23rd Congressional District forum are not in favor of the president's proposed health-care reform plan.
Eyebrows were raised, however, when the third candidate did not show up.
Republican candidate Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman spent an hour fielding questions from the crowd of about 200 people at the event sponsored by the UNYTEA Party, a recently formed taxpayer group.
But Democrat William Owens was not there.
"I am going to be very candid and say that I am very disappointed in that," UNYTEA founder and forum moderator Mark L. Barie said.
"There's a big crowd here, and I can't think of an issue that is more important to North Country people than health care."
Barie said Owens's campaign called late Saturday and told him that Owens, a Plattsburgh attorney, would be in Oswego at an event and could not make it.
Scozzafava, an assemblywoman from St. Lawrence County, traveled three hours from her home in Gouverneur, and Hoffman an hour from Lake Placid to attend the event held at the Westside Ballroom on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
The race is to decide who will fill John McHugh's seat. McHugh was confirmed as secretary of the Army last month.
During the forum, Scozzafava and Hoffman, an accountant, answered about a dozen questions about health care.
Scozzafava said several times that while rising health-care costs need to be contained, she does not see the need to totally revamp the system.
"I don't see what the rush is," she said.
"I think before we drastically overhaul the system we need to find some common ground to control costs."
Hoffman said costs for everything, and not just health care, need to be reigned in.