By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With the race for the 21 District Congressional seat too close to call, both candidates made their final campaign push Monday.
Republican challenger Matt Doheny made stops in the eastern portion of the district with former Republican New York Gov. George E. Pataki before heading to the western shores, while incumbent Democrat Bill Owens held a rally in his hometown.
“We want to make sure that people know there is a clear choice,” Doheny said, with Pataki by his side, at a stop at the Homestead Restaurant in Plattsburgh Monday morning.
“We are just asking for people to give us a chance.”
Owens said he wants to return to Congress because there is more important work to be done.
“We want to lift up the middle class, and that will lift up all other boats,” he told a crowd of supporters at his headquarters on Margaret Street Monday evening.
“That’s the most important thing we can do.”
NECK AND NECK
The latest polls showed Doheny only one point behind Owens, indicating a virtual tie in the 12-county district. Owens, who beat Doheny in a close race in 2010, had held a double-digit lead in polls in late September.
Green Party candidate Donald Hassig trails far behind, with less than 5 percent in most polls. The Green Party has distanced itself from the controversial Hassig, who has been arrested six times during the campaign, mostly for disorderly conduct as he has refused to leave public venues when asked to do so by authorities.
Last week, Hassig called for his supporters to vote for Owens.
Doheny, an investor from Watertown, said he believes he is gaining momentum because voters in the district are fed up with high unemployment rates, high taxes and big deficits.
“We need a change,” he said. “This is one of the races where people’s votes will actually matter.”
Doheny said he did not believe Hassig’s change in support to Owens would make a difference.
Pataki said the race reminds him of the first time he was elected governor, when he beat three-term incumbent Democrat Mario Cuomo in 1994 as the state struggled with fiscal difficulties.
“Electing Matt Doheny is one of the most important things that we can do for the North Country,” Pataki said.
“This is a very important race, not only for the party but for the people.”
Pataki, who has a son serving in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in Watertown, said he is worried that Democrats will make massive cuts to the military.
“Matt will fight for that (against military cuts),” the former governor said.
Pataki joined Doheny on visits to Lake Placid in Essex County and to Glens Falls and Wilton in Warren County.
The district, redrawn after the 2010 census, now includes Warren and Washington counties and part of Saratoga County, all of which feature more registered Republican voters than Democrats, by about 32,000.
District-wide, Republicans outweigh Democrats by about 58,000 voters.
Doheny is also running on the Conservative and Independence party lines, and Owens is on the Working Families Party line.
In the district, 22,707 voters are registered with the Independence Party, 5,223 are with the Conservative Party, and 1,600 are signed up as the Working Family Party. The district also has 894 Green Party voters and 74,026 people who are not registered with any party.
The total number of voters in the district is 396,310.
Doheny, who was also endorsed last week by Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak, a fellow Republican, said the new battleground areas will be key.
“It could very well make a difference,” he said.
Owens said he concentrated on all 12 counties.
“Every county is a battleground county, and that’s the way we are treating each one,” he said.
CUOMO, CLINTON SUPPORT
Owens, an attorney from Plattsburgh, was the first Democrat to win the seat since 1852 when he defeated Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman of Saranac Lake in a special election in 2009 to fill the seat of Republican John McHugh of Pierrepont Manor.
McHugh left the post when he was appointed secretary of the Army by President Barack Obama in June of that year.
Before Owens held his rally at his campaign offices Monday evening, he made visits in Saratoga Springs in Saratoga County, Glens Falls in Warren County and Greenwich in Washington County.
“The conversations are still the same in those counties,” he said.
“People are still focused on jobs, bipartisanship and the Farm Bill.”
Last week, Owens was endorsed by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Congressman Owens has shown a serious commitment to strengthening New York’s economy and is working hard every day to help create jobs in the state,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“We need a champion in Washington who will fight for working families and good-paying jobs; that’s why I am standing with Bill in this election.”
Former President Bill Clinton issued a robotic telephone message Monday to voters in the district in support of Owens’s re-election.
Owens said he welcomed Hassig’s support as well.
“We appreciate support from everyone. It is a collective effort,” he said.
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