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At dinner, St. Lawrence Democrats roll up their sleeves

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CANTON — The Democratic Party has an uphill battle in St. Lawrence County as it enters the final month of the 2012 campaign, party leaders say.

Rep. William L. Owens said much of that work will involve boots on the ground.

“My staff has made over 180,000 phone calls and door-knocks,” said Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. “That is a lot of face-to-face contact.”

Before elections, political parties typically brim with confidence as candidates and local leaders try to fire up their base.

That wasn’t the case at the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee annual dinner Wednesday evening as state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli emphasized much work remained in the 31 days before the Nov. 6 election.

“Barack Obama said nothing is going to come easy,” he said. “But we certainly need to stay the course.”

Keitha Arquiett, a Hopkinton native given the Silas A. Wright Award, reminded the attendees that local and national candidates depend on local volunteers to get out the vote.

“It is our job to help them. They can’t do it alone,” she said. “The older I get, the harder I work because I am a bad loser — and I am passionate about Democrats.”

Stephanie A. Miner, co-chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, sounded a familiar call to motivate the party base. “When you get weary, remember that your hard work has made a difference and you have changed the complexion of our state,” she said. “Work like it matters, because it does.”

Ms. Miner, who filled in as keynote speaker because state Attorney General Eric D. Schneiderman was unable to attend, said St. Lawrence County was slowly becoming a blue county.

“It has never been easy in St. Lawrence County to be a Democrat,” she said. “There was a time when people thought it was impossible to have a Democratic congressman, and now you have a Democratic congressman.”

That congressman, Mr. Owens, took the podium to call for the end of legislative gridlock.

“I get asked about two things, jobs, and ‘why don’t you people work together?’” he said. “We need to get back to a place where we debate the facts, we negotiate, and we come to common-sense agreements.”

Mr. Owens pointed to his efforts to advance a farm bill through Congress, where he created a voting bloc with Reps. Brian B. Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Peter F. Welch, D-Vermont.

“We voted for our constituents’ interests, not our own political interest,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens advocated a more civil political tone.

“The conversation is negative,” he said. “We need to tell the people a positive story and what we want to get done.”

Mr. Owens also defended the federal Affordable Care Act as a tool that will reduce the cost of health care while improving outcomes.

By far the most vocal contingent came from organized labor, who made up almost half the attendees. “America has a strong middle class because we have a strong labor movement,” Mr. DiNapoli said. “The two go hand in hand.”

Dinner organizer Robin St. Andrews, who estimated about 225 people attended the event, said the mood was positive.

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