WATERTOWN — Over the course of three televised debates, this year’s congressional candidates have had ample opportunity to put their platforms in front of the voters of New York’s 21st Congressional District.
Republican Elise M. Stefanik, Democrat Aaron G. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello agreed and disagreed with each other and launched attacks with pointed questions. During the month of October, a clearer picture emerged of each candidate, though some questions remained.
The burden of proof was on Mr. Woolf, who trailed Ms. Stefanik by 13 points in September, according to a poll conducted by WWNY TV/Siena College, though an automated poll released at the beginning of the month showed him closing the gap to within eight points.
Whether he was able to move the needle at all will remain to be seen as WWNY-TV and Siena College are slated to release the results of a second poll next week before the Nov. 4 election.
In the meantime, voters and political watchers will parse through the results of the third televised debate, filmed at WWNY-TV in Watertown, which held fewer clashes or gaffes than earlier meetings.
The candidates used the occasion to drive home the major points of their campaigns. For Ms. Stefanik, a reaction to what she characterized as the harmful policies of President Barack Obama and a promise to bring fresh ideas to Washington; for Mr. Woolf, a pragmatic approach to fixing parts of existing legislation and work toward improving infrastructure; and for Mr. Funiciello, a sweeping plan to return the government to the service of the working class.
Amid this review of various campaign pledges and promises, some of the most interesting answers came in response to questions about the Affordable Care Act and Fort Drum.
North Country Public Radio reporter David Sommerstein asked Ms. Stefanik about an event of which she has often spoken on the campaign trail — the cancellation of the health care plan offered by her family’s small business Premium Plywood Products.
Mr. Sommerstein asked Ms. Stefanik if the Affordable Care Act did what it was supposed to do by requiring the business to offer higher quality health care coverage.
“We actually had very high quality coverage that was cost-effective,” Ms. Stefanik said. “It was a very high quality health care plan but because of the confusing aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance provider canceled all health care plans and re-issued new ones. ... I think when we focus on healthcare reform as a country today, we need to do so on a bipartisan basis and focus on lowering costs and increasing quality and accessibility.”
Mr. Funiciello and Mr. Woolf were allowed to respond to Ms. Stefanik’s statements.
“I’d just like to say that as a small business owner, there’s a really simple answer to the healthcare woes we’re experiencing in the United States and the ACA is definitely not it,” Mr. Funiciello said. “Single-payer healthcare is the right answer. It’s used in almost every industrialized nation in the world, everyone has healthcare in those countries and it’s free. ... What we don’t understand in the United States is we’re already paying for that healthcare but 80 million of us are not getting it.”
“I will admit that the Affordable Care Act is an imperfect piece of legislation. ... But it is a piece of legislation that is now providing healthcare options for 38,000 children with pre-existing conditions in this district that could not be covered otherwise,” Mr. Woolf said. “The Affordable Care Act has problems but it’s helping people and it needs to be fixed.”
That question was followed by a question about Fort Drum, the largest single-site employer in New York state and the driver of the north country economic engine.
Thom Hallock of Mountain Lake PBS asked Mr. Funiciello why he seems to have staked out a position that would run counter to the popular notion that Fort Drum’s stature in the north country must be defended at all costs.
“Whenever we talk about Fort Drum and cuts at the national level, it doesn’t sound like you’re much of a fighter,” Mr. Hallock said. “You say the Army needs to reduce forces, we don’t need as many soldiers, cuts are coming, we need to find alternatives.”
“Very simply put Thom, not only am I a fighter, but I think that I’m a warrior by comparison to the two people who are up here on the stage today,” Mr. Funiciello said. “I don’t say that as an offense to either of them. ... I have a much more direct connection, as a member of the working class, to our children we have sent in an unconstitutional war. Therefore, to me, the military is never and should never be economic development.”
Mr. Woolf and Ms. Stefanik both pledged support for Fort Drum. Mr. Woolf said he is the only candidate who has proposed ways to raise the general revenue to support Fort Drum and Ms. Stefanik said she would request a position on the Armed Services Committee to advocate for the post.
Throughout the past month, it has been interesting to see the two major party candidates interact with Mr. Funiciello, who has positioned himself as the charismatic outsider with nothing to lose.
Eschewing the normal trappings of politics with his refusal to wear a tie and take corporate money, Mr. Funiciello, according to conventional wisdom, offers more of a challenge to Mr. Woolf’s candidacy than he does to Ms. Stefanik.
Mr. Funiciello has lobbed rhetorical hand grenades at both his opponents, however agreeably, calling them carpet baggers and corporate candidates, but both Mr. Woolf and Ms. Stefanik have embraced him for his candor.
As a third party candidate, Mr. Funiciello is still a long shot and may help Ms. Stefanik by drawing votes away from Mr. Woolf.
The ultimate effect he will have on the race remains to be seen, however.
The WWNY TV/ Siena College poll showed him garnering 10 percent of the vote. The automated poll, conducted by Harper Polling, showed him drawing only eight percent.
AGGRAVATED UNLICENSED OPERATION - MASSENA - Village police charged Brian M. Curtis, 20, of 28 Cherry St., Potsdam, with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation and ticketed him for a stop sign violation and inadequate muffler following a traffic stop at 8:08 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of McClusky Avenue and South Main Street. He was released on $150 cash bail.
SPEED IN ZONE - MASSENA - Village police ticketed Amber A. Bissonnette, 26, of Cornwall, Ont., for speed in zone following a traffic stop at 3:12 p.m. Tuesday on East Hatfield Street.
STOP SIGN - MASSENA - Village police ticketed Matthew S. Hurlbutt, 44, of Chase Mills for a stop sign violation following a traffic stop at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Parker and Alvern.
MASSENA - A mid-afternoon one-vehicle car accident on the North Racquette River Road in the town of Massena sent one woman to Massena Memorial Hospital with minor injuries Tuesday.
Various agencies responded to the scene shortly after 3 p.m. and an investigation is ongoing.
Those groups on the scene included the Massena Rescue Squad, Massena-based state police, the Massena Electric Department, and the Massena Volunteer Fire Department.
MASSENA - Brendan Wrenn, owner of 25 Silver Boutiques, has opened his newest store location in St. Lawrence Centre.
The new location will carry such popular brands as Alex and Ani, Vera Bradley, Mariana, Hot Diamonds and Fossil.
The new St. Lawrence Centre location will be the seventh (7) store in the 25 Silver Boutiques chain, with other locations in Colonie Center Mall, Aviation Mall, Wilton Mall, a seasonal store in Lake George, Stuyvesant Plaza and Champlain Centre Mall in Plattsburgh, NY . “This location in St. Lawrence Centre was an ideal fit for our store, we are able to carry the brands that people love and can continue to grow our customer base in Upstate New York.
25 Silver Boutique is proud to serve Upstate New York with the latest in women’s jewelry, handbags, fashion accessories and gift ideas. We have expanded not only our product lines but also our locations as well in order to continue to provide the best service to our customers.
CANTON — A December trial date has been set in federal court for a Hermon couple charged with sexually exploiting four victims after also being accused on state charges of kidnapping two Heuvelton girls.
Nicole F. Vaisey, 25, of 1380 County Route 21, waived her right Tuesday to personally appear at arraignment in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to answer to a 21-count superseding indictment handed up Oct. 8 against her and Stephen M. Howells II, 39, same address. Through her attorney, Bradford C. Riendeau, Watertown, she entered not guilty pleas to each count.
Howells had previously waived his right to appear at arraignment and entered not guilty pleas. Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter scheduled a Dec. 15 trial in Syracuse before Judge Glenn T. Suddaby.
Howells and Vaisey are being held without bail at the St. Lawrence County jail awaiting grand jury action on state charges alleging two counts of first-degree kidnapping with the intent to inflict physical injury or sexually violate or sexually abuse. The couple first were charged with the abduction Aug. 13 of two Amish sisters from their roadside farm stand near Heuvelton. They are accused of luring the children into the car using a puppy with the intention of keeping the girls as slaves. The girls were released the following day after an Amber Alert generated an intensive search for them.
On Sept.. 18, a federal grand jury indicted Howells and Vaisey with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of conspiracy to sexually exploit children. Federal authorities said Howells and Vaisey sexually exploited the two Amish sisters from Heuvelton, ages 7 and 12, as well as a third child, now 8 years old, who allegedly was abused from 2012 until this year.
The superseding indictment accuses the pair of sexually exploiting three additional victims, including one count of conspiracy to sexually exploit children between September 2013 and August. They also are charged together with nine substantive counts of exploiting three of the children during that period. The nine counts represent nine separate dates on which the exploitation allegedly occurred.
Howells is also charged with possessing child pornography on five hard drives recovered from his residence. It is alleged that the images and video files possessed on these drives involve images of prepubescent minors and minors under the age of 12.
The couple faces a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment, and up to 30 years on the conspiracy charge, and on each of the substantive exploitation counts. Howells also faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on each of the pornography possession counts.
WELFARE FRAUD - BOMBAY - Malone-based state police picked up Deana M. Laughing, 45, of Bombay on an arrest warrant early Monday afternoon charging her with fifth-degree welfare fraud, second-degree offering a false instrument for filing and petit larceny. She was arraigned in local court, sent to the Franklin County Jail and released after posting $1,000 bail.
PROPERTY DAMAGE ACCIDENTS - CANTON - State police investigated a number of property damage accidents around the region on Monday. Among those:
• Tamara R. Bedard, 47, of North Lawrence at 10:39 a.m. on Route 11, near the McEwen Road, in the town of Lawrence.
SUSPENDED REGISTRATION - MASSENA - Village police ticketed Trevor D. Wright, 23, of County Route 14, Madrid, for operation of a vehicle with a suspended registration at 8;25 p.m. Monday following a traffic stop on Main Street.
The Police Blotter
Monday, Oct. 20, 2014
0752 Traffic stop on Main Street. Verbal warning issued.
0800 Medical alarm activation at 28 Munson St.
0830 Hold up alarm at Adirondack Federal Credit Union. Patrols responded, and it was determined that it was a false alarm.
1042 Handicap parking permit issued to a subject.
1055 Handicap parking permit issued to a subject.
1136 Property damage accident on Riverview Drive.
1225 Fingerprints completed for a subject.
1330 Equipment inspection completed for a subject.
1620 Neighbor dispute on Racquette Road.
1629 Potsdam Rescue dispatched to a call.
1633 Potsdam Rescue dispatched to a call.
1858 Potsdam Rescue dispatched to a call.
1901 Potsdam Rescue dispatched to a call.
2008 Potsdam Rescue dispatched to a call.
DWI - GOUVERNEUR - Gouverneur-based state police charged Melinda A. Abbott, 41, of Gouverneur with driving with intoxicated second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, littering and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle on a public highway and ticketed her for failure to keep right following a traffic stop at 2 a.m. Sunday on Poole Street in the town of Gouverneur. Troopers said her blood alcohol content was not available.
SCHEME TO DEFRAUD - Canton-based state police charged Carrie L. Dusharm, 29, of Gouverneur with second-degree scheme to defraud Saturday following an investigation into a series of checks being passed in the Star Lake area on an account that had been closed.
Troopers said their investigation was launched on Sept. 21 when they received a report Dusharm had passed two checks from a closed account at U-B Mercantiles in the town of Fine The scheme to defraud charge means she passed 10 or more checks on the closed account. Dusharm was released on an appearance ticket.