SARANAC LAKE - A Siena Research Institute Poll released Thursday morning showed Republican Dede Scozzafava with 35 percent of the vote in the race for New York's 23rd Congressional District.
In an interview with the Enterprise Thursday afternoon, Scozzafava said she thinks she is ahead because she listens to the people, "not the party leaders who try to pull your strings when you're in office. I remember who elected me. It's the people who I represent, not anyone in Albany or Washington."
Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate, got 28 percent in the poll, and Doug Hoffman, the Conservative, had 16 percent. They are running for the congressional seat that John McHugh, who had represented the 11-county district since January 1993, resigned from to become Army secretary on Sept. 21.
Scozzafava was in Saranac Lake Thursday afternoon and attended a roundtable hosted by the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, where, she said, infrastructure, health care and the problems faced by small businesses were major topics. After the roundtable, she stopped at the Enterprise with fellow Republican state Assemblywoman Janet Duprey.
Discussions of Saranac Lake's ongoing water issues, she said, reminded her of a problem with a water plant she had to deal with while mayor of Gouverneur. Scozzafava was a Gouverneur village trustee for four years, and she was mayor from 1993 until her election to the Assembly in 1998. She said her experience in state and local government has given her experience with issues such as the interface between state, local and federal spending, the legislative process and dealing with state and federal mandates.
"I understand those discussions," Scozzafava said. "I've lived them."
Stimulus and jobs
Scozzafava said she would have voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because she thinks infrastructure such as good roads and bridges, water and sewer systems and broadband are important for economic development.
"It creates a platform for a community to then go forward," Scozzafava said.
Scozzafava said small communities know their infrastructure needs, but can't get them on their own due to the cost. However, she said, she doesn't think all of the stimulus money is being used for such worthwhile purposes.
All three candidates in the election have made the economy and job creation part of their platforms, and Thursday's poll showed that the highest number of voters in the district - 34 percent - said the economy is the biggest issue for them.
Scozzafava also said the role of the arts and special events is often overlooked or considered unimportant, when it can be an engine of economic development. Events such as concerts bring people to towns, where they end up spending money at other businesses, she said.
Scozzafava said there is a lot of redundancy in state agencies. When asked about cutting spending and earmarks at the federal level, however, Scozzafava said earmarks are beneficial if used correctly.
Duprey said projects such as the Champlain border crossing would never have been possible without the earmarks McHugh brought to the district.
"People love to hate it, but they love to want it," Scozzafava said.
"You want to talk about devastating the economy up here?" Duprey said. "Take away some of those funds."
Hoffman has signed the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which says the signatory will oppose "any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses" and oppose reduction or eliminaiton of deductions and credits, unless matched by tax cuts. Owens and Scozzafava have not.
"The only way to cut the cost of government is at the ballot box," Hoffman said in a press release criticizing them for not signing the peldge. "We need elected officials who will take a stand and say no to increased spending, bigger deficits and higher taxes."
Scozzafava said she won't sign the pledge because the income tax is just one form of tax, and that more people could be impacted if, for example, you refuse to increase income taxes under any circumstances but raise other taxes or fees instead.
"When people say they'll never vote for taxes - those are people who have never been there," Duprey said.
Scozzafava also discussed charges that she has voted to raise or extend taxes 190 times while in the Assembly. The large majority of those votes, she said, were "home rule" votes giving a county the authority to impose an additional sales tax. These need to be extended every two years, and Scozzafava and Duprey both said they vote for all such requests, as a county should have the right to do this if it wants. Otherwise, they said, the county might have to raise property taxes to make up for the lost revenue.
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