LAKE PLACID - Former Gov. George Pataki caught up with local officials and business owners here Monday morning as he stumped for Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny.
"It's good to be home," said Pataki, the Republican who served as New York state's 53rd governor from 1995 to 2006. He now has a second home in Essex County - a farm in the town of Essex - and he said he plans on spending more time there.
On Monday morning, Pataki officially endorsed Doheny in the race for New York's 21st Congressional District. The Watertown businessman will be on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines in today's election. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Owens of Plattsburgh will be on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, and Don Hassig will be on the Green Party line, although he has endorsed Owens.
Former Gov. George Pataki, right, and Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny, left, chat with voters at Central Garage in Lake Placid during a campaign stop on Monday. Also pictured, from left, are Mary Doheny (Matt’s wife), Margaret Daby and Jerry Strack, owner of Central Garage.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
A Siena poll released last week showed a close race in the 21st District, with Owens leading Doheny by a slim 44-43 margin. Speaking to reporters in front of the North Elba Town Hall, Pataki said the race reminds him of his first gubernatorial bid, a 1994 race that saw Pataki edge three-term incumbent Mario Cuomo by about 3 percentage points.
"It's close; no one knows the outcome," Pataki said. "And what Matt Doheny is saying is that, 'Give me a chance; we can do better. I want to change things.' He's absolutely right: We can do much better in Washington.
"Over the last four years, the North Country has lost 5,000 jobs. We've seen massive spending increases that really have done nothing but indebt our kids and grandchildren."
Pataki said Doheny, if elected, would fight hard to restore military funding that could be cut because of sequestration - automatic spending cuts included in 2011's Budget Control Act. Pataki's son serves with the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
"I don't want to see them jeopardized because of unfair and inappropriate cuts," Pataki said. "Matt Doheny is going to fight to undo those cuts."
Doheny was also joined by Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall. Doheny said the local, statewide and national support he's received - House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have both campaigned on his behalf - means a lot to him.
"Not only will we have a different direction in Washington and here in the North Country, but we'll be here all the time," Doheny said. "We're going to have an office in Essex County. My staff hates this, but I'll have a town hall (meeting) in all 194 towns and cities each term so that people understand that we will have a deep presence here to improve the Adirondack economy."
After meeting with seniors at the town hall, Pataki and Doheny went next-door to say hello to Jerry Strack, owner of Central Garage and a board member of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, and then to the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism at the Lake Placid Conference Center.
Grading New York state
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has enjoyed high approval ratings since being swept into office nearly two years ago. Asked if he thinks the governor is doing a good job, Pataki didn't address Cuomo directly. Instead, he said more needs to be done to strengthen the state's economy.
"I'm proud to be a New Yorker, and I want to see us thrive as a state," Pataki said. "I do think we need to have a stronger economy. I do think that taxes are too high across the board, whether it's property taxes or income taxes in this state. And I hope that we can see some significant reforms to reduce the size and the cost of government, not just for today but for future generations so that we can start outgrowing the nation and creating the jobs particularly the young people here need."
State land purchases
Pataki has long championed conservation of state land in the Adirondack Park. By the end of his 12 years as governor, he had met his goal of protecting a million acres from development, with the state buying easements or full title.
Pataki said he didn't want to discuss the specifics of the state's plan to acquire 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. lands currently owned by The Nature Conservancy, but he did say that when land deals are done with the right balance, everyone benefits.
"I'm all for preserving open space," Pataki said. "It has to be done by consensus, and it has to be done in a way that doesn't hurt, but that helps the economy here in the North Country. And I think that can be done.
"The specifics of any deal depend on the terms of the deal and whether or not it's going to allow people to continue to have recreational opportunities and continue to have economic opportunities. ... I'm proud of what we did to achieve that balance to both grow the economy in the North Country and to preserve open space for future generations. I know they're not incompatible. If done right, they can be synergistic."
During his visit on Monday, Pataki repeatedly called Lake Placid and the Adirondacks "home," even though his primary residence is in Garrison.
So do he and his wife Libby plan to make the Adirondacks their permanent residence?
"Oh yes, absolutely," Pataki said. "I'm here. I'm home. ... This is coming home. Being in Lake Placid, being in Essex County - Libby and I spend a ton of time here, and we want to spend more."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.