On Election Day, voters in Fulton and Hamilton counties will choose who will represent them in the new 21st Congressional District, which will include all of Northern New York, stretching from Plattsburgh to Johnstown and from Glens Falls to Watertown.
Voters will decide whether Democrat Bill Owens, the incumbent in what is now the present 23rd District, or Republican challenger Matt Doheny will serve the renumbered and restructured district. (Green Party candidate Don Hassig also will appear on the ballot.)
The 21st Congressional District will no longer serve Albany, Montgomery, rensselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, but it will cover all of Fulton, Hamilton, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Warren counties as well as most of Herkimer and Saratoga Counties.
This map from the website of Congressman Bill Owens shows the vast size of the newly established 21st Congressional District. Owens, a Democrat, will face Republican Matt Doheny at the polls.
Owens and Doheny have similar goals for the new district, including creating new jobs, increasing and improving broadband accessability and listening to the residents' concerns.
However, each man says his opponent isn't fit to serve the district properly, and Doheny says Owens, whose home office is in Plattsburgh, doesn't do enough for all the citizens he serves.
"[It is important] to have an office right here in Fulton County," Doheny said earlier this month during a visit to Gloversville. "I don't think it's acceptable that people have to drive hours to go see their congressional office. ... My opponent loves to send out taxpayer-financed mail to say how great of a job he's doing during the year. I just fundamentally disagree with that. It's a waste of taxpayer money. And when my opponent's spending over half a million dollars, that provides a lot of resources to make sure we have offices in every county and people on the ground to make sure ... there will be a point person right there for them."
Owens was has been criticized by Madison County Clerk Kenneth Kunkel Jr., who said the congressman hasn't been around his county much, but he had seen Doheny more than 20 times.
Owens dismissed that criticism, saying Kunkel is just voicing a political opinion.
Doheny also criticized Owens for having a county - Fulton County - in his district with an unemployment rate higher than 10 percent, and said he would be embarrassed to run for office with that on his record.
Owens insists that he is well aware of the issue and will work to improve Fulton County.
"I stand ready to meet with anybody - Democrat, Republican or otherwise - to talk about how we can grow jobs in Fulton County, and how we can make it a better place to live for people," Owens said. " ... It's a question of being able to meet with people, listen to what their concerns are, and then try and have a conversation that blends together their thoughts and my thoughts."
Owens, a retired Air Force captain and attorney, said he will continue to get around and visit constituents as he has for the last three years. He said he intends to participate in town hall meetings, and talk with people via telephone if necessary.
Doheny, will make similar efforts if elected, as he plans to hold a town hall meeting in each of the 194 towns that will be in the new district during his term. The businessman, a native of Alexandria Bay who now lives in Watertown, said he will lead the charge in getting Fulton County and the rest of the district moving in the right direction.
To improve Fulton County, Doheny said, it comes down to getting the county involved in new technology ventures with which other counties in the region are finding success.
"You have to give people a friendly place to live with an opportunity to be successful, as well as broadband and cell phones," Doheny said. "If you're not part of the communications network, you just cannot live and think that you're going to go ahead and grow and have [a good] economic opportunity."
Owens recently received endorsements from both Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and - less predictably, from the National Rifle Association, which praised him for having "a proven record of defending the Second Amendment."
Doheny's campaign this week issued a press release with a surprising headline: "Bill Owens Endorses Matt Doheny."
"I'm glad my opponent has a good sense of humor," Owens said in response to that release, which refers not to himself but to his namesake, the Republican former governor of Colorado. "And I think I'll take the Governor Cuomo endorsement over the Bill-Owens-of-Colorado endorsement."
John Borgolini can be reached by email at email@example.com.