We’re not trying to be flip, but this almost came down to a coin toss.
Unfortunately, that is not a good thing. After interviewing Democratic incumbent Congressman Bill Owens and Republican challenger Matt Doheny for an hour each, our editorial board was left underwhelmed and uninspired about who to endorse for Congress in the new 21st District.
Perhaps it is the state of the country, but the candidates seemed to mirror what we are seeing on a national scale, with both repeating party talking points and little indication that either was prepared to step and be his own man.
Both are smart, successful professionals who seem to have a good handle on the complicated array of issues that confront the country and the district. But both lack solutions that stray far from their party’s talking points.
We are still disturbed by Owens’ inappropriate trip to Taiwan and Doheny’s late-night dalliance in Washington D.C. that was videotaped and played up in the New York City tabloids. Those episodes give us pause regarding both candidates.
Doheny is an outgoing people-person who talks a mile a minute, while Owens brings a contemplative pragmatic approach to the table.
In their respective meetings, both insisted they were willing to work with the other party and compromise to get things done.
Let’s start with the incumbent Owens, who has served in Congress for three years.
He candidly told us came to Congress confident that he was ready to serve and make a difference.
“Being a novice three years ago, I thought I had the answers to a lot of things,” Owens said. “These are very complicated issues. I’ve been educated by a lot of people on the left, center and right.”
It was good to hear that Congress had been a humbling experience. We are proponents of the idea we need smart people to solve the difficult problems the country faces.
We were encouraged by Owens’ moderate stances in a Republican-leaning district. It is politically pragmatic, but Owens insists he has always been a moderate and we do believe Congress needs more leaders who will work together and compromise.
Unfortunately, we did not find an impressive list of accomplishments from the incumbent.
He did vote for Obamacare (a vote guaranteed to make half the electorate angry), not because it was perfect, but because it was a good start. We agree with that stand.
But we were hoping for more vision for the future beyond importing jobs from Canada.
Candidate Doheny’s meeting was his second with our editorial board. We previously interviewed him before our endorsement in the Republican primary in September.
This time around, we found his opinions far more moderate than when he was trying to win over Tea Party Republicans before the primary. He characterizes his business and Wall Street experience as something to help small business in the district and bring in jobs.
We found him to be a bubbling enthusiast who has made his rallying cry that he will be the “Salesman in Chief” of the district if elected.
He appears to have a good grasp of the problems facing constituents, but tangible solutions and strategies for his first few months in office were elusive. Frankly, it was tough to pin him down on just about any course of action.
He did pledge to set up offices in all 12 counties he would represent and to have town hall meetings in each of the 194 communities during the two years he would be in office.
It is an ambitious commitment to stay connected to his district and we applaud its scope.
As our meeting was about to end, Mr. Doheny appealed directly to our editorial board that all he wanted was a chance.
“It’s only two years,” Doheny said. “I just want the opportunity.”
Considering the choice, this could have been the perfect opportunity to consider a third-party candidate such as Donald Hassig, who is running on the Green Party line. But seeing Hassig at the congressional debate at Queensbury High School, it was apparent he did not have the experience or expertise to tackle any of the difficult issues the country now faces.
It came as no surprise this week when the Green Party distanced itself from Hassig after he made several inflammatory statements about Mexican immigrants.
The conundrum then was choosing between the incumbent Owens, who is still trying to find his footing, and the challenger Doheny, who is begging for a chance to be put into the game.
In the end, we concluded Doheny’s business experience was better suited to the challenging economic environment that now faces the country and the district.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mark Bergman.