Rep. Bill Owens

Agree to Disagree: Primary confusion

Yes, there was a primary last week. No, that doesn’t mean the Democrats have decided yet who’s running against state Sen. Hugh Farley.

You see, there is a whole other primary campaign coming up, with a vote on September 9 to decide candidates for state and local offices. Would it not have been more sensible and cheaper to hold all primary elections on the same day? Yes, but our distinguished state legislators, whether from political self-interest or sheer cussedness, failed to agree on a date.

In the Ballston Spa area, the confusion is compounded by the congressional boundary line running right through it. The solidly Democratic 20th District is represented by Rep. Paul Tonko, and includes the Capital Region, the town of Malta and most of the town of Ballston. The North Country 21st District includes the town of Milton and the village of Ballston Spa. The 21st is currently represented by Democrat Bill Owens, but he’s retiring and it’s a swing seat, which explains all those nasty primary ads you may have seen heaping dirt on Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny, who were accusing each other of not being conservative enough.

Stefanik had the better of that argument, the majority of voters seemed to decide, perhaps because she was endorsed by well known conservative Doug Hoffman. At any rate, she won the primary. Hoffman had lost to Doheny in a 2010 GOP primary, but was almost elected to Congress the year before when the seat was vacant, running on the Conservative Party line against Dede Scozzafava, a liberal Republican assemblywoman. She dropped out and endorsed Owens, who was elected for the first time.

Competitive congressional campaigns are always nasty, with both party committees in Washington sponsoring exclusively negative ads, typically distortions. In my view, that can be a mistake, as when Jim Tedisco ran for Congress against Democrat Scott Murphy in 2009, and tried to smear the newcomer with negative ads that just sounded ridiculous, because Murphy didn’t have a record to run against. Tedisco lost, and Murphy then accumulated a record, and lost to Republican Chris Gibson, who was redistricted away from this area.

Doheny remains on the general election ballot on the Independence Party line, but is not expected to campaign. Stefanik also has the Conservative Party line.

The candidate of the Democratic and Working Families parties is Aaron Woolf.

There is another candidate in the race, Matt Funiciello of the Green Party, who happens to be the only one of the three I know personally. Hell, I know his father, too, and I guess this is not just happenstance. Funiciello is from Glens Falls, where I used to live, while both Woolf and Stefanik have fairly tenuous ties to the district, and could be criticized by opponents as outsiders. And whether or not one agrees with his positions, Matt’s a good guy.

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Reporter Bob Conner has worked 21 years in various positions at the Gazette of Schenectady, and before that four years as a reporter at the Glens Falls Post-Star. He won two first-place writing awards from the New York Associated Press Association for newspapers with circulation between 50,000 and 250,000. Bob has a Phi Beta Kappa bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University, and an associate’s degree in chemical dependency counseling from HVCC. He is a published author and is currently writing a historical novel about the last four months in the life of Ulysses S.Grant

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