SARANAC LAKE - A Tupper Lake Republican and longtime Franklin County legislator declared Thursday, to newspapers and his county's GOP chairman, that he is interested in running for the congressional seat John McHugh is expected to soon vacate.
"I'm just a regular guy," Paul Maroun said Thursday afternoon. "I think that's what the American people want to send to Washington."
Maroun is the first candidate to publicly declare his intent to replace McHugh.
In an interview at the Enterprise office, Maroun highlighted his wide range of work experience all over the 23rd District. He said he drove an ice cream truck between Tupper Lake and Watertown while working for the former Altamont Milk Company, worked in Washington and abroad for the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation and spent 21 years in the military with Navy intelligence, including some work at the former Air Force bases in Rome and Plattsburgh.
"I know the district as good or better than anyone else," Maroun said.
Maroun's mother was a nurse, his father was a bus driver, and he went to Siena College in Loudonville, where he studied law. He is a Tupper Lake volunteer firefighter, and he belongs to the River Ridge hunting club on the Follensby Pond property.
President Barack Obama nominated McHugh, a Pierrepont Manor Republican and nine-term congressman representing New York's 23rd District, to be Army secretary on Tuesday. If the U.S. Senate confirms him, as expected, Gov. David Paterson would then set the date for a special election to fill the seat until the 2010 regular elections. There would be no primary; the Democratic and Republican party chairs in the district's 11 counties would choose candidates.
McHugh spokeswoman Stephanie Valle said Thursday that the timeline for confirmation by the Senate is still unclear; however, U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrats both, have expressed their support for the nomination and for seeing McHugh confirmed quickly.
On the Republican side, Maroun said he has heard through his party connections that state Sen. Joe Griffo of Rome and Assembly members Dierdre Scozzafava of Gouverneur and William Barclay of Pulaski have expressed interest in running.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, said Wednesday that she had not decided yet whether to run; she could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Some sources are mentioning Robert Taub of Gloversville, McHugh's chief of staff, as a possible Republican candidate.
As for Democrats, a number of sources have mentioned state Sen. Darrel Aubertine of Watertown as a possible candidate, but Aubertine spokesman Drew Mangione would only say Tuesday that Aubertine remains focused on his work at the state level. Several others have said they are considering running, including Mike Oot of Munnsville and Bob Johnson of Watertown; both ran against McHugh in the past and lost.
Essex County Democratic Chairwoman Sue Montgomery Corey said Wednesday that the county chairs have discussed candidates but made no decisions.
Maroun said he has already spoken to Franklin County Republican Chairman Jim Ellis.
"No idea yet," Ellis said when asked about when the county chairs would meet to discuss candidates. "We don't even have a vacancy yet."
Maroun said he would withdraw from the race if a more qualified candidate emerges, "which I don't see right now."
There was a special election in the neighboring 20th Congressional District earlier this year, in which Democrat Scott Murphy barely beat Republican James Tedisco. Several other candidates expressed interest in that congressional seat, including state Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury, for whom Maroun works. The Republican candidate-selection process was widely criticized, as the party's county chairs made their choice after a single meeting without talking to the candidates. Maroun said the chairs in the 23rd should "meet a little more than a day and not shut people off."
Maroun said the North Country is "a conservative area for the most part," which is why he thinks it is important to elect a Republican.
Stylistically, Maroun said, he would probably be more confrontational than McHugh.
"If you don't make a splash, nobody knows there's fish in the water," Maroun said.
In the Naval Reserve, Maroun was called to active duty for two years after Sept. 11, 2001 and worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington.
"I know about military affairs," Maroun said.
Maroun was also executive assistant to the administrator of the Seaway from 1985 to 1989. One of his duties was legislative director, which meant he had to travel to Washington frequently to see to it that money budgeted for the Seaway was released. Maroun said this showed him how the federal government's spending process works.
"I don't think any of the Republican candidates I've seen so far are any more knowledgeable on this issue, and probably less," Maroun said.
Maroun also had to brief Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole and other federal officials every week on issues related to the Seaway, plus any time something out of the ordinary happened. He visited many parts of the world, including Africa and the former Yugoslavia.
Stances on issues
"The number-one issue in this district right now is the defense of America," Maroun said.
The Army's Fort Drum is in the district, and Maroun said it will need funding and supplies to continue its expansion. Maroun said he supports President Obama's policy of gradually reducing the number of troops in Iraq and increasing the number in Afghanistan.
Maroun said dairy farming would also be one of his priorities. It is a major part of the economy in much of the district, and despite rising milk prices, dairy farmers still aren't "making enough to make a respectable living off of milk," Maroun said. He said he has much to learn more about dairy farmers' needs, since he doesn't deal with it in Tupper Lake, but he wants to know more.
Maroun also said protecting property owners' rights is an important national issue that will likely come before the Supreme Court. Maroun said he could cite many examples in the Adirondack Park of property rights being "trampled on."
Maroun said he favors a national health insurance plan.
"We've got to come up with a plan that's affordable, workable and doesn't put us in a spot where you have to wait three months to get a mammography," Maroun said.
Maroun said he favors increasing the amount of income that is taxed by Social Security; currently, the payroll tax only applies to the first $106,800 of income.
Maroun said he thinks bailouts, such as the ones many banks, General Motors and Chrysler have received, are better than letting those core U.S. businesses fail. Maroun said letting them collapse would have a disastrous effect on employees, investors and retirees.
Maroun said he opposes gay marriage but favors civil unions. He also opposes abortion, except in cases where giving birth could kill the mother, "because if you don't, you're going to be taking a life either way."