SARANAC LAKE - The county Democratic Party chairs in the 23rd Congressional District have released their list of 11 candidates being considered for U.S. Rep. John McHugh's seat. There are two each from Franklin and Essex counties, including one Saranac Laker.
David Ryan of Saranac Lake, Stuart Brody of Essex, Andrew Bisselle of Westport and Rudolph Johnson of Malone are on the list. Also running are Bill Owens of Clinton County, Steve Burke of St. Lawrence County, Dan Francis and Bob Johnson of Jefferson County, Brian McGrath of Lewis County, John Sullivan Jr. of Oswego County and Michael Oot of Madison County.
The chairs will meet with the candidates on Aug. 10 at Syracuse University's Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake, and make and announce their choice that day. The choice is made by a weighted vote of the 11 chairs, based on the number of people in their county's portion of the district who voted for the Democratic candidate in the last Congressional election.
Andrew Bisselle of Westport has switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party in seeking a nomination to run for Congress.
(Enterprise file photo — Nathan Brown)
McHugh's confirmation hearing as Army secretary started at 9:30 a.m. today, said McHugh spokeswoman Stephanie Valle. If confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to resign and Gov. David Paterson would then schedule a special election to fill the seat. Whoever wins would be up for re-election in 2010.
Bisselle, who is director of the YMCA's Camp Dudley, was one of nine candidates also seeking the Republican nomination. However, the Republican chairs chose state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava of Gouverneur, and Bisselle switched parties.
Bisselle said he thinks Scozzafava is too liberal for the district. If the Democrats nominate him, he said, he "would work to attract new jobs to the district, support the military, be a fiscal conservative and take moderate to conservative positions on social issues."
Jim Kelly of Wilmington, a retired New York City police detective and longtime Conservative Party activist, is seeking the Conservative Party nomination, as is U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Jon Alvarez of Oswego County.
Brody chaired the Democratic Rural Conference, which consists of 47 New York counties, for six years. During that time, Brody said, the conference "went from a small policy organization to a vigorous advocate" for rural issues. He also organized a forum of Democratic presidential candidates in Lake Placid in 2003.
"I care deeply about the difficulties that I see around me," said Brody, who is an employment lawyer. "Real people, with real struggles, and they need a voice. I've been sharpening that voice for all my life, representing people that deserve a seat at the economic table."
Brody said one of his priorities in Congress would be to bring the jobs and businesses the area would need in a "post-petroleum economy" to the district, such as producing energy from timber and other measures to reduce the amount of energy the region imports. He also said the district should concentrate on expanding "value-added businesses" that increase the value of a product. Cheese, for example, is more expensive than milk, so producing cheese in the North Country with milk from North Country dairy farms is desirable.
Rudolph Johnson, an engineering consultant, said stabilizing milk prices, which have been dropping, is one of the most important things that can be done for the district's economy, much of which is dependent on dairy farming. He also said improving college education and reducing the North Country's dependence on state and federal government jobs are important.
Rudolph Johnson said he thinks the Republicans are being "obstructionist" and not "doing serious problem-solving and addressing the issues" on many matters, such as health care reform, and, therefore the district should send a Democrat to Congress to "solve some of the problems that we need to solve."
The area has always been represented by Republicans in Congress since the 1800s, but "we have an open-minded district," Rudolph Johnson said. "People in the North Country are open to seeing change."
Ryan could not be reached by press time.
Franklin County has 7 percent of the weighted vote; Essex County has 4 percent. The bulk of the population is in the western part of the district: Oswego County has the most, with almost 20 percent, followed by Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, with 17 and 15 percent respectively. Clinton County has 13 percent, Madison County 11 percent.
Brody said he has traveled the district extensively, worked for its economic interests as rural conference head and doesn't think being from the eastern part of the district will hinder his chances.
"I think these 11 chairs are very serious about picking the strongest candidate," Brody said, "and if the strongest candidate is from the east, I think we'll be fine."
Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.