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ALBANY, N.Y. -- It is one of the most closely watched Republican primary battles this June. The race for the GOP nomination to try to succeed Democrat Rep. Bill Owens in the House from the 21st Congressional District.
The candidates for the North Country seat clashed Tuesday in their first televised debate.
It did not take long for those clashes to begin. Elise Stefanik, the party designee, saying the key issue for many voters is a need for a new face and a new voice. Matt Doheny, twice the party's standard bearer, claiming Stefanik is an outsider, who has returned home simply to run for the congressional seat.
"My opponent has D.C. insiders that are funding her campaign through a super PAC. That's where this race stands right now and I think, my supporters, but more importantly all the voters here in the 21st need to know, we're talking about issues and clearly, the backgrounds," Doheny said.
"You had significant outside support in your previous runs for Congress, Matt and you failed, multiple times, to win back this seat. Voters are looking for a new direction. Everybody's looking for a new direction in this district so we can win this fall," Stefanik said.
The policy differences are few. The most passionate responses dealing with disputes over the campaign.
Stefanik is disturbed by Doheny's political mailings, claiming she played a role in federal bailout policies. That's something she denies and others have questioned the accuracy of.
Another flash point? Doheny's signing of a taxpayer pledge vowing not to vote for any tax increase if elected. He blasts Stefanik for refusing to sign that same pledge.
"Almost precludes them from being the nominee. This is something fundamental. You're going to hear rhetoric from my opponent right now that Harry Reid would bless and be very comfortable on," he said.
"I think this is an example where I will be an independent voice on behalf of this district. Matt's the one signing pledges to Washington, D.C. special interest groups. I'm not," Stefanik said.
Neither candidate will pledge to end their campaigns should they lose the Republican primary, although both say there will be some form of reevaluation.
It's four weeks until voters get their say. Expect few changes in the level of attacks in the days ahead.
"That's what happens with these D.C. insiders," Doheny said.
"People are looking for a new voice with a new direction and the ability to win this November," Stefanik said.
Stefanik already has the Conservative Party endorsement in the race for Congress. Matt Doheny will be on the ballot as the candidate of the Independence Party.
The Democrats in the 21st have nominated Aaron Woolf as their candidate. He faces no primary challenge.
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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Stefanik, Doheny Spar in TWC News Debate for North Country's Congress Seat
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