QUEENSBURY In a public political showdown, U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) and G.O.P. challenger Matt Doheny clashed over issues of health care, Social Security reform and labor-union organizing.
The two offered a variety of conflicting views during a debate held Tuesday Sept. 25 at Queensbury High School, just weeks before they face off in the November general election to represent the new 21st Congressional District.
About 400 people attended the debate, many of them voicing cheers or jeers — particularly over the national Affordable Health Care Act, also dubbed “Obamacare.”
Doheny said he opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, commonly known as “card-check,” which deletes a present a requirement for secret balloting in union organizing or recruiting.
He said that enactment of the legislation would crimp job creation and hamper small business growth.
“I have a deep belief in freedom and fairness,” Doheny said. “Secret ballots are a fundamental American principle.
Owens said he supported card check because it aided wage earners in their quest for fair pay and decent work conditions.
“Seventy percent of the economy is consumer purchasing, and I support the middle class,” he said.
Both said bolstering the economy was their prime objective, but they differed on ways of achieving that goal. While Doheny focused on easing regulations and taxes on entrepreneurs to create new jobs, Owens countered that there were 3,000 unfilled job positions in the region that required skills that applicants don’t now possess.
Owens said he was working with workforce investment boards and private groups to make appropriate training available so thousands of area residents could take on these positions — and boost the economy.
“My focus is clearly on getting those jobs filled,” he said, noting that workers needed new skills to operate computer-driven manufacturing equipment.
In response, Doheny said that easing regulations now crimping small businesses would allow them to become more competitive and allow expansion — and result in job creation. He said he personally toured more than 100 businesses this summer, and most all the entrepreneurs told him that rolling back regulations was critical to their survival or expansion.