Scoz' No Go; Dems Pick Unknown To Run In 21st


The leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 21st Congressional District pulled out just as county leaders were meeting to decide on their endorsement.

Dede Scozzafava withdrew her name from consideration before she could be interviewed by the Democratic leaders who gathered in Long Lake Wednesday.

She told 7 News Wednesday night that she was happy to remain in her current job, as a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.

"When it really came down, I think the right decision for me was to remain as the deputy secretary for the state with the Cuomo administration," Scozzafava said, "and I'm very much at peace with that decision."

Even though she is a registered Republican, Scozzafava was viewed by at least some Democratic county leaders as their best pick for a candidate to replace the retiring William Owens.

Like Owens and Republican John McHugh before him, Scozzafava is regarded as a political moderate, in a district generally thought of as moderate.

Scozzafava's standing as a moderate worked against her in 2009 when she became the first victim of the Tea Party wave that surged through the country, unseating Republican politicians deemed insufficiently conservative. She quit the race for Congress that year and threw her support to Owens, who won.

The way Scozzafava was driven out of the 2009 race left a bad taste for some north country Republicans, and Democrats hoped to capitalize on that this year by running her.

Other well-known Democrats - including former state senator and agriculture commissioner Darrel Aubertine and current state assembly member Addie Russell - passed on the job. (Maybe it's not the last word on Aubertine, who's quoted Thursday morning in the Watertown Times as saying he's still considering a run.)

Without Scozzafava, or another name Democrat to take the nomination, the 12 county chairs turned Wednesday to a documentary filmmaker unknown in the district.

The chairs announced their unanimous support for Aaron Woolf late Wednesday afternoon. In addition to making movies, Woolf reportedly owns a grocery store in Brooklyn.

His connection to the north country? According to a statement from the Democrats, "He and his wife Carolyn own their home in Elizabethtown on the land his parents bought in 1968." 

Woolf, through a person who identified himself as the candidate's "point of contact," declined to return a call from 7 News Wednesday night.

"I had never met him before," said Jefferson County Democratic chair Ron Cole, "but within three to four minutes I said, 'this is a candidate that I can support.'"

Democrats will now face the daunting task of introducing a candidate who is unknown to the district, and which is historically Republican. Although Woolf has won several prestigious national awards for his movies, he has no public identity in northern New York.

Speaking on behalf of the 12 chairs on the Democratic selection committee, Washington County Chairman Sheila Comar said that the response from qualified individuals for the seat was gratifying. 

"We appreciate the consideration given to this race by so many talented people," Comar said in a news release.

"We unanimously agree that Aaron Woolf is the best candidate to continue Representative Bill Owens' work to protect our seniors and the Medicare guarantee, middle class families, and reflect the independent spirit that makes the North Country strong.

"Woolf is a problem solver who will take a commonsense approach and is committed to working together to find solutions that create more jobs and spur New York's economy."
As noted, Woolf is a small business owner who has written, directed and produced several award-winning documentary films.  

He and his wife Carolyn have one daughter, Eloise. Elizabethtown is east of Lake Placid.

New York's 21st Congressional District includes Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Hamilton, Herkimer, Franklin, Clinton, Essex, Fulton, Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties.

Last week, Republican Party leaders chose Elise Stefanik as their choice to run for Congress. It was not known late Wednesday whether the entrance of an unknown on the Democratic side might prompt Matt Doheny, who narrowly lost two races against Owens, to enter the race. Doheny, a wealthy businessman, would be able to "self fund" a race if he chooses, a major advantage for a candidate.

Former St. Lawrence County emergency services director Joe Gilbert is also seeking the Republican nomination, with a philosophy closely aligned with the Tea Party.

Last month, Congressman Bill Owens announced his decision to retire at the end of 2014.

- written by Scott Atkinson & Diane Rutherford, with reporting by John Friot & Rachel Spotts



Saturday, December 3, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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