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Aaron Woolf speaks of enthusiasm for tourism, manufacturing in north country

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WATERTOWN — Democratic congressional candidate Aaron G. Woolf spoke Tuesday of his enthusiasm for using the district’s natural beauty to bring both tourism and manufacturing to the north country.

“I see that possibility. I love being a cheerleader for this part of the world,” Mr. Woolf told Anne L. Merrill, executive director of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, during a lunch gathering and discussion with local officials at Maggie’s on the River in Watertown.

His idea is to market the Adirondacks and other parts of the district to outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers as a place to make and test their products.

He attended the event with U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who is not seeking re-election to the 21st District seat for which Mr. Woolf is a candidate. The pair also visited the biomass plant operated by ReEnergy Holdings LLC on Fort Drum and Tug Hill Vineyards in Lowville.

Apparently the cheerleading of which Mr. Woolf spoke extends even to one of his primary opponents, Elise M. Stefanik, a Republican from Willsboro who is running for her party’s nomination against Watertown resident Matthew A. Doheny.

“Frankly, that’s what I like about Elise Stefanik. We want to attract as many young people to this district as we can,” Mr. Woolf said.

Ms. Stefanik was 29 years old when she announced her candidacy for Congress in August.

Questions about the intentions of the two candidates, who are both registered to vote in Essex County, have been raised in recent months as they’ve tried to prove their residency in the area.

Mr. Woolf owns a home on land his family purchased in Elizabethtown in 1968 and says that he has repeatedly returned there despite making his career as a documentary filmmaker in locations throughout the world. Ms. Stefanik grew up in Albany County before graduating from Harvard University and working in Washington, D.C. She now lives in a family home in Willsboro.

Linda M. Sandri, chairwoman of the Lewis County Democratic Committee, asked why the residency issue has become such an divisive topic. Mr. Woolf offered his thoughts.

“Since the 18th century, people from somewhere else said what we can and can’t do. So this sensitivity about outsiders comes from a real place, but we all need each other,” Mr. Woolf said.

Observing the Black River from a window on an upper floor, Rep. Owens, who is stepping down from his post at the end of the year, exhibited the reflective manner he seems to have adopted as his final term in office winds down.

Both Mr. Woolf and Rep. Owens spoke briefly about the plan advanced by the administration of President Barack Obama to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.

And while both seemed to be generally in favor of transitioning to alternative forms of energy and the jobs they said those forms could create, Rep. Owens did express some trepidation about the method by which the proposal, which has drawn fire from business interests and states where coal is a major industry, was brought forward.

President Obama used his executive authority to introduce the regulations, something he promised in his State of the Union address to do more frequently to overcome the partisan gridlock in Congress.

Rep. Owens said he is not generally in favor of policy being dictated by the executive branch or through the courts, but the dysfunction in Congress left those as the only two options to accomplish anything in Washington.

He concluded his thoughts with some advice for Mr. Woolf, should he win the election in November.

“So the only thing, in my view, a single individual can do, is do what I’ve done. And that is, vote, if you will, with the other side periodically in hopes that you will entice the other side to vote with you on occasion. ... You need people breaking with the party in order to empower others to break with their party. But somebody’s got to take the first step. So that’s what Aaron’s got to do, in my view,” Rep. Owens said.

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