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Stefanik talks about her platform; state legislators tout their most recent bills

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Elise Stefanik concluded her two-day trip to Watertown this morning with a stop at the Times offices, where she discussed a broad range of topics that touch the people of the 21st Congressional District.

Ms. Stefanik is seeking the seat held by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and will face Matthew M. Doheny and Joseph L. Gilbert in a Republican Primary on June 24. Or she will face them both if they both gather sufficient signatures on nominating petitions. It will take the valid signatures of 1,250 registered Republicans to gain entry to the ballot, and both Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny have sufficient resources to challenge their opponents’ petitions, a move that has become virtually automatic in most primary races.

In her discussion with the Times, Ms. Stefanik talked about many issues but displayed real passion in her promise to defend Fort Drum — and the military budget in general — from cuts imposed by Congress. And she was equally passionate about supporting agriculture, saying she would seek appointment to the House Agriculture Committee if elected in November. Mr. Owens serves as a minority member of that committee.

Ms. Stefanik also called Washington “broken,” saying that dysfunction reigns in the federal government. She said she approved of the work that both Mr. Owens and 19th Congressional District Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, have done to “reach across the aisle” on issues of importance to upstate New York — especially agriculture.

Asked if her experience in Washington, where she worked in the Bush White House and worked for the 2012 Republican Campaign Committee, wouldn’t tar her with the insider brush, she countered that her experience, if anything, allows her to see what is wrong with the establishment and to take office and try to “upset the apple cart.”

And she told us that she could see no eventuality in which she would support any attempt to regulate gun ownership at the federal level.

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At the state level, Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, sent out a news release this morning that said her proposed St. Lawrence Wine Trail has made it into the Senate version of the state budget.

“The North Country has a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the fast-growing wine and grape industries by creating a St. Lawrence Wine Trail that links our area’s vineyards and winemakers,” Sen. Ritchiesaid in the release. She is chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Her plan would help put local vineyards and winemakers on the map, attract more tourists to the area, boost local business and create jobs in the region, the release said.

Under her proposal,wine trail would start near Bella Brooke Winery, Morristown, go to Lisbon’s River Myst Winery and then to High Peaks Winery in Winthrop. It also would bring visitors to St. Lawrence Brewing’s microbrewery in Canton, “allowing the four companies additional opportunities to work together to market themselves,” the release said.

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Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, in a news release Thursday, said legislation she is co-sponsoring to increase economic opportunities for veterans has been approved by the Assembly.

The bill would increase to 6 percent the number of state contracts awarded to companies run by service-disabled veterans.

“Our disabled vets have made incredible sacrifices to protect our freedom and deserve to have every opportunity to be successful,” Assemblywoman Russell said in her release. “This legislation demonstrates our state’s commitment to honoring their sacrifice by proactively seeking to do business with the brave men and woman who have given so much to us.”

Mrs. Russell is a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The legislation would create the Division of Service-Disabled Veterans’ Business Development within the Office of General Services, the release said. The governor would appoint the director, who would be required to coordinate a statewide plan to promote the program among state agencies.

“As a representative of many veterans and current service members in the Ft. Drum area, ensuring that we do right by our veterans is one of my top priorities and responsibilities,” Assemblywoman Russell said in the release. “In this tough economy, it is even more imperative that we help these brave men and women be successful upon completion of their service to our country.”

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