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Stefanik tours Watertown fire station in Jefferson County campaign swing

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WATERTOWN — Elise, meet Emma.

City Fire Chief Dale C. Herman gave Republican congressional candidate Elise M. Stefanik a tour of the department’s Emma Flower Taylor station Tuesday and introduced her to Engine 1, which is named for Mrs. Flower, a philanthropist and benefactor to several Watertown institutions.

Ms. Stefanik, who was in the area to campaign for New York’s 21st Congressional District seat, spoke with Chief Herman and other firefighters about federal grant programs that help the department stay up to date with protective clothing, rescue equipment and communications gear. She also spoke about some elements of her campaign platform, including repealing the Affordable Care Act, reforming the tax code, reducing government spending and generating jobs.

Ms. Stefanik, who also granted two radio interviews and visited farms and businesses while in Jefferson County, said spending time at local fire departments is a great way to get to know a community and the impact that the federal government can have on local resources.

“It’s a great way to identify what the needs are and how to best use those funds,” she said.

Chief Herman showed Ms. Stefanik rescue and emergency response equipment, including inflatable boats for water rescues and a specially outfitted disaster response trailer. He also showed the candidate special equipment purchased with grant funding, including traffic control devices embedded in the light bars of some of the firetrucks and thermal cameras that can be used to locate residents trapped in burning structures.

Chief Herman, who has been with the department since 1986, said he could not remember another time when a congressional candidate came to visit the department. He said his door was always open to any candidate or any other member of the public interested in learning about the department.

“We appreciate the candidate’s interest in our organization and community. We wish all the candidates the best,” he said.

Ms. Stefanik, who faces fellow Republican Matthew A. Doheny in a primary on June 24, is running for the seat held by William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. Rep. Owens announced in January that he would not seek re-election. Ms. Stefanik, a former White House policy adviser who works at her family’s plywood distribution business in Willsboro, announced her candidacy in August. She graduated from Harvard University in 2006 with a bachelor of arts degree in government.

During a conference call Tuesday, the Harvard Institute of Politics released the results of a survey of voters ages 18 to 29. Fewer than one in four surveyed said they would “definitely be voting” in the November mid-term elections. Of the voters surveyed, those with a Republican or conservative ideology were found to be more enthusiastic about voting.

Ms. Stefanik, who is 29, said she believes her candidacy appeals to multiple generations of people who feel a new generation of leadership is needed in Washington and that she will have a strong turnout among her supporters.

She attributed the apathy among young voters to a backlash against the “failed policies” of President Barack Obama and frustrations with the administration’s signature health care law and inability to generate economic development.

Jobs are the No. 1 issue across the district, Ms. Stefanik said.

To stimulate growth, she advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act and establishing a flatter tax rate that eliminates loopholes for practitioners of “crony capitalism” in favor of policies that benefit “main street” businesses. She also said she would seek regulatory reform.

“The best way to create jobs is to allow the free market system to flourish,” she said.

In place of the health overhaul, Ms. Stefanik said, she would like to see a nationwide marketplace in which individuals could purchase health insurance across state lines and receive the same tax incentives for purchasing health care that benefit small businesses. She also said she would like to see tort reform.

On Friday, Mr. Doheny’s campaign released a radio advertising spot promoting him as the only candidate who has promised not to raise taxes, citing an Americans for Tax Freedom pledge he signed during his 2010 race against Mr. Owens and since renewed.

Ms. Stefanik said she has not signed the pledge but is as dedicated to not raising taxes as Mr. Doheny.

“I’m very much against tax hikes,” Ms. Stefanik said. “This country does not have a taxing problem; it has a spending problem. I’ve made my case to voters. I don’t need to sign a pledge.”

She also defended herself against a blog post on The Hill political website asserting that she has a history of late tax payments on a Washington, D.C., townhouse worth $1.3 million in 2014.

“All taxes have been paid,” she said, adding that she owns a one-fourth “minority stake” in the property. She declined to give information about the other owners, saying that information is private.

Before Ms. Stefanik headed to an interview with local radio host Glen Curry and a meet-and-greet event at the Italian-American Civic Association, 192 Bellew Ave., Chief Herman showed her the fire department’s original alert system. It consisted of a series of wheel knobs that connected to call boxes on the city’s street corners and would ring out a location with a set of bells.

Concluding his tour, Chief Herman underscored the importance of grant funding in properly outfitting the department.

“That could make the difference,” he said.

“It’s interesting to travel throughout the district,” Ms. Stefanik told him. “The issues are different. It’s good to hear from you firsthand as the chief.”

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