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Coverage of central and northern New York's congressional races, including the primary races and the general election.Races covered include the 24th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who is running for reelection; the 22nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), who is retiring; and the 21st Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro).

Russell, Byrne defend business records in fiesty Assembly debate

Julia Botero
Republican John Byrne (left) is challenging incumbent Democrat Addie Russell (center) for the 116th Assembly seat for the second time.

Two candidates are running against one another in the 116th Assembly District that runs along the St. Lawrence River in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties. Republican candidate John Byrne, a former town councilman from Cape Vincent, is challenging incumbent Democrat Addie Russell for the second time. Both exchanged heated words during the race’s first debate last night. It was hosted by WWNY-TV in Watertown. 

Russell is running for her fifth term and she’s attacked Byrne strongly. In a slew of press releases and recent radio talk show interviews, Russell accused Byrne of “shady” business practices.  She said Byrne has a record of failed businesses -- his Cape Vincent campground, a plastics factory and a bar in Oneonta. The moderator, WWNY’s Jeff Cole, asked Byrne how he currently makes a living.

“I have my plastics manufacturing company as well as my campground. My campground’s [previous owners] declared bankruptcy before I got there. I came in, took it over, we rehabbed it and we are growing every year. I welcome anyone to come over and see it,” said Byrne.

As for the plastics company, public records show Byrne legally dissolved it in 2010. Since then, its value has fallen to about $49,000. Byrne told North Country Public Radio in August that his family was mostly living off investments he made when the plastics business was still going strong.

Byrne accused Russell of having a weak record of bringing jobs to the North Country. He said she was wrong to support StartUp NY, a controversial economic development program started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Byrne said the New York State Business Council gave Russell a 37 percent rating.

"If my daughter brought home a 37 or even worse a zero, I think I'd be quite upset and I'd have to have a talk with her about that."

Bryne said he was puzzled by Russell's support of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver amidst federal corruption charges. Before he was charged, Russell called the accusations against the speaker “politically motivated.”  She called his actions “a betrayal” only after the speaker was convicted and sentenced.

“This betrayal has impacted me greatly. I know my constituents are seeing my record of fighting against this corruption,” Russell said.

Russell said she has voted to strip corrupt politicians of their pensions and to limit or ban outside income for state legislators.

Byrne and Russell went on to butt heads on who was best suited to fight in Albany for North Country small businesses. Russell said she had a history of fighting for working families.

"I will put my record of achievement against his of really not achieving any day," Russell said.

This race could be really close on Election Day. Two years ago, Russell beat Byrne by just 103 votes after all absentee ballots were counted weeks later.