The seven Democrats running in hopes of unseating Congressman John Faso of New York’s 19th district are set to debate Thursday at The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio.
The race for the 19th House seat is among the closest-watched of this midterm cycle. Democrats are hoping for a blue wave, while Republicans are hoping first-termer John Faso can retain the seat and help the GOP hold the House. The Cook Political Report rates the seat a tossup.
Over the past six months, WAMC News has interviewed each of the Democratic hopefuls looking to represent the district that covers a large swath of the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and beyond. They come from varied backgrounds and political experience.
Woodstock resident Jeff Beals is a teacher and former U.S. diplomat.
“Well I didn’t have to go out on the campaign trail to know what is going on in our district, cause I’m one of only two candidates in the race who actually work in the district and voted here in the last election against John Faso, and that gives me the insight to say working people are not getting by,” Beals said. “You can travel it, it’s a vast district, but again and again, you hear similar stories. At the end of the month, there’s just not anything left, when they pay out their fixed expenses from their paychecks.”
Brian Flynn, of Greene County, is a longtime activist whose brother was killed in the Lockerbie bombing.
“I particularly, I actually helped pass a piece of legislation, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, where I was quoted on the floor of the U.S. Senate, so no, I have not held elected office, but I’ve been to Washington and know how to get things done there, and have deep legislative experience with a specific expertise in national security and counterterrorism,” Flynn said.
Patrick Ryan, of Ulster County, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as an Army officer in Iraq.
“I’m in the race, because, I think in a moment like this in our country, we need a leader who’s got a proven record of putting their community and their country ahead of themselves, and I think that’s sorely lacking in Washington, and that’s why I’m in the race,” Ryan said.
Also from Ulster County is Gareth Rhodes, who grew up working on a farm in the Town of Esopus and now resides in Kerhonkson.
“I’ll be the most pro-environment representative in Congress, and that’s because I grew up with the Hudson River, with striper fishing on the Hudson River, I believe that we need to protect the Hudson River, make sure the cleanup continues to happen,” he said. “I’ve hiked every peak in the Catskill Mountains, I remember when the acid rain devastated those peaks, and you couldn’t fish in their lakes and streams, I think we need someone in Congress who will say ‘no’ to the rollback of the Clean Power Plan.”
Antonio Delgado, who moved back to Dutchess County last year, calls himself a Progressive Democrat.
“You have to have a candidate who will turn the vote out. There are a lot of folks out there who sat at home in 2016. A lot of folks. 178,000 people who registered to vote in this district, and did not come out. 100,000 people who were eligible for enrollment, and were not enrolled. We need a candidate who has the ability, and the skill set, to tap into the hearts and minds of those people, and to restore their faith in the system, and I think my perspective, my passion, the fire that I bring to bear, can do that,” he said.
Also calling himself a progressive is Woodstock’s Dave Clegg, who works as a lawyer in Kingston.
“I’ve been here giving back to the community for the last 37 years, I’ve got what one might call a few thousand roots in the community. I thinks that’s what it takes to win this election. I’ve been dedicated, in a lot of ways to fighting for racial justice, for economic justice, trying to uplift people in our community,” he said.
Erin Collier, of Cooperstown, served as an agricultural economist during the Obama administration and is a triathlete with the backing of Emily’s List – a political organization focused on getting pro-choice women into elected office.
“I can take those votes from Faso, in the swing district, which is, we do need to take those votes from him. In 2016, we saw the blue part of the district, we got those votes. And if Faso, much like the 2016 presidential election, won the rural part of the district, and that was enough for him to take the race. And we really need somebody to run, who is from the swing part of the district, and I am that candidate.”
Against Democrat Zephyr Teachout, Faso won the seat in 2016 with 54 percent of the vote.
You can watch and listen to the debate at wamc.org Thursday at 1. The primary is June 26.