At its peak, 10 Democrats made up the primary field in New York’s 21st Congressional district. Over time the numbers have diminished. Voters will choose between the final five Tuesday. The three women and two men who are running all say it is crucial to make a change and oust the Republican incumbent.
Each of the Democratic candidates vying to challenge incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik is expressing confidence they will win Tuesday’s primary and continue their campaign against second-term Republican Elise Stefanik.
Patrick Nelson, the first to declare his candidacy on January 19, 2017, says the campaign has been a tremendous experience and the hardest work of his life. “We have stayed true to the initial message that we had. You know the need to remove corporate influence and corporate money from our electoral system and get rid of money in politics generally so that we no longer have corporate sponsored candidates like Congresswoman Stefanik and we have representatives working for the people. The fact that health care is a right of all citizens and we should join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care as a right to all people. We started on that message and we stayed on that message. The fact that we need to rise to the challenge of climate change. We’ve stayed the same because the issues have stayed the same. These are the issues of the people of the district. It is their issues that I’m running on.”
Katie Wilson became the second Democrat to enter the race in June 2017. The single mother and business owner from Keene says she most closely represents the working class in the district. “I’ve been speaking to the working class and speaking to people who on both sides of the aisle have felt incredibly left out of the process and I think that is what has been most resonant. You know it is a moment where we need more voices at the table and we certainly need someone who’s representing the issues and the needs of people in the working class and people who are struggling the most. People who just want to see their basic needs being met so they can provide a better future for their children than the one laid out for themselves.”
Tedra Cobb announced her candidacy in early July 2017. The former St. Lawrence County legislator from Canton says her strategy has been successful in garnering endorsements and voter support. “We have been strategic from the beginning. We had the Post-Star endorsement, which is an honor. We have consistently done well and led in fundraising. We’ve done everything that I think we could have done and our message is right. We’re talking about the issues that people are facing. We’re talking about health care. We’re talking about the high cost of prescription drugs. We’re talking about you know access to education. We’re talking about the environment. We’re talking about the things that matter to people in Northern New York. So I feel strong about our message.”
Saranac Lake resident Emily Martz worked in the non-profit economic development sector before announcing her campaign on July 12th. She echoes her primary contenders’ urgency to defeat Stefanik. “It has felt nothing more than right the whole time. And here we are on the cusp of having a Democratic nominee and people are now asking: How are you going to win in November? That’s the most common question. And I always say we’re going to win because we have to. We have no choice. Democrats, Republicans, independents alike we’re all very frustrated with the representation that we have in Congress because she’s brought to us by billionaires and we need someone who is going to stand up for working people in the North Country.”
Dylan Ratigan was the last to enter the Democratic primary in February but has, perhaps, the most name recognition. The Saranac Lake native is a former business and political commentator on MSNBC and CNBC who says the government is abusing the country and the best way to advance reform is from directly inside Congress. “The congressional district we’re talking about here in upstate New York has been severely abused by the broken government. You have the highest unemployment in the entire Northeast. You have 3 out of 5 people at or below the poverty line. You have an aging infrastructure in many cases. You have 50 percent of the geographic area that doesn’t even have broadband or wireless access. The amount of abuse that’s been endured by upstate New York from our broken politics is substantial and so somebody who has the ability to navigate the halls of power and influence in Washington and New York who happens to be from Saranac Lake, it seems to be extremely appealing to people.”
So who’s most likely to win the 21st District Democratic primary? Wilson says none of the candidates appear to be a frontrunner. “You hear people say over and over that there’s just no one pulling out and defining themselves and in a way that’s frustrating for me but it’s true. I mean all the data points to the fact that this is still a wide-open race.”
The winner of Tuesday’s primary advances to face Stefanik in November.