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Congressional Corner With Tedra Cobb

Tedra Cobb
tedracobbforcongress Facebook Page
Tedra Cobb

It’s a rematch in the race for New York’s 21st House district seat.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

Alan Chartock: We're here in the Congressional Corner with Tedra Cobb, former St. Lawrence County legislator, a Democrat running against third term, NY- 21 Republican Congresswoman, Elise Stefanik. So let me start by saying what everybody else is going to ask you to. You are unable to unseat Representative Stefanik in this red district in 2018. Why are you trying again?

Tedra Cobb: Well, first and foremost, the question of trying again is important. It's a second run. I'm in this race because of health care. And some people might know but I would like to remind them I have a daughter who has a preexisting condition. She has what's called degenerative disc disease, and she had emergency back surgery. And at the time, I was insured because I had a job with insurance. A month after her surgery, I lost my job. So we lost our health care. So I never thought I was going to run again. You said I was a county legislator, I'd served on some boards. I didn't think I was going to ever be in politics again. Elise Stefanik, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That would have kicked 64,000 people in this district off their health care. But it also would have eliminated protections for people with preexisting conditions. My own daughter being one of them. So I know what it's like to be a parent. I know what it's like to lose your job and lose your health care. That’s why I got into the race. And that's why I stayed in this race. We deserve a representative who's going to fight for families like mine. I'm going to fight for families like I fought for my own.

No, I don’t have to tell you this. Stefanik’s got a lot of money and it's coming from all over the country because the President Trump has made her into a poster, I can't say the word girl, I can't say boy, but a poster child and people are saying we've got to support her. In fact, some people were saying that she would take the vice presidential nomination since Trump is so far behind and Pence isn’t apparently helping him anymore. What do you make of that?

Well, first off, let's talk about the money in terms of Elise Stefanik, and all of that other stuff that's for pundits. You guys get to talk about that. I don't care about that. But let's talk about money because this is really important. We are very different people. I'm not a career politician. And I'm not taking corporate money. So let me let me talk about the importance of that, you know, Elise Stefanik has taken hundreds of thousand dollars from the insurance industry, and then has voted to kick people off their insurance. So she's voted with the insurance industry. She's taken pharmaceutical money and then voted against it a prescription drug plan that would have helped our seniors cap those out of pocket costs for senior citizens, you know, who are making a decision? Do I pay for my medication? Or do I put food on my table? So, for me, the corrupting influence of corporate money is what I want to change in Washington. And you couldn't find two more different candidates. I'm not taking corporate money, I will never be beholden to corporations. And I will only ever be beholden to the people who elect me. They are my priority, though, the reason why I'm here and the reason why I went in this race, and why I want to win and represent them.

Now Stefanik is closely allied. And by the way, just so everybody knows we've tried assiduously to get her on to this program. And she won’t do it. We may have had her once, long, long time ago. But, you know, I thank you for being here and for coming on. But, you know, I don't get that. I don't understand we give everybody a fair chance and she's not doing it. Okay.

So I just want to say something about that if I could.

Sure. Of course

Representation is not just about getting elected and what you do in the few months before the election. It is about what you do when you're elected. You know, when I was a county legislator, my daughter was little, she's a little girl. And I'd say, do you want to go to the grocery store with me Ada? And she said, it depends, is it five minutes or 50 minutes? And I would say it depends who needs me in the grocery store. That's about being a representative. In local government, if I just went in for lettuce, I might be there for 50 minutes because someone might want to talk about their health care, or roads or bridges or whatever it might be. That's what we're missing in Elise Stefanik. You know, she has time to go to Iowa and Tulsa. But she doesn't have time to be here with us solving the problems that we're facing every day. That's the difference between us.

Have you seen a poll?

No, but the race has been rated a tossup.

Really? Is that true, is that so? I didn't know that.

Yeah. Rachel Bitecofer rated the race a tossup because we're one of those fiercely independent districts. And that's why I love it here. You know, I moved here 30 years ago to go to SUNY Potsdam, married my husband, Scott, and we raised our two children. I've done everything from being a firefighter, to serving on numerous boards, including hospice. You know, I love this place. It's my home. And one of the things I love about it is how independent we are.

And you had a Democratic Congressman, not that long ago, Bill Owens.

Right. And remember that McHugh who was a Republican went on to be the Secretary of the Army for President Obama.

I'm so old. I remember interviewing him all the time, on this very program.

Well, I remember with the district when it was Gillibrand’s district and McHugh’s district so I'm going to show my age here.

Believe me, compared to me, you're a kid. So the Stefanik campaign just released a long list of local elected officials of both parties who endorsed her campaign. Do you have enough local support to win the race?

Yeah, that's a great question and, you know, endorsements from local officials are important. And, and also, having relationships with local people are important. You know, I've spent 30 years here, pulling out a list of people who have endorsed me, is, I guess what I'd say is, what is this race about? And ultimately, it's about the people that I get to meet every day. You know, the relationships that I've made over those 30 years, whether it's as a firefighter, like I said, or whether it's in health care, or whether it's serving on boards or the work that I've done helping not-for-profits be stronger and organizations do what they do better. So those relationships, I think, you know, transcend everything and they inform who I am and what I hope to do.

So Tedra Cobb, I guess I got to ask you this because clearly, Trump is a very big fan of Miss Stefanik. In most of New York that would not be helpful. Is he helping the district in any particular way in order to get her elected?

I don't know the answer to that. I have heard people say if he's elected, will you work with him? And here's what I want to say to that. When Trump first ran, he said that he would get everybody health care and that it would be cheap. It hasn't happened. He hasn't gotten it done. Elise Stefanik hasn't gotten it done. You know, that's what I have always worked on and I'll continue to work on no matter who’s elected.

Is Trump an issue in this election? I guess I gotta put it that way.

Here we are in a global pandemic. And we are still waiting for a federal response. 136,000 people have died. And we're still waiting for a federal response. Schools are wondering and waiting about opening and trying to figure out what to do. And we're waiting for a federal response. Do I think it's an issue? Absolutely. It's an issue.

Tedra Cobb, I love talking to you. You are so articulate and so magnificently logical that it is just a delight to have you with us. And thank you. When we come back the next time, I got some more questions for you.

All right. Thank you so much.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.