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Berkshire Democrats Want To Flip New York's 19th House District

Catskills Freedom Network

Ever since November, Democrats have been eager for the next election. And with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation already all blue, Berkshire County Democrats are strategizing in an attempt to flip New York’s 19th  House district seat just across the border. 

At a town hall in Pittsfield in July, Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, said the right people need to get into government because what’s happening now, isn’t working.

“Now we are in a world where Washington is in a fight literally over our lives,” Warren said. “In a fight over the role of government, the things we do together.”

A new political action committee, the Catskills Freedom Network, formed a collaborative with New York’s 19th Congressional District Democrats to oust first-term Republican Congressman John Faso in 2018.

Former Massachusetts Legislator Sherwood Guernsey is the group’s founder and chair. He says there needs to be a Democratic majority in Congress. Guernsey spoke at a fundraiser for the county’s Democratic committee, the Berkshire Brigades, Thursday night.

“First of all this is, of course, a congressional seat so that means it’s a national political seat,” Guernsey says. “And secondly, we here in Western Massachusetts are very proud of our existing Democratic representatives.”

All nine members of the House of Representatives and both Senators from the Bay State are Democrats.

“But over next door, there is a problem in terms of a very – from our standpoint – very conservative right wing Republican who consistently votes with Trump,” Guernsey says. “And that’s a real danger to our democracy, we feel.”

Faso has faced criticism from Democrats for supporting the agenda of President Donald Trump, voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and his alleged refusal to meet with constituents and hold town halls.

“We feel it’s time to lend a hand, so that’s what we are doing,” Guernsey says. “It’s time to free the Catskills from John Faso.”

Faso declined to comment Friday, but said on WAMC’s Congressional Corner with Alan Chartock July 5th he isn’t concerned about losing his seat. He won with relative ease over Democrat Zephyr Teachout in 2016 in what was expected to be a closer race.

“I see you got 10 opponents who want to oppose you,” Chartock says. “That’s a lot.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. I am not going to worry too much about that,” Faso says.  “We’ll let the other party figure out what they are going to do, and I will worry about it next year.” 

The committee says it won’t get involved in the Democratic primary.

Lee Harrison, a longtime member of the Berkshire Brigades, says they’ve travelled to other states before.

"We were formed because we sent – quote, unquote – brigades of people back in 2004 across borders largely to New Hampshire, but also to Pennsylvania, to Ohio, to Florida even, to campaign for John Kerry,” Harrison says.

Harrison says this is the first committee they have organized with the sole intention of flipping a different state seat.

“So the only place we can go to have some effect right now is across the border and work against John Faso, so…” Harrison says.

“And I think it’s very important, when we are effective with the Berkshire Brigades, you know, taking our road trips to New Hampshire, but there is a lot of driving time involved to do that,” State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier says.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier is a Pittsfield Democrat.

“And swinging left – quite literally – means that we can drive just a few minutes to the west and have a dramatic effect with the New York 19th.”

Farley-Bouvier says the committee has support, including funding, from Democrats on Beacon Hill, too.

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