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Republican Stefanik Takes Northern New York

Lucas Willard

Republican Elise Stefanik beat out two opponents in the race for New York’s 21st District, to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. 

At the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls, supporters celebrated Elise Stefanik’s win. The 30-year old Republican beat out Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello.

She will replace Democrat Bill Owens, who is retiring from the seat he’s held since 2009.

The campaign between the candidates in the sprawling district was at times tense, particularly between Stefanik and Woolf. The GOP supporters cheered on Watertown mayor Jeff Graham, who introduced Stefanik when the race was called Tuesday night.

“When we go to bed tonight and put our head on the pillow you can sleep with a feeling of safety because the Woolf is no longer knocking at the door,” said Graham.

The crowd at GOP headquarters was marked by the large presence of young supporters. Jimmy Yun, a sophomore at Union College in Schenectady, interned with the Stefanik campaign. He was joined by several of his fellow students.

Yun said he drove up to the district several times a week and estimated he knocked on about 800 doors.

“All of us are consistently shocked at what Elise is. She’s only 30 years. She’s only 10 years older than me, and for us, and especially me, that’s an inspiration for something I can do. And I think for my entire intern class, that inspires us – that we can be a new generation of leadership,” said Yun.

The MC of the evening and Warren County Stefanik volunteer coordinator Mark Westcott said the youth involvement in the campaign had a big impact in the swing district. Westcott said he believes more young people should become engaged in politics.

“And there’s no reason why we can’t start right here. And Elise Stefanik, I believe, is the future of the Republican Party, and people like her. And hopefully it will motivate more young people to get involved, not only in the process, but also to run for office.”

Stefanik took to the stage after securing a 2-1 lead over Woolf. During her victory speech, Stefanik thanked her opponents for their involvement in the closely watched race.

“And no matter their party, our Democratic process is strengthened by those individuals willing to put forth their ideas, and with the courage to put their name on the ballot. So thank you to Aaron and Matt and their teams on a hard-fought race, and please join me in giving them a round of applause…”

Until  Representative Bill Owens was elected in 2009, New York’s North Country district had been held by the GOP dating back to the Civil War. Stefanik spoke about the district returning to Republican hands.

“So I think that what shows is that geographically we have a wide spread of support. We also have support beyond party lines, so Republicans and also Democrats at the polls today. And for the voters that didn’t support me, I will work hard every day to earn their support with strong constituent services, a willingness to work across the aisle on tough issues.”

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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