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Bridie Farrell talks about her campaign in the New York 21st District Congressional race

Five Democrats are running in hopes ousting Republican Elise Stefanik in New York 21st District Congressional race next year. One of them is Bridie Farrell, a former competitive speed skater and crime victims advocate who entered the race in July. This week, eleven of the 12 county chairs in the district endorsed Matt Castelli in the Democratic primary. Farrell released a statement criticizing the chairs for what she calls an “early” endorsement. She explained to WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley why she feels such a move is preemptive to the democratic process.

The whole process here is about representing the people. And when you have a group of folks a group of county chairs that are deciding who they think is best for the people of the North Country that's where I have a problem with it. And I got into this race to represent my neighbors. I'm from here, I've you know, grew up here. And that's why I'm in this race is to represent folks. And when they pick a back room deal to me that's what I had the problem with. The chairs need to work on bringing out the base and enlarging the democratic process. The people should be voting for who they want. It should be about a free and fair election. It should be about bringing more people into the fold. It should be about encouraging more candidates to run, people to be involved, all the way up to running for Congress, to local school boards. It is all very important and when you have single handedly people making these decisions I think it's discouraging. For me it's motivating. It's exactly why I got into this and will continue to fight hard doing it. But that's why I came out pretty strongly and said this isn't democracy. This isn't what Democrats stand for and call out what it is.

Bridie Farrell, we spoke when you first announced your candidacy. Since then how much have you gotten out in the district and what are some of the key concerns and issues you're hearing about from the voters?

So it's been great traveling around the district. It's been a bit of memory lane because I know a lot more of the roads from training on them on my bikes than the luxury of a car. But it's it's been great getting out. And what I hear from everyone is that she's changed. Elise Stefanik has changed. She is not who she said she was. And she's not representing us. The other thing is people when they hear I went to BOCES and they hear that I relate to this area, to the North Country, that's something that people really want to have as their leader because it's someone that they know and trust. I think really fighting for the economy and jobs is what's going to be really important and continue to be important in our district.

How do your conversations with the voters and what they're bringing up mesh with your key issues?

I am pro union. I am fighting for a living wage, all of those things that are the core of who I am. I think it's the Catholic Irish upbringing in me. Those things really correlate to everyone what they need and want in the district. So it's been great traveling and listening to people and saying she's changed. We need someone real. We need someone authentic, and people saying, oh, you know, we remember you from when you were skating. So.

It seems like Congress is getting more and more partisan. Why do you still want to go down there?

Public service. I've been given everything. I've been afforded so much. I am the person that I am because of the district, because of North Country values. And I want to give back. I recognize how fortunate I am and I want to serve my community. You know it's not the theater of D.C. that I'm attracted to but rather the belief of still having that, you know, my neighbor and I are wanting the same things and that I am here for him and her like they are for me

Bridie Farrell, how are you defining yourself compared to the other Democrats in the race?

Well, my name is not Matt. So that's a difference. I've passed, I have legislative experience. The work that I did in Albany working on the Child Victims Act I know is a differentiator. I know what it's like to talk about hard issues across the aisle. I did that both in New York state and in other states across the country in Arizona, New Jersey. And so that legislative experience I think is what really, really is a differentiator. And I think there's something to be said by just being from here and drinking the water and shoveling the snow. And knowing what it's like. I mean, I know what it's like to run out of heating oil. I'm not sure my competitors have and I'm quite sure that the incumbent never has, right? And so those are the things that people relate to. And those are the things that it doesn't matter what party you are but when heating costs are going up, when an EpiPen is too expensive, when you think my god if I get in this ambulance do you know how much it's going to cost? Nobody cares if you're a Republican or a Democrat. Those are just family, family conversations. Those are dinner table conversations and basic community values are what I stand for. And I continue to meet people across the district and the more I meet the more folks really get to know that about me. But that's why I'm in it is to fight for those local issues.

Bridie, you've mentioned that when you've been talking with the people in the district that they've said that the incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik has changed. The district though as it's currently configured, because we don't know when and if redistricting might change it, but the current district has always tended to vote Republican. I think it's only gone democratic once in its history. So considering that do you think a Democrat in 2022 can actually defeat the incumbent?

Can a Democrat from outside of the district move here and beat her? No. Can a corporate lawyer move here and beat her? No. Can a North Country Dem beat her? Absolutely and that's why I'm in the race. She's changed. She's beholden to D.C. lobbyists. And it's time we got back to our roots. And again it's not based on R's and D's. It is based on the values of here and you know we saw Bill Owens was in office, I believe, for six years. So yes, I am in this thing to win it because of the folks that I feel really want representation. And to your point about the district not even knowing it, it's also kind of interesting for the chairs to weigh in when the lines aren't drawn.

Are you campaigning planning for a possible redistricting or are you just kind of going with the way it is right now? Are you in a nebulous sort of situation right now as you're trying to campaign?

So I don't live on the district lines. I live in North River which is smack dab in the middle of the Adirondacks. So you can slice a left or right I'm going to be in this. I also, not not to make all the sports analogies, but I see it really as like when I was speed skating, you'd show up at a rink and the rink would be different, right? It'd be soft ice or hard ice or slow ice or whatever. But I showed up for the purpose of representing my country to the best of my ability and beating everyone else there. I'm showing up to represent the people in North Country and to beat Elise Stefanik. It's not about the lines. It's about the people. Right. And so whether it's 315 or 518, we need someone that is actually going to stand for us and that is something that Elise is not.

What have you got planned right now for your campaign?

It's actually so funny because everyone says oh the district's so big. It is the most beautiful current 17,000 square miles in the country. And it is the best excuse that I quote, have to travel around. So one I love traveling around. I mean whether it's the meeting with folks or diners, everything like that. But so yes. So I've been doing a meeting with people in different towns. As far as a tour we're planning that for the new year. You know with COVID is obviously a concern. And so I've actually gone on runs with many people across the district, you know, because it's like well we want to stay outside but it's starting to get chilly. And so I say, well, do I go for a run? And so I've gone on a lot of runs with people across the district. It's so important that we stay focused on the point of all this.

Bridie Farrell faces Matthew Putorti, Matt Castelli, Ezra Watson and Keith Sherrill in a Democratic primary.

You can hear interviews with other candidates in the New York 21st Congressional district Democratic primary race at wamc.org.

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