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Castelli wins NY-21 Democratic primary

Democratic candidate hugs his mother after winning the primary in New York's 21st Congressional District
Lucas Willard
Democratic candidate hugs his mother after winning the primary in New York's 21st Congressional District

Matt Castelli has won the Democratic primary in New York’s 21st Congressional District. After claiming victory over Matt Putorti, the former CIA officer goes on to face Republican Elise Stefanik, who is seeking a fifth term in November.

“I am honored to accept the Democratic nomination for New York 21.”

Matt Castelli declared victory in Glens Falls, at the same bar where he began his campaign a year ago.

Castelli thanked his primary opponent for running a spirited campaign. In his victory speech, the Democrat characterized Stefanik as a far-right extremist.

“Her time is over and a great reckoning is coming. She has not seen anything like the power of all of us united in defense of America and the constitution I swore an oath to defend.”

Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, welcomed Castelli to the race in a statement calling him a downstate, radical far-left Democrat from Poughkeepsie and touted her fundraising advantage.

Castelli acknowledged the Stefanik campaign’s deep pockets, but describes himself as a political moderate who can build a coalition of supporters across party lines to defeat an incumbent who now describes herself as “ultra-MAGA.”

“There have been folks that have suspected because I was in a Democratic primary, we’d have to go to the left. This is an independent-minded district. Whether you’re a Democrat, an Independent, a Republican, folks don’t like being told what to do. They believe in our common values, not what divides us,” said Castelli.

The 41-year-old who will also appear on his own Moderate Party line has distanced himself from Democratic leadership in Washington, saying he will listen to constituents. In a WAMC Congressional Corner interview during the primary campaign, Castelli said he would not support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader if elected.

Catselli, a former counterterrorism official in the Obama White House, is pro-choice but also calls himself pro-Second Amendment. Asked about what he would do to curb gun violence on election night, Castelli stopped short of calling for a new assault weapons ban — which had been a topic of debate in the primary.

“…through background checks, red flag laws, there’s a coalition that want to come together to deliver real solutions to that challenge,” said Castelli.

Lynne Boecher, the Warren County Democratic Chair, thinks Castelli has the right combination to win in a district that hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a decade.

“I think is candidacy is a viable alternative to the current Congresswoman, and that viability does stand out to me. And as a veteran chair who can be somewhat jaded, he has brought to me an energy that’s addressing issues that are pertinent to life here in the North Country,” said Boecher.

Putorti, meantime, congratulated Castelli and pledged his support to defeat Stefanik, saying a statement:

“We deserve a representative who will put the needs of our community ahead of personal ambition and political gain.”

Stefanik’s campaign says it looks forward to defeating Castelli in a “landslide” in a district that is now “even more Republican with an even larger Trump margin.”

Although she was not on the ballot Tuesday, Stefanik did suffer a setback when former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino lost a Republican primary in Western New York’s 23rd district to state party chair Nick Langworthy. Stefanik had endorsed Paladino despite a number of controversies.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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