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A Look At The Repeat Matchup For NY’s 21st District Congressional Seat

Republican Elise Stefanik (left) and Democrat Tedra Cobb
photos provided
Republican Elise Stefanik (left) and Democrat Tedra Cobb

The race in New York’s 21st Congressional district is a rematch of 2018. But the elbows are a little sharper this time. 
Rising Republican star Elise Stefanik is going for a fourth two-year term against Democrat Tedra Cobb, a former St. Lawrence County legislator. The two faced off in 2018, which Stefanik won with 56 percent to Cobb’s 42 percent.

In 2018, Cobb won a long primary race against nearly a dozen challengers. In 2020 she has been the only Democrat in the race and her main issue hasn’t changed.  “I've spent my lifetime expanding access to health care, fighting for health care for Northern New Yorkers and Elise Stefanik has voted five times to take it away. And certainly this global pandemic has highlighted, has shone a momentous spotlight, on the fragility of our healthcare system and Elise Stefanik has made it worse.”

Stefanik refused to say Donald Trump’s name in 2016, saying she would vote for the “Republican nominee.” Now, she has increasingly aligned herself with the president.  She was a key member of his impeachment defense team in the House and is chair of Trump’s New York campaign committee. She spoke in support of President Trump at the Republican National Convention.  “We face a critical choice: Joe Biden's far left failed policies of the past 47 years or President Trump who will stand up for the American people and the Constitution.”

During a honk-and-wave stop with supporters in the waning days of the campaign she offered a stump speech to the Plattsburgh crowd that echoed her national speech.  “This election is a choice between standing up for our Constitution. I’m proud to support our Second Amendment rights. I will always stand up for our Constitution. When it comes to law enforcement we back the blue. We need to be defending the police not defunding the police. And this is another choice in this Congressional race. On taxes we need lower taxes in New York state.  My opponent’s voted every time to raise taxes at every opportunity. So this is a really clear choice. And I’m so proud to be on the ballot not only with President Trump but with amazing candidates at the state and local level.”

At small counter rally across the street, Morrisonville resident Kim Hall-Stone expressed a keen aversion to the incumbent.  “She stands with the Trump Administration and they’re bullies. They’re name callers. They act like babies. It’s embarrassing.  I don’t want to be represented by her. She certainly does not represent my values of equality, equity.  People, all people, should be represented. She is clearly racist. And if you stand with Trump you stand against America.”

Negativity and animosity between the candidates has been evident in their advertising and flared during two televised debates, including on MyNBC5 as Cobb and Stefanik clashed over gun policy.  “You know what Elise I am not a career politician and I will not never lie about you or twist the truth about you.”
Stefanik:  “You said banning.”
Cobb:  “I said the word banning.”
Stefanik:  “‘Cause that’s she supports a gun ban.”
Cobb:  “This is childish.”  
Stefanik:  “My opponent listen to her. Banning. It came out of her mouth. She supports an assault weapons ban.”
Cobb:  “So let’s be clear. You voted against the violence Against Women Act. You voted against closing gun show loopholes.  Those are all things that Americans believe will keep people safe. And you voted against every one of them. I just want the record.”
Stefanik:  “I wrote…”
Cobb: “I want the record clear here.”

SUNY Plattsburgh Professor of Political Science Dr. Harvey Schantz says two things stand out about the race. First is the grudge match and second is the level of advertising spending across the district.  “The challenger has been able to get her message out to the public and has been able to run an expensive campaign. And so a lot depends I think on how people vote for President”
Schantz adds that there have been no polls conducted regarding the race.  “That suggests to me that people are not viewing this as a competitive race.”

The district has backed Republicans for more than a century, but in 2009, ’10 and ’12 Democrat Bill Owens was elected, and President Barack Obama carried the district twice.  


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