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Bridie Farrell Discusses Launch Of Her Congressional Campaign

Bridie Farrell
Bridie Farrell
Bridie Farrell

A prominent athlete and crime victim advocate from Saratoga Springs is running for Congress in New York’s 21st district. Bridie Farrell announced her campaign Wednesday. The former national speedskating competitor become an advocate for abuse survivors after coming forward about being sexually abused when she was 15. She became a frequent figure at the Capitol in Albany to press for the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on abuse claims. Farrell says fourth-term Congresswoman Elise Stefanik – now the number three Republican in the House — is focused on her “own gain at the expense of our communities.” Farrell spoke with WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley.

“I am running for Congress for the people of the district. I’m from there. My family’s from here. It’s my high school classmates, my childhood friends. And what I have seen in the past you know couple years, especially couple months, it’s not okay and I think that it’s time for folks to stand up. And I’m ready to be the person that does that and I think that I’m strong enough and I know I’m strong enough to do it against her.”

Bradley:  “So what qualifies you to hold office I believe this would be your first time?”

Farrell:  “Yeah. So I have experience with passing legislation. I quit my, I don’t know how much of my story you know but I was a speed skater. And while training for the 1998 Olympics, Olympic trials I was sexually abused by my then 33 year old teammate. I didn’t tell anyone for years and years like so many survivors of child sexual abuse don’t. When I finally came forward at age 30 or 31 the statute of limitations for me to come forward had already expired. And that’s when I got involved with the Child Victims Act in New York state which I ultimately quit my corporate job and founded a non-profit and poured everything I had for seven years into doing an educational awareness campaign across New York state and working with policymakers so that we’d have a great bill go through. So the seven years that I spent I mean just 24/7 learning how bills work and how you get the votes, how you work across the aisle, how you get people in all the towns to understand the importance of it, that that experience is what gives me the confidence to run for this. It’s also what gives me the motivation to do it. That knowing standing up and talking about something as awful and hard as being sexually abused as a child I knew it was the right thing to do. And no matter what we were going up against I knew it was the right thing to do and in doing so it allowed thousands of other people to gain their voice and to share their story. So those are the experiences that I believe make me qualified for this.”

Pat Bradley:  “What about the polarization? You’ve talked about working across the aisle. But what about the polarization we’re seeing in Washington D.C. lately?”

Bridie Farrell:  “I yeah it’s spot on. It’s not helpful. It’s not necessary and it’s not helping any of us. This isn’t about the person that we represent, ah the person that is elected, it’s about the people we represent. You know what matters to our neighbors? How do we get better health care in the district? You know I know the public schools here. I graduated from them. How do we improve them? Those are the things that are important. Not the us-versus-them and so much of the divisiveness and hate that we hear so much about. I think it’s time to just bring people together and I know from the work I did on a really tough topic that it’s possible.”  

Bradley:  “What key issues will be your focus in the campaign?”

Farrell:  “What’s important to the people that I talk to is health care. Access to health care. Elise hasn’t done work on that. I will.  It’s important that again like I said that we work on education. Elise hasn’t worked on that. I will. Broadband. I mean it is 2021 and there is still a lot of our district that doesn’t even have broadband. Coming off of COVID and bringing jobs into our area. That is what is necessary for us to be competitive. Elise hasn’t done it and I will. So it’s those things that I think are very very important that I’ll focus on. But ultimately it’s focusing on the people. And if once I get elected and go to Washington it’s not about me and what title or how high I raise it’s about the people I’ve been elected to represent. And she’s forgotten us.”

Pat Bradley: “Well the 21st District as you are probably aware right now is one of the largest in the East. It also tends to trend Republican. So how do you anticipate redistricting may affect your campaign? And if it does still trend Republican after redistricting how do you approach that sort of a challenge if redistricting ends up with a situation where it’s fairly similar to what it is now?”

Bridie Farrell:   “Right. I think this uh my experience as an athlete kind of overlays perfectly here. And that is I am in this race to win the race and to represent the people no matter who’s in the race or what district is drawn. That doesn’t matter. Kind of like I went to the starting line to race against the competitors in that race no matter what the distance was. It’s the same idea.  The redistricting’s out of my control and I can’t focus on it. I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the district North River which is smack dab in the middle. So I’m going to be in the 21st District. And I also know that people in the 21st District need someone to be in Washington to fight for them and not forget about them. So I know that’s definitely a talking point and it’s something that’s out there but it’s not, it’s really not on my radar.”

Bradley:  “Bridie Farrell as soon as you announced this morning, very shortly afterwards, incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik issued a press release referring to you as a “Far Left New York City Socialist Democrat.” What’s your response to that characterization?”

Farrell:  “That characterization is false. If the Congresswoman would like to meet me I’d welcome that opportunity. She can find out how false that is. I’ve never met these you know the people that she’s associating me with. So let’s have a real conversation. Let’s not print bumper stickers and just throw the jargon around. I mean it’s not helping anyone.”

Pat Bradley: “Are you far left or how left do you lean?”

Bridie Farrell: “No. I look I’m from the North Country. I mean I’m not a fool. I can represent the people and so I’m the center Democrat.”

Bradley:  “She also claimed in her release that you “only registered in NY-21 just weeks ago.”

Farrell:  “Right so again it’s the same thing of her just pulling out this you know the jargon, the one-liners from Washington D.C.  I have lived in New York state since when I moved back here. The only time I left New York was when I was training for the USA National Speed Skating team, right. I came back. I went to college. I had a job. I lived in the Catskills. I live in the Adirondacks. Right. And so she’s going to look to these kind of silly things and point at that. I was not placed into this race by any sort of operative like she may have been. Right. I’m in it for the right reasons and I invite her to actually have a conversation instead of having you know her staffer just throw mud like that.”

Pat Bradley:  “In the past campaigns that she has run with Democratic opponents the gun issue has always been a big issue that has come up.  What’s your position of guns and do you support gun control limits or limits on gun ownership at all?”

Bridie Farrell:  “I support the Second Amendment. I think that gun safety measures that still protect the people’s rights are what’s important.”

Bradley:  “Do you have any current Democrats that you identify with whether it’s local, state or national?”

Farrell:  “That’s a great question and it’s one that I love to answer. I would say my role model who has been my role model since I was a little girl is Janet Napolitano.”

Pat Bradley:  “That’s not something I think people would expect. How does she inspire you?”

Bridie Farrell:  “I mean look at all she’s done right. She’s broken so many ceilings in places where people didn’t think it would happen. She was a two term governor of Arizona. Came out to D.C. and ran Homeland Security. She’s always when she speaks she’s articulate. She’s thoughtful. She’s an amazing person. I would say she’s my political role model.”

Democratic Congressional hopeful Bridie Farrell speaking with WAMC’s Pat Bradley on the day she kicked off a bid for New York’s 21st House district. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s campaign called Farrell a Socialist Democrat and said it welcomed her to the race.

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