The Democratic candidate in New York 21st Congressional district is mounting her second challenge against Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. In her first campaign two years ago, Tedra Cobb emphasized heath care issues. Speaking at WAMC’s North Country Bureau this morning, Cobb tells WAMC’s Pat Bradley that in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, health care remains her top priority.
“Here we are in a global pandemic. There is no federal response, a realistic or consistent federal response. 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.”
Bradley: “So what would you do as a congressional representative to reduce the impact of the pandemic?”
Tedra Cobb: “Well, first and foremost not play politics with a public health crisis. Again we don't have a consistent or realistic federal response. The other thing as a federal representative is to make sure that I am working with local representatives and with the state. It is really important to look at how Elise Stefanik has politicized this public health crisis in the district and that it has put us at odds sometimes with Albany. We need the support. We need to be working at the state and at the federal level together to address this pandemic and keep people in our community safe. And also make sure that we can move forward and open our economy back up, make sure our schools are open, our universities are open.”
Bradley: “One of the other things that has come up over the course of this general election campaign: the incumbent wants your campaign to pull ads in which you're criticizing her and her response because of reports that Russia has put bounties on U.S. soldiers. The Republican, Elise Stefanik, says you're criticizing her based on what she says are unverified leaks. Will you pull your ads and what are your thoughts on her comments?
Cobb: “So for over 80 days she has been silent on Russia’s Russian bounties on the lives of American troops in Afghanistan. Elise Stefanik has a special position here. She sits on the House Intelligence Committee. She sits on the Armed Services Committee and she has said nothing. Nor has the President said anything. So where is her allegiance? Is it to our troops who have been deployed to Afghanistan? No. She's been silent and she should be held accountable for that silence.”
Bradley: “There are some who say these are unverified reports.”
Cobb: “And so therefore we need to know where what the truth is. Who knew it when they knew it, what they knew. You know, our troops are in harm's way and don't they deserve to know that their congressional representative is going to fight for them while they're overseas fighting for us?”
Bradley: “One of the other issues that has percolated up during the course of this general election campaign is the reaction of people towards their police. Elise Stefanik has been putting out ads supporting the blue. What is your criminal justice and policing policy?”
Cobb: “Well it's important to remember that I started my career working side by side with officers or corrections officers and other professionals in the New York state prison system. So I do not support defunding the police. I however do support reforms that would make our communities safer. I support the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act and banning chokehold and strangleholds and the duty to intervene. I think that there are some changes that can be made to make communities safer. I also think we need to make sure that we're funding the community providers that help our police. And I'll give you an example just from my own life. I've a nephew who's schizophrenic. My nephew had an episode at the age of 15 and 24. I remember my sister calling me and being terrified that the police would show up because my nephew, he was paranoid. He was confused. Now what would have been great would be a mental health provider arriving with the police officer to keep the police officer safe to keep my nephew safe to keep my nephew’s roommates safe because it was so confusing what was happening. That's what we need. We need to make sure that there are community providers, mental health providers, substance use experts alongside with the police. So that they can do what they do best.”
Pat Bradley: “There's been a lot of protests lately and some of them have turned violent. What do you make of what's been happening with the peaceful protests and also with the situation when there has been violence?”
Tedra Cobb: “Well I don't support violence or condone violence of any kind for any reason. People need to be able to voice their concerns and to voice their vision of what this country can be. So I support that. But again I don't support looting or violence of any kind and under any circumstance.”
Bradley: “What's the level of support that you have right now from local officials because your opponent has been out there saying I've got lots of support from local officials?”
Cobb: “Well I'm honored to say that we have received the endorsement of Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, who are both Republican women that we know well and who have led this community. I'm so excited to be able to say that today that I've received their endorsement. For me it's been the 30 years that I've worked in this community alongside local officials. As a legislator remember I served with Democrats and Republicans, and we were able to put politics aside to pass a tough ethics law, to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to help seniors with home heating assistance. That kind of community work. I think people now know about me having been in this race and my reputation and I'm going to continue to reach out to folks from now until Election Day.”
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, seeking a fourth term, has a standing invitation to speak with WAMC.