NY-19 Democratic Primary Candidates Talk Endorsements

Jun 18, 2018

Democratic candidates in New York’s 19th congressional district are entering their final week of campaigning before the June 26 primary. The race is in the national spotlight. Sunday, The New York Times endorsed a candidate in the sprawling 11-county district.

Seven Democrats are aiming to unseat freshman Republican Congressman John Faso. They have participated in dozens of forums, each candidate with a cheering squad. The candidates have been making their cases for why he or she is the strongest choice to take on Faso. The Times editorial board endorsed Ulster County resident Gareth Rhodes, a former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying that he stands out as the best candidate in a worthy field to take on and beat Faso in November. Rhodes says he is humbled.

“This is an endorsement both of our campaign, but also our campaign’s approach, going to every single town in the district, all 163,” says Rhodes.

Woodstock resident Dave Clegg says a Times endorsement is meaningful, but the paper got it wrong. In its endorsement of Rhodes, the Times included a paragraph or so on each candidate. Here’s Clegg.

“We talked enough that they knew my background, having been here for almost four decades, and being the chair of the [Ulster County] Human Rights Commission, doing restorative justice work through the community, helping start the homeless shelter, actually founding the Habitat for Humanity,” Clegg says. “And yet, in the paper, I’m known for being a basketball coach.”

Clegg says the depiction is inaccurate and unfair. Rather than comment on the Times’ endorsement, former U.S. diplomat Jeff Beals, who earlier Monday was with a “New York Post” photographer, chooses to focus on his endorsements.

“The biggest endorsement for me was the People for Bernie Sanders coming in and endorsing our campaign after they had gotten behind his nationally, and igniting a lot of enthusiasm among the hundreds of volunteers working for us,” Beals says.

And, notes Beals, the mayor of the district’s second largest city, Oneonta, has endorsed him. Beals, who is fighting against corporate power, has also been the subject of articles in “Rolling Stone” magazine. The Woodstock resident is being featured on public radio’s “This American Life” Friday, on an episode called “It’s My Party and I’ll Try If I Want To.”

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin says, “In this crowded primary field, Bernie Sanders doppelgänger Jeff Beals has driven the policy debate. The result will be an eventual Democratic nominee that’s far to the left of where the district is.”

Meantime, Rhinebeck resident and attorney Antonio Delgado also steered clear of commenting on the Times endorsement, focusing instead on the next eight days.

“We have certainly done everything we can do to best put ourselves in the position to win by virtue of having the support we’ve built in county-wide endorsements, through Citizen Action endorsement, through knocking on over 50,000 doors,” Delgado says.

Greene County businessman Brian Flynn.

“I think it’s no surprise that ‘The New York Times’ endorsed a press aide from Governor Cuomo’s office. I think that comes as no surprise to any of us,” Flynn says. “It’s kind of what we expected.”

Flynn believes local endorsements are more important, and mentions the 70-plus endorsements from Democratic leaders, political organizations and local elected officials he has garnered.

Erin Collier, a Cooperstown resident and agricultural economist during the Obama Administration, says more attention on the race is positive.

“And I’m excited for my own endorsements. Having support from Senator Gillibrand through her Off the Sidelines PAC is really such an honor,” Collier says. “She is such a leader and has done such great things.”

Collier, the only woman in the race, has the endorsement of Emily’s List, which has endorsed just two other congressional candidates in New York  —  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. The other Democratic candidate in the 19th congressional district, Gardiner resident Patrick Ryan, who served two tours in Iraq, did not respond to a request for comment.