Seven Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York’s 21st District in November came together for an informal meet and greet Thursday night in Saratoga Springs.
The meet the candidates event at the Saratoga Springs Public Library was well-attended Thursday night.
Hosted by Saratoga County Young Democrats, the event allowed anyone interested to shake hands and chat with each of the seven candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the race for the 21st Congressional District, which runs from Saratoga County to the Canadian border.
Organizer Dan Barusch said the Young Democrats wanted to do something different than a traditional debate for curious voters.
“They haven’t had a chance with those candidates individually yet. All they’ve been able to do is sit at a forum and listen to the same old questions,” said Barusch.
At the start of the event, the candidates were each given three minutes to deliver an elevator pitch on themselves and their campaigns.
First up was Dylan Ratigan, a former MSNBC host. Ratigan took aim at political and financial corruption in Washington.
“How did we get like this? Our liberty, our planet is at stake and we’re talking about nonsense. You can indulge that to a point, but when the world is changing as fast as it is, and it is changing as fast as it ever has right now, indulging a broken political system is a matter of life and death,” said Ratigan.
Next up was David Mastrianni, a Saratoga Springs oncologist. Mastrianni touted his career experience and ideas in healthcare.
“First, allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices and supplies and use the free market, that’s what it’s good at. And the second thing we can do is expand it across all ages. I believe this would transform us. I believe it would transform us as human beings because we would no longer have the indignity of not having a card and being afraid to go get care. I believe it would transform our economic situation,” said Mastrianni.
Following Mastrianni was Patrick Nelson, a progressive activist and former aide to Democratic state Assemblyman Phil Steck. Nelson has frequently mentioned the legacy of Senator Bernie Sanders as an influence on his campaign.
“We do not have the opportunity to play to a moderate base. We do not have the ability to not campaign boldly on Medicare for all, to not campaign boldly on getting corporate money out of politics, to not campaign boldly on solving the crisis of climate change,” said Nelson.
But Nelson also took time in his introduction to address what he called a “whisper campaign” against him. He briefly resisted yielding after his three minutes.
“There’s been a whisper campaign against my campaign…”
“Patrick…” interrupted moderator and Saratoga Springs supervisor Tara Gaston.
“I need to say this…”
“No. Everybody gets three minutes,” said Gaston.
Nelson was given the chance to finish his thought at the conclusion of the program.
Next was Don Boyajian, an attorney. He touted his legal experience as an asset for the North Country.
“I worked in the AG’s office in the Environmental Protection Bureau. And right now, as a town attorney, I’m representing communities all around upstate New York that really need somebody to fight and win for them, whether it’s on getting funding for infrastructure or in the opioid epidemic. Today, we just began representation of the City of Plattsburgh among other cities and counties in upstate New York against the pharmaceutical companies, because we need someone who is fighting and winning for us,” said Boyajian.
Following Boyajian was Katie Wilson, a small business owner and activist from Keene. Wilson took aim at the second-term Republican incumbent in her message to voters.
“What are they going to see that is different than Stefanik, who is clearly part of the establishment, who clearly is out of touch with everyday life in New York 21. Who are they going to trust? Who’s the girl behind the counter at Stewart’s going to vote for? Because that’s what we have to think about. This is about winning. We are all on the same team. All of us. We all want the same thing. And so what we need to do now is put our heads together and think about what the North Country is going to believe in,” said Wilson.
Tedra Cobb, an entrepreneur and former Saint Lawrence County legislator, said she has experience reaching across the party divide.
“I learned those values from my parents. I have nine adopted siblings and a biological brother and so I learned at a very, very early age to reach across the table and to compromise. And to make sure that everybody got what they needed. I also learned frugality. My mother was the queen of frugality. She had a dish, chicken surprise – you find the chicken, I’ll be surprised,” said Cobb.
Last up was Emily Martz, who spoke of her work in economic development and experience teaching economics at Paul Smith’s College and at Clarkson University. Martz said every child “has the right to realize their full potential.”
“And I’m going to help re-orient Congress towards this priority of a just world by putting to work my 20 years of work in the public service realm through volunteer and social services, and my over 20 years in business helping families to create financial wealth and stability,” said Martz.