hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News July 2017



Democrats line up to challenge Faso, Stefanik


More than a dozen Democratic hopefuls have stepped forward in recent weeks to say they’re planning or considering challenges to U.S. Reps. John Faso and Elise Stefanik in 2018.
The two Republican incumbents, whose districts stretch across much of eastern New York, have faced a wave of criticism since they provided crucial votes in early May for a bill to slash federal health care spending and undo much of former President Obama’s signature health care law.
The House bill, which passed in a razor-thin vote of 217-213, would cut projected federal Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion over 10 years while also gutting subsidies for people who buy private insurance plans through marketplaces set up under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Polls show the Republicans’ health care legislation to be deeply unpopular, and groups opposed to the legislation have staged a series of protests in recent weeks outside the district offices of both Faso and Stefanik.

But while the health care debate and other policy changes pushed by the Trump administration have raised the ire of left-leaning activists, it remains to be seen whether Democrats in the two House districts can unite behind viable candidates – and whether any of the candidates who’ve come forward so far have the skills and experience needed to be competitive.

Both the 19th Congressional District (Faso’s) and the 21st district (Stefanik’s) are considered potential Democratic pickups in 2018, but nonpartisan analysts say both districts lean Republican at this point – with Faso viewed as more vulnerable than Stefanik. President Trump carried both districts in November, but Barack Obama carried both districts in 2012.

Reports in the Daily Freeman of Kingston, the Times Herald-Record of Middletown and The New York Times show that as of late June, eight potential Democratic challengers had emerged to take on Faso, a freshman whose district extends from Rensselaer and Columbia counties south and west to the Pennsylvania border. They are:
• Jeffrey Beals, 40, of Woodstock, a high school history teacher who was decorated by the Army and State Department for his service in Iraq.
• Steven Brisee, 26, of Shawangunk (Ulster County).
• David Clegg, 64, of Woodstock, a lawyer and former public defender who has lived in Ulster County for more than 25 years.
• Antonio Delgado, 40, a lawyer at a major New York City firm who reports having raised $300,000 for the campaign. He recently moved to Rhinebeck (Dutchess County) from New Jersey.
• Brian Flynn of Elka Park (Greene County), a self-described entrepreneur who has had a second home in the district for more than a decade but only recently registered to vote here. He reports having raised $180,000 in campaign donations.
• Gareth Rhodes, 28, of Kerhonkson (Ulster County), a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who’s now on leave from his studies at Harvard Law School.
• Patrick Ryan, 35, a Kingston native and West Point graduate who served two combat tours in Iraq as an Army intelligence officer. He now lives in Brooklyn, where he works for a technology company, but says he plans to move back to the area.
• Sue Sullivan, 52, of Plattekill (Ulster County), a lifelong district resident and former hospital executive who now runs a consulting firm.
Meanwhile, in Stefanik’s district, which stretches from Washington and northern Saratoga counties to the Canadian border, The Post-Star of Glens Falls reported that six prospective or declared candidates lined up outside a late June meeting of the Warren County Democratic Committee to make their cases for the party’s support. They are:
• Don Boyajian of Saratoga Lake, a lawyer who previously served as an aide to one-term U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon, D-Staten Island.
• Tedra Cobb of Canton, a consultant who served for eight years in the St. Lawrence County Legislature.
• Martha Devaney of Wilton, who works for a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities under a contract with the state Medicaid program.
• Emily Martz of Saranac Lake (Essex County), the operations and finance director of the Adirondack North Country Association, a regional economic development group.
• Patrick Nelson of Stillwater, a political activist who was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic convention.
• Katie Wilson, the owner of an antiques shop in Keene (Essex County) and the former manager of a local inn.
It looks like the Democratic ballots for the June primary could be crowded. -- Fred Daley