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


Editorial August 2018



Tales from the trail: Haze and some light


The general election season is suddenly upon us, at least in the two hotly contested U.S. House districts in our region of eastern New York.

With the crowded Democratic primaries settled, the month of July brought the first chances for the two district’s incumbent Republicans to engage with their newly anointed challengers. We should all brace ourselves for a wild ride ahead.

As voters we’d surely love to see the candidates focus seriously on the big issues -- things like health care, immigration, tax policy, environmental protection and other areas where members of Congress really have a lot of power to shape our quality of life. And with luck we’ll probably get at least a bit of substance from now till November.

But we all know that in this era of rehearsed talking points and 30-second attack ads, an awful lot of that discussion will be superficial, predictable and intentionally misleading.

Sometimes it’s the stories that are comparatively inconsequential – the candidates’ gaffes or the dredged-up stories of youthful indiscretions – that wind up revealing more about the character and values of the candidates and their critics.

With that in mind, let’s consider the big stories of July in the two local House races.
In the 19th district, which covers Rensselaer and Columbia counties, the focus quickly turned to rap music after the New York Post published a story quoting from a hip-hop album that Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado recorded under the stage name “AD the Voice” in 2006 – before he went on to Harvard Law School and a career.

Freshman Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, quickly picked up on the story, issuing a statement criticizing Delgado’s “very troubling and offensive song lyrics.”

On the 18 songs of his 2006 CD “Painfully Free,” Delgado used the N-word repeatedly, made references to sexual acts and offered some moral criticism of the nation’s founding fathers.
Delgado, who is black, said the controversy was an attempt to “otherize” him as he’s campaigning to represent an overwhelmingly white district. Some of his allies accused Faso of “race baiting.”

The issue may work for Faso in the sense that lots of his constituents don’t listen to rap and may find the coarseness of its language off-putting. But there probably are also are lots of 40-plus voters who wouldn’t like to have to defend the music they listened to in their 20s and who would rather focus on Faso’s record in office.

In the 21st district, which covers northern Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties and points north, Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb was thrown off course in early July when an online video surfaced that showed her telling a supporter that she favors an assault-weapons ban but can’t say so publicly for fear of losing the election. Within days, Cobb’s campaign manager quit.
But the tone of the story shifted at the end of July when The Post-Star of Glens Falls, in a fine piece of shoe-leather reporting, managed to track down and identify the Saratoga County teenager who recorded the damaging video. It turns out the teenager, who posed as a Cobb supporter and recorded the video without her knowledge, is an intern for incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik – and was paid nearly $1,000 in recent months by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The incident hurt Cobb, who has yet to articulate a clear stand on assault weapons. But it may do hurt Stefanik even more, as voters are left to conclude that her camp engaged in dirty tricks.


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