Republican Committee officials from across New York’s 21st Congressional District meeting in Elizabethtown today chose their candidate for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Democrat Bill Owens.
Three candidates were seeking the Republican endorsement in the 16,000-square mile northern New York district. Elise Stefanik, from Willsboro, works for her family’s plywood distribution business. She also worked in the White House during the George W. Bush administration. Joe Gilbert of Canton is the former St. Lawrence County Emergency services director. Michael Ring of Jefferson County is a business owner and former broadcast engineer.
Each candidate has met with GOP committee members from all 12 counties in the sprawling district. Each of the county chairs, or their representative, met in Elizabethtown Friday afternoon to formally endorse one candidate. “Elise was the choice.” Essex County Republican County Chair Ron Jackson continued. “I think we’ve got a good candidate that can express her views and people are going to like what she says. I think she’s going to win.”
Stefanik, who announced her candidacy in June, says she is humbled by the endorsement. “Eleven of the twelve counties decided to endorse me. I’m just overwhelmed by the support. I plan on working extremely hard to earn the support of Republicans, Conservatives, Independents and Democrats to win this seat. Because I think we absolutely need new ideas and new leadership in Washington, because Washington is broken.”
Candidate Michael Ring immediately threw his support behind Stefanik.. “I’m endorsing Elise. The reason for that: the committee process we’ve had, I’ve gotten to see her through twelve different meetings and gotten to know her really well. She and I have similar viewpoints on 99% of the issues. My initial reason for getting into this election was because I wanted to make a difference and get a message to the committees. I’ve accomplished that, and I’m still accomplishing it. I’d rather work to get voters involved.”
But the third candidate will continue his campaign and force a primary. Joe Gilbert says he expected the endorsement of Stefanik by the region’s GOP chairs. “I was called the rebel. I don’t see it that way. My campaign is rooted in our founding principles. It is the individual freedom, the individual political sovereignty where we the people are the masters of government, not the other way around. My guiding principle is the Constitution. My guiding principle is the Bill of Rights. Government exists to protect the individual rights of its citizens. And if I feel it is not doing that any longer, then I am going to stand up very strongly and say no. My mission all along has been to bring my message to the people and to the voters and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Retiring Congressman Bill Owens, the first Democrat to hold the seat since the Civil War, won three close elections during his five years in office, and the district is considered competitive. Essex County GOP Chair Ron Jackson, who is also Vice Chair for the 21st District, would rather not see a primary. “I think a primary hurts everybody. But Mr. Gilbert has a right. The Constitution of New York State has set up, deliberately, so it’s relatively easy for somebody to get on the ballot and force a primary. I will say in my experience that most of the time the endorsed candidates end up winning.”
Jefferson County Republican officials chose not to endorse a candidate until after the primary.