Challenging Campaign Expected in NY-21 As Primary Sets Candidates

Jun 27, 2018

Coming off a long, five-person primary in New York’s 21st House district that ended Tuesday night, Democrat Tedra Cobb is hoping to unify the party as she gears up to face incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik.  It’s considered an uphill climb.

Unofficial results show Democrat Tedra Cobb won 11 of the 12 counties in the district, taking 56 percent of the vote overall. Her closest competitor, Dylan Ratigan, received 11.9 percent. SUNY Plattsburgh Political Science Chair Harvey Schantz finds it surprising and impressive that Cobb received such a high percentage in a five-way race.  “To win 56 percent of the vote is very impressive and it will give her momentum for the general election. She had a hometown advantage but she didn’t really need it she won in 11 counties. But in fact she won more votes in her home county of St. Lawrence than any of the other candidates won across the district.”

Schantz says the primary may have helped Cobb, a former St. Lawrence County legislator from Canton, hone her skills as she campaigned and debated against four competitors over the past year.  “Cobb gained immeasurably from having a tough primary campaign. The previous Democratic candidates did not have to go through a competitive campaign so they didn’t actually know what it took to win a successful battle. But she has been on the road. She’s organized. She’s learned how to debate, the endless forums, etc. that we’ve seen. So rather than being a negative the primary campaign has made her into a better candidate.”

Six days before the primary, the 12 Democratic county chairs released a unity letter that included a plea to voters that they “weigh the impact of your vote…”  and consider that “The candidate that you may most closely agree with might not have the potential to be a contender in November.”  Clinton County Chair Sarah Rowden, who says she was undecided until she stepped into the booth, believes voters have chosen wisely.  "I think it’s going to be a challenge for Elise Stefanik because Tedra Cobb is a well-spoken woman who knows what she believes in and has the ability to get that message out. And I’m not sure that Elise has had to run up against somebody like that. And the fact that I think you know you look at some of the other races this does seem to be the year of the woman. And I think for Elise Stefanik to have a woman as a challenger is going to be new and different for her.”

Second-term Republican Elise Stefanik, who for the first time faces a female challenger, appeared on CBS This Morning on Monday to talk about her efforts through the National Republican Congressional Committee to recruit women to run for office. She deflected when asked if she had a preference for a Democratic primary winner to challenge.   “It’s great to see women raising their hand and running for office.”
Host:  “Yeah you could be facing a woman in November.”
Stefanik:  “And this is a tough political climate. I experience that. I think all elected officials experience that and I give anybody credit who is willing to step into the arena. We need more young voices and we need more women’s voices.”

Late Tuesday, Stefanik blasted Cobb in a statement welcoming her to the race, which she says offers a “clear choice.”

Lynn Kahn of Schroon Lake is the Green Party candidate.