The field of Democrats running to unseat Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York’s 21st district in 2018 expanded to five this week. The Republican incumbent also faces a challenger within her own party.
When he announced his candidacy this week, Saratoga County attorney Don Boyajian became the fifth Democrat in a growing field seeking the 21st Congressional district seat.
In early July Tedra Cobb announced her candidacy. She says her experience gives her an advantage over the other Democratic candidates. “More than anything it’s my experience as an elected official. None of the other candidates have been elected. And that is important in terms of understanding the process and understanding how to work with others to pass legislation. Whether it’s at the county or whether it’s at the town or whether it’s at the state or whether it’s at the Congressional level working with others to pass laws and to identify the needs of the community and make sure that we’re working together in the best interest of the community is important. And that happens when you’re elected. I think that experience defines who I am.”
On Tuesday, the Green Party’s Matt Funiciello announced he would not run again following campaigns for the seat in 2014 and 2016. He says it was a surprisingly uncomplicated decision. “If I felt that there wasn’t going to be a Green candidate in 2018 to pick up the banner I would certainly run again. But I’m fairly certain we will have a primary never mind just a candidate. And arguably it will be a female candidate too which I’m quite excited about. So I would run again on principle I just really I have to focus on my work and on a spiritual and economic level I also need to focus on my family and my loved ones, you know, who for the better part of three years have been extremely supportive but I have missed them. It doesn’t mean I will stay away from it forever. I’m certainly still going to organize. But I don’t have any intention of running in the near future.”
Second-term incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik also faces a challenger in her own party. St. Lawrence County farmer and real estate broker Russell Finley announced his campaign in late July.
Stefanik’s campaign did not return requests for an interview. As challengers began to line up, she was asked during a visit to Plattsburgh in July what she thought of the growing field. “I’ve been through campaigns before. I’ve been through hard fought campaigns and I’ve won them significantly. And I’m going to be running on my strong record of independent and proven leadership for this district.”
SUNY Plattsburgh Professor and Chair of Political Science Harvey Schantz expects three factors to affect the race. “In races for the House seat this has traditionally been a Republican leaning district. But in recent elections it’s become vulnerable to the Democrats as Bill Owens won three elections. So in terms of party it’s very strong for her. Second is the incumbency factor. In that factor also she’s very strong. But a third factor in a Congressional election is the national sweep. Overall she’s in a strong position but she’s potentially vulnerable if it’s a very bad year for the Republican party.”
So far, the Democrats seeking the Congressional seat are Tedra Cobb of Canton, Don Boyajian of Saratoga County, Katie Wilson of Keene, Patrick Nelson of Stillwater and Emily Martz of Saranac Lake.