Potential Democratic challengers to Republican Congressman John Faso of New York’s 19th District have been lining up to explore or formally announce a run. The most recent Democrat to begin testing the waters announced his interest this week.
The latest potential contender is former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo aide Gareth Rhodes, who says he is seriously considering a run. Rhodes says the tipping point was Congressman Faso’s vote in support of a health care bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“I’ve been considering this race really since the first health care vote back in March that John Faso took. He was one of just a handful of Republicans who decided that he would take this extreme position on health care,” Rhodes says. “And when I saw the effect on this community, when I heard the stories of who would lose health insurance, I said, when my community’s under attack, I don’t sit on the sidelines; I stand up and I fight. And so, when he took that vote last week, to me that was the last straw.”
Rhodes, of Ulster County, announced he was considering a run the day Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, of the neighboring 18th District, held a town hall in Faso’s district concerning the American Health Care Act, which passed in the House May 4.
“And it’s wonderful that we have a true example of a representative – Sean Patrick Maloney. That is the kind of representative that we need, someone who listens to the people, someone who can talk to the people,” says Rhodes. “And that’s exactly why I’m in this race because I think we need more of that in government.”
A Faso spokeswoman referred a request for comment to the National Republican Congressional Committee, where spokesman Chris Martin, via an emailed statement said, “Congressman Faso’s leadership has served as a catalyst for historic conservative reforms that deliver results for hard-working, middle class families. Nancy Pelosi’s cabal of far-left liberal recruits would rather maintain her failed status quo, causing taxes to increase, wages to flatline, and America’s health care system to collapse.” Rhodes disagrees.
“We need to repeal and replace John Faso. It’s that simple,” Rhodes says. “He campaigned as a moderate. Ever since, he’s been lockstep with Donald Trump on every issue. He turned his back on his community. He turned his back on the voters.”
Faso, speaking on WAMC’s Congressional Corner with Alan Chartock on May 9, says he was true to his word.
“People want to hear a lot of things but, the bottom line is, I did exactly what I said I would do,” says Faso.
He was addressing criticism that he voted to defund Planned Parenthood in the GOP health care bill.
“The issue that I didn’t agree with in this bill was including the 1-year prohibition on Planned Parenthood receiving Medicaid funding for provision of services to patients that were not abortions,” Faso says.
“But you said you wouldn’t vote for that,” Chartock says.
“No, I said I would not vote for… I did not support that provision but I made it very explicitly clear to Planned Parenthood when they met with me in my office that my vote ultimately on the bill would not depend on whether that provision was in or out,” says Faso. “In fact, when I had a vote on that particular provision, I voted to remove that provision from the bill.”
That vote came in the budget committee. Another point of contention has been the topic of pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein ruled out a run for Congress in 2016, but is noncommittal when it comes to a 2018 run.
“I love what I do here in Ulster County,” Hein replied.
Greene County resident Brian Flynn, who is president of a medical device manufacturing company, has launched a bid for Faso’s seat.
“I’m a lifelong Progressive. My great uncle is Michael Quill. He has a museum to him here in the district. He was a great labor union leader. And my grandfather was a bartender here in Leeds and we’ve made our home here for more than 10 years. And I would love the opportunity to represent the people of this district,” Flynn says. “And I think, in order to beat Faso, and what’s got me motivated to do this, is we need someone who’s got the fight and the fire to take him on, and I’ve proven through years of work as an advocate and as a job creator.”
Ulster County resident Steven Brisee got an early start, having filed a statement of candidacy at the end of 2016, before Faso was sworn in. In December, Brisee acknowledged challenges he would face.
“I am relatively young; I’m not ignorant of that fact,” Brisee said. “So I have a lot of connecting to do.”
Brisee, whose interest in running pre-dated Faso’s health care votes, says it was the election of President Donald Trump that propelled him. Other potential Democratic candidates include Dutchess County resident and attorney Antonio Delgado. Then there is former U.S. diplomat Jeff Beals, who teaches in Woodstock and, according to a May 7 article by Allotsego.com, consultant Sue Sullivan. The 19th Congressional District spans 11 counties and is considered a swing district.