Several candidates in some of New York’s closely watched congressional races are vying for the chance to unseat incumbents today. There are competitive primaries in northern New York’s 21st District, on Staten Island, and in the Rochester area. In the 19th District, voters will select one of seven Democrats in a race garnering national attention.
The Democrats in the 19th District want the chance to unseat freshman Republican Congressman John Faso in November. Jeff Beals, Dave Clegg, Erin Collier, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn, Gareth Rhodes and Patrick Ryan have participated in numerous forums in the 11-county swing district. Former U.S. Diplomat and Woodstock resident Beals, a high-school history teacher, claims to be fighting corporate power, and has been endorsed by The People for Bernie Sanders, and Justice Democrats, a group formed by Sanders staffers.
“I think our politics isn’t left/ right. I don’t think it’s even Republican/Democrat. I think it’s people power versus corporate power,” says Beals. “And I have been loudly, from the first day of this campaign, saying that we need to be the people’s party. Stand up for Medicare for All, stand up for raising social security benefits, stand up for forgiving student loan debt and passing a federal jobs program. These are policies that will help 99 percent of the people.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin calls Beals a Bernie Sanders doppelgänger who has driven the policy debate far left. Clegg, also of Woodstock, is an ordained deacon who has been involved in the community for decades. He helped found a homeless shelter as well as Ulster County Habitat for Humanity. The chair of the Ulster County Human Rights Commission believes it’s anybody’s race.
“I do a see a path for us to win. I think it’s impossible to figure out what’s going to happen here. It’s a wide-open race. I don’t know how anybody can feel overly confident,” says Clegg. “But what I really feel good about is that we’ve got the best volunteers in the world and the most loyal voters in the world. And so I think that gives us a shot.”
Erin Collier, a Cooperstown resident who grew up poor on her family farm and worked as an agricultural economist during the Obama administration, says she is the voice for working class families.
“I really know what it’s like to go without. And as an economist, I have, I’ve worked under Obama’s administration as an economist for more equitable economic policy,” Collier says. “And addressing poverty and addressing economic inequality has been my entire life’s mission, and through my profession and through my personal life.”
Emily’s List endorses Collier, who also has the support of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines PAC. Antonio Delgado moved to Rhinebeck in Dutchess County in 2017. The Rhodes scholar who grew up in Schenectady is an attorney who was most recently working for a New York City lobbying law firm.
“I think in a crowded field, anything is possible. There’s no doubt about that. But I do also believe that we have certainly done everything we can do to best put ourselves in the position to win by virtue of having the support we built in county-wide endorsements, though a Citizen Action endorsement, through to knocking on over 50,000 doors,” says Delgado. “We feel like no one has outworked this campaign and no one will. And for that reason we have dug that chance at succeeding.”
Delgado has been the top fundraiser in the field. Greene County small business owner Brian Flynn calls himself a genetic Democrat.
“But I believe what I’m talking about which is that a plan for the American worker, which is creating jobs and increasing wages, but also removing the barriers that have been put in people’s way by people like John Faso, I believe that has nothing to do with being left or right,” says Flynn. “It has to do with ways of fixing what’s wrong with America right now.”
Flynn’s fight for justice in Washington began when his brother was killed in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Flynn worked to get Congress to pass the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. Ulster County native Gareth Rhodes, a former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, visited all 163 towns in the district in a Winnebago, dubbing the tour The Rhodes Trip. He garnered the endorsement of “The New York Times.”
“But this is a vote to take back New York 19. That’s what ‘The New York Times’ said. We have to support a candidate who can win," Rhodes says. "And that’s why I’m asking for the vote of every voter in this community because we need to unite around a candidate who could beat John Faso this fall. And I’m proud that ‘The New York Times’ took me as that candidate.”
Rhodes grew up working on a farm in the Ulster County Town of Esopus in a Bruderhof community. He now resides in Kerhonkson. Kingston resident Patrick Ryan is a West Point graduate and Iraq war veteran.
“Obviously, we’re all committed to progressive policies and goals. And now it’s about who can take those goals and actually go win and make progress towards them,” Ryan says. “It’s both about a leader committed to our progressive principles and a leader who can beat Faso on November 6, 2018, which I know I can.’
Polls close at 9.