In 2014, when Democrat Bill Owens retired from Congress, many observers thought the House seat representing the North Country would be a tight race.
In the end, though, Republican Elise Stefanik won handily to become the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, at age 30.
Stefanik is running for re-election this year in a contest that has seen less national attention than two years ago, but where campaigners are nevertheless spending millions of dollars.
Stefanik has more money than Democrat Mike Derrick or Matt Funiciello, the Green Party candidate who garnered more than 10 percent of the vote two years ago and is running again.
Stefanik, now 32, of Willsboro, Essex County, also has voter enrollment statistics on her side as she seeks to return to Congress.
PARTY: Republican, Conservative, Independence, Reform
New enrollment figures released this week show that the 21st Congressional District has 181,395 registered Republicans, 130,678 Democrats and 97,544 independent voters. The biggest gain in the last two years has been in independent voters, state Board of Elections statistics show.
Polls show Stefanik with a substantial lead among likely voters.
Stefanik, part of the conservative Republican majority in the House of Representatives, has highlighted her support for programs that help veterans and farmers. The district, which includes Fort Drum on the outskirts of Watertown, has the highest percentage of veterans of any district in New York state.
“I have outworked my opponents and put forth original solutions,” Stefanik said at a candidate forum last month in Queensbury.
Derrick is a retired Army officer from Peru, in Clinton County, the small town where he grew up and returned to after his military career, which included combat service in Iraq. He retired with the rank of colonel.
“Two things have shaped me: growing up in Peru, New York, and service in the United States Army,” Derrick said.
He believes more money needs to be spent on education and transportation and broadband infrastructure, and he has called for tax reform. “The wealthy and the powerful are not paying their fair share,” Derrick said.
On the campaign trail, Derrick has regularly attacked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump “has neither the character or the competence to be president of the United States,” he said.
William âMikeâ Derrick
OCCUPATION: Retired, 28-year U.S. Army veteran
FAMILY: Married, four children
PARTY: Democrat, Working Families
Stefanik has tried to avoid discussing Trump, even fleeing from reporters, but has indicated she will not buck national GOP leaders who support him.
Funiciello, of Glens Falls and owner of the Rock Hill Bakery in that city, said the nasty character of the presidential election has excluded discussion of issues important to the Green Party, including economic inequality, national health care and the environment.
“I am proud to be a member of the working class,” Funiciello said at the Queensbury candidate forum. “We need to have the unique voice that comes from someone living in the district every day.”
The 21st Congressional District is the geographically largest in the state, stretching from Ballston Spa in Saratoga County to the Canadian border, and from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario.
With media markets in the Capital Region, Watertown and Plattsburgh, both major party candidates have invested heavily in television advertising.
As of Oct. 19, Stefanik had raised more than $2.9 million and spent more than $2.2 million, which left her with $753,433 in the bank, according to federal records.
She has raised $1.35 million from dozens of political action committees, including the corporate PACs of such industrial giants as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. Koch Industries, run by the conservative Koch brothers, has donated $10,000 to her through its PAC.
HOME: Glens Falls
OCCUPATION: Bakery owner
Stefanik has also raised $1.27 million from individuals.
Stefanik “is a Washington insider who is dedicated to party politics,” Derrick said.
Derrick had raised $1.16 million and spent $1.1 million through Oct. 19, leaving him with $61,581 cash on hand.
Derrick has raised $150,000 from political action committees, including some for labor unions and some from other Democrats’ campaign funds. He has raised $1 million from individuals.
In contrast to such high-profile races at the John Faso-Zephyr Teachout race in the 19th Congressional District, only $217,000 has been spent by independent political committees, and all of it has been spent in support of Stefanik.
The GOP’s Congressional Leadership Fund last month announced plans to spend $500,000 in the Watertown and Albany media markets, but that spending hasn’t yet shown up in federal filings.
“In just two years, Elise Stefanik has delivered for her district and stood as a conservative, results-oriented leader in Congress,” said PAC spokeswoman Ruth Guerra.
Funiciello, who has pointedly said he is accepting no corporate contributions, has raised $13,900, and had $7,563 of it left to spend as of Oct. 19.
None of the candidates are providing significant self-funding.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: News, Schenectady County