WILTON – Navy-blue Trump 2020 flags were streaming from cars and pickup trucks on Saturday as hundreds of people spent part of a beautiful fall afternoon rallying for the re-election of President Donald J. Trump and local U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a vocal Trump supporter.
To a loudspeaker soundtrack featuring the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Neil Young, Republicans from Saratoga County and points beyond gathered in the back parking lot at Scotty’s Truck Stop to not only cheer Stefanik and other Republican candidates, but also pick up lawn signs and campaign merchandise. It was the largest Saratoga County Republican rally this year to date.
Many of the attendees treated Stefanik — a 36-year-old who is seeking her fourth term representing the 21st Congressional District — like a celebrity. They sought to get their picture taken with the congresswoman, who achieved national prominence last fall defending Trump during the House impeachment hearings, and is now co-chair of Trump’s New York re-election campaign. Others got their picture taken with a cardboard cut out of Trump.
“I’ve been a follower of Elise,” said Lorraine Whalen of Ballston Spa, shortly after posing for a smile photo with the congresswoman. “I’ve got 21 signs in my car. I’ve been all over delivering signs.”
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, delivered a rousing eight-minute speech that strongly supported Trump and left the crowd chanting, “USA! USA! USA!”
In a departure from Trump’s recent criticism that the mail-in balloting process will be rife with fraud and his refusal to agree to a peaceful transition if he loses, Stefanik told reporters she expects an honest election, and — if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency after Nov. 3 — a peaceful transition.
“We’re going to have an election that’s secure, and make sure there’s ballot integrity,” she said. “We’re working to get out our vote, and get out all the support we have, as we’re headed into the final 38 days.”
The 21st Congressional District, which stretches from Saratoga and Fulton counties north to the Canadian border, went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and Stefanik in 2018 handily defeated Democrat Tedra Cobb of Canton, who is running against her again this year. Trump appears to remain popular in the district, although national polls have shown the incumbent trailing Biden.
While Stefanik said she anticipates a peaceful transition if Trump loses, she also criticized Democrats who have urged Biden to wait before conceding, should it appear he is losing on Election Night. Unprecedented levels of mail-in absentee voting are expected this year, which could mean election results may not be known for weeks.
Trump has consistently implied mail-in balloting could have high levels of fraud — despite the lack of evidence of widespread fraud — and that voting fraud is a felony.
“I’ve been on record, I uphold the Constitution,” Stefanik said. “There’s going to [be] a peaceful transition, or a peaceful continuation if he wins his election. I think it’s important to note that Hilary Clinton has publicly called on Joe Biden not to concede. That is not standing for a peaceful transition.”
While some supporters don’t just think Trump will be re-elected, they believe he should run again in 2024 — which is currently forbidden under the Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms.
Mike Kibling of Fort Edward, who was busy taking cash and credit card transactions for Trump shirts, hats and other merchandise at a “New York for Trump” table set up in the parking lot, said business has been strong. Kibling is also known as a leader of the North Country Deplorables, which has held demonstrations and counter-demonstrations for Trump in the Glens Falls area.
“It’s insane. We can’t keep stuff in stock,” Kibling said. “Every time the socialists come and rally outside our business, we triple our sales. (The shops, which are not affiliated with the Trump re-election campaign) are popping up everywhere, and they won’t go away on Nov. 3. We’ll probably have Trump 2024 flags.”
Paul Petteys of Wilton, who sported a Trump shirt and hat and whose family once owned the land just off the Northway where the truck stop was built, said he supports Trump for “what he’s done for the country for the last three years, and he’s against abortion and he’s pro-family.”
While the 21st Congressional District has a significant Republican voter enrollment advantage, a number of Democratic supporters donated to Cobb’s campaign in the wake of Stefanik’s impeachment hearing performance — enough to fund television ads in which Cobb touts her support for greater health care access, which she has made the central issue in her campaign.
Stefanik sought to use Cobb’s fundraising against her, during a speech in which she heaped praise on Trump, police, and military veterans, and criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We know that the media, the far left, Democrats across the country like Nancy Pelosi, are throwing everything they have to defeat Donald Trump,” Stefanik told the crowd. “But you know what’s more powerful than that? More powerful than the mainstream media, more powerful than Hollywood liberal millionaires who are dumping millions, including against me? The American people. The American people’s voice, and the American people’s vote.”
The Cobb campaign did not respond to a request for comment.