CAPITAL REGION — One member of the Capital Region’s congressional delegation calls President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election “tragic”; another, a loyal Trump supporter, doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I think it’s tragic that everyone here in Washington doesn’t place the nation first,” said 20th Congressional District Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam. “With all the loyalty to party and self, it is tragic.”
But 21st District Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, who co-chaired Trump’s New York campaign, hasn’t responded to requests for comment from The Daily Gazette and other news organizations about the president’s unsubstantiated claims of massive election fraud.
Both Tonko and Stefanik just won re-election by substantial margins, representing very different constituencies: Tonko, the Capital Region’s cities and well-to-do suburbs; Stefanik, a vast North Country district in which mountains and farms are among the dominant features.
Tonko, who has been a stalwart Democratic progressive since going to Congress in 2009, said he looks forward to President-elect Joe Biden moving forward with plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic, improve the pandemic-ravaged economy, respond to climate change and support and improve the nation’s health care system.
Progress in all those areas is being hurt because Trump administration officials have so far refused to cooperate in planning for the government transition that will occur on Jan. 20, many officials argue. Normally, representatives of the new administration would start working with members of the outgoing administration immediately after the election so agencies can move forward seamlessly.
“All this needs to be done, and instead we get denial and an effort to defy the Constitution,” Tonko said. “It undermines the very foundation that establishes us the powerful republic that we are. The people have spoken.”
As of Friday afternoon, with absentee ballot counting continuing in some states, Biden had a lead of about 5.3 million votes over Trump: Nearly 51 percent of all votes cast, to 47.4 percent for Trump. Biden also has a comfortable lead in the Electoral College, which determines the winner.
“Again, it’s time for folks, including the president, to recognize that the people have spoken,” Tonko said in an interview on Thursday.
He said that as chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change, he is especially glad that Biden has said decarbonation will be a priority. The burning of carbon-containing fossil fuels is believed by most scientists to be a driving factor behind a warming climate worldwide.
Support for healthcare programs and a stimulus package that will support businesses, the arts, restaurants and cash-strapped local governments are all essential priorities going into the new administration, Tonko said. “We have a listening ear in the White House, one that will address issues with empathy and compassion,” he said.
“Don’t dwell on personalities here,” he added. “We need to move forward. History will be very harsh on those who do not respect our Constitution.”
Stefanik, meanwhile, has not responded to requests for comment on Trump’s efforts to dispute the election result.
The three-term congresswoman has been very active on social media, however, promoting the election of additional Republican women to the House — an effort her political action committee had a strong hand in. Nearly two dozen new Republican women were elected to the House this year, with the possibility of more as close races are decided. With at least 35 women serving in 2021, it will be a record for the GOP.
“What I believe is different this cycle is I publicly made this a priority for the Republicans I served with in Congress,” Stefanik told National Public Radio. “I very publicly said at the end of the midterms in 2018 that we needed to do better.”
Stefanik is also fundraising for Republican causes.
She has fundraised for the two Republican candidates in the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia, which could decide which party will control the U.S. Senate. In a fundraising email, she appears to acknowledge Biden’s victory, though with conditional phrasing.
“The consequences would be disastrous,” Stefanik wrote in a fundraising appeal on Wednesday. “If we lose the Senate and Joe Biden is sworn in as our nation’s 46th president, there will be NO WAY to stop the Democrats’ most extreme agenda items.”
If Democrats win both Senate seats — they are both held by Republicans now — the Senate would be split 50-50, which means Vice President Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.
“If we lose even ONE of these two seats and Kamala Harris is elected as vice president, she would be able to break the tie on every critical Senate vote. We CAN’T let that happen,” Stefanik wrote in the email.
On Friday, her campaign committee, Elise for Congress, also distributed a fundraising email seeking money for Republicans to monitor election counts and recounts for state Senate seats, implying — unrealistically — that Republicans could win back control of the chamber this year.
“They need emergency resources to ensure a legal and fair vote count in ALL of these races! Today, we’re launching an urgent fundraising drive to help,” the email stated.
Stefanik isn’t alone among Republicans in her silence on Trump’s charges, as few party members have dared to criticize the president. Most New York Republicans haven’t supported Trump’s allegations, though state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy last Sunday retweeted a story about a Las Vegas election inspector being told to ignore what he said were address and signature discrepancies as people signed in to vote.
“If these allegations were against Republicans instead of Democrats, they would be rioting and burning buildings down right now and the media would be calling for the election to be thrown out. Hypocrisy. Count every LEGAL vote!” Langworthy tweeted, repeating Trump’s often-used language to imply that some of the votes were cast illegally.
Efforts to arrange an interview with the region’s third member of Congress, 19th Congressional District Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, were unsuccessful.