21st Congressional District – Bridie Farrell, a child abuse survivor, activist and former national speed skater, announced her campaign Wednesday to challenge U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, for her seat in the House of Representatives.
“From the ice in Lake Placid and the trails in the High Peaks, to my crowded family kitchen table in Saratoga, my values and drive to compete and succeed were born in the North Country,” the Democrat said in a release announcing her candidacy.
Growing up in Saratoga Springs, Farrell was a nationally-ranked speed skater by age 13. She competed in four different Olympic trials and traveled around the world on the national speedskating team.
When she was 15, Farrell was sexually abused by a 33-year-old mentor and teammate. Later in her life she spoke out about her childhood abuse and became a prominent activist advocating for New York’s Child Victims Act, which became law in 2019 and enabled victims of child abuse to come forward with sometimes decades-old allegations. She advocated for similar laws in New Jersey and Arizona, which were also eventually passed.
“I am a survivor,” she said in a campaign announcement video. “And this is about all of us. We are survivors. We are strivers. We are dreamers.”
In an interview Wednesday, Farrell said her work as an advocate showed her that political divides can be bridged. She founded a nonprofit organization, America Loves Kids, to support abuse victims and advocate with policymakers
“The time I spent in New York state and other states, reaching across the aisle and talking about a really hard issue, I realized there is a personal connection among people and with time and conversation, we can get to a place where people agree and can pass legislation that impacts thousands of people,” she said.
She emphasized education, healthcare and broadband access as key issues in the district and promised to travel the geographically large district and “talk to everyone” she can. She called the district “the most beautiful place on Earth” and argued Stefanik has failed to address the challenges facing residents of the district.
“I truly believe that where I live, my neighbors, my friends … we deserve to have a representative in Washington who is actually there to represent us,” she said.
Farrell joins attorney Matt Putorti of Whitehall in the Democratic primary. The Stefanik campaign on Wednesday wasted no time to dismiss Farrell’s candidacy as the “third far-left candidate” in the race, “all of whom support Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Andrew Cuomo and their racial, socialist policies hurting North Country families.”
The Stefanik campaign has also sought to paint the challengers as carpetbaggers who only recently registered to vote in the district.
“Our campaign welcomes these radical candidates to the race and to the North Country!” Stefanik senior adviser Alex DeGrasse said in a statement Wednesday.
But Farrell said she wouldn’t back down from the fight, arguing the fast attacks were evidence that Stefanik was more interested in mudslinging than helping her constituents. Farrell noted Stefanik’s academic path through Albany Academy for Girls and Harvard in comparison to her own education experience at Saratoga Springs High School and Adirondack Community College to suggest she was well positioned to combat carpetbagger attacks.
“I graduated from BOCES, Saratoga High and went to Adirondack Community College,” Farrell said. “[Stefanik] lived in Albany, Cambridge [Mass.] and DC. If she wants to have a North Country fight, sure, it’s not something she should get into.”
Farrell, who lives in North River in the Adirondacks, also dismissed Stefanik’s leadership skills and argued that she has used her platform as a congresswoman to advance herself over the needs of her constituents.
“She has not done anything for people in her district,” Farrell said of Stefanik. “She has only used her position to advance her own name.”