Election 2022: Local congressional races may have national implications

Top: Liz Joy and Paul Tonko; Bottom: Elise Stefanik and Matt Castelli
Top: Liz Joy and Paul Tonko; Bottom: Elise Stefanik and Matt Castelli

ELECTION 2022 – Two hotly contested Capital Region races for the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot this Election Day as the nation watches for a possible tipping of the balance of power in Congress.

Neither of the local races for the 20th and 21st congressional districts has been deemed “vulnerable” by political pundits and pollsters, meaning the incumbents are expected to win again. But the stakes are high across the board this year due to razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress.

21st Congressional District

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, faces off against Democratic challenger Matt Castelli in this sprawling district that stretches from the Capital Region to the Canadian border. The senior congresswoman is seeking a fifth term.

Castelli is an ex-CIA officer and a political neophyte. The health care firm worker moved to Glens Falls earlier this spring. Castelli was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, a region he has previously labeled as upstate New York.

Stefanik was born and raised in the Albany area. She worked as a Bush administration aide and political consultant for a stint before moving to Essex County to run for Congress in 2013.

Upon her victory over Democrat Aaron Woolf in 2013, Stefanik became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at age 30.

Election 2022: The time has come for voters to have their say – All up to you


For nearly a decade the 21st Congressional District covered much of the North Country as well as northern Saratoga County, Fulton County and Washington County.

As a result of redistricting, a process that reorganizes legislative districts based on new U.S. Census Bureau data, the district lost northern Saratoga County and part of Jefferson County, but gained territory in Montgomery County and Schoharie County, as well as parts of Otsego County and Rensselaer County.


Castelli believes his moderate approach to politics can win over Republican and independent voters discontent with Stefanik’s shift from moderate to so-called “ultra-MAGA” rhetoric over the past five years. His campaign has even boasted an internal poll showing the two candidates neck and neck.

But he faces an enrollment disadvantage.

All Local News

As of Nov. 1, there were 198,550 registered Republicans and 147,222 Democrats in the district. Approximately 128,153 registered voters are independents, and 43,801 are affiliated with a third party.

Furthermore, more constituents voted for Donald Trump in the new district than in the current district. Trump carried the district by 8.18 percentage points in 2020.


Stefanik is anchored by a big campaign kitty, fueled in part by several political action committees.

She reported $2,477,095 on hand and $383,945 in contributions between Oct. 1 and Oct. 19, while her challenger had $709,854 on hand and about $244,863 in contributions.

Stefanik has raised $8,859,111 in total contributions this election cycle, compared with Castelli’s $2,294,402.


The race is Stefanik’s first without a debate scheduled, so both candidates haven’t directly butted heads except to exchange barbs on social media. Here’s what we know about the candidates, however:

› Castelli says he supports background checks on firearms sales but doesn’t support an assault weapons ban. He took that position after the Democratic primary. Stefanik holds a positive rating with the Nation Rifle Association, meaning she heavily opposes gun restrictions.

› Stefanik says that she believes Joe Biden is president but, without citing much evidence, adds that she believes voting patterns were irregular in 2020. That’s why she voted to decertify that 2020 election. Castelli considers his opponent a Trump loyalist and election denier. The failed Capitol insurrection in 2021 drove him to run against Stefanik.

› Stefanik considers herself anti-abortion, supporting abortion only in the event of rape, incest or protection of the mother’s life. Castelli was openly frustrated with the U.S. Supreme Court’s push to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports all-encompassing measures to protect reproductive rights.

All Local News

› Stefanik squarely blames Biden and the Democratic majority for deflating the value of the dollar and thus causing inflation. Castelli believes a number of global factors have spurred inflation, including low interest rates.

› Neither candidate supports Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House of Representatives.

Election 2022: The time has come for voters to have their say – All up to you

20th Congressional District

Republican Liz Joy of Glenville is taking a whack at unseating incumbent Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, for the second straight election. Tonko won easily by 22 percentage points in 2020, but Joy turned some heads with her showing despite being a newcomer to politics.

Tonko is a six-term Democrat, winning his first term in 2008 with a win over Schenectady County Republican James Buhrmaster. In addition to his long tenure in the state Assembly, Tonko also did a stint as president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Joy has been a blogger, mother and grandmother.


As a result of redistricting this year, Tonko lost most of Montgomery County and gained the northern half of Saratoga County. He hasn’t yet decided if he’ll leave his hometown of Amsterdam to move into the new district if he wins.

Tonko’s district is much denser and more urban than Stefanik’s territory. It includes all four of the Capital Region’s biggest cities.


The 20th Congressional District also has more of a partisan advantage than the 21st Congressional District. Tonko lost a slight enrollment advantage through the loss by redistricting of Amsterdam, possibly giving Joy a few more points this year than prior. But the advantage is still distinctly in the Democratic row.

As of Nov. 1, there were 221,070 registered Democrats, 134,463 registered Republicans and 146,849 registered independent voters, and 40,535 voters affiliated with a third party.

Tonko’s current district voted for President Joe Biden by 59%, whereas his forthcoming district voted for the current president by 58%.

All Local News


Joy had $90,843 in cash on hand and $35,414 in total contributions between Oct. 1 and Oct. 19, whereas Tonko had $954,565 in cash on hand and $41,579 in campaign contributions during that time.

Tonko’s overall war chest this cycle is $1,703,408. The challenger brought in $1,063,131.

Joy has only had a leg up in individual contributions this election cycle.


Unlike the 21st Congressional District, candidates in the 20th Congressional District did debate once in a Nov. 8 event on WMHT-TV. Here’s what we’ve learned about the candidates:

› Tonko supports banning assault weapons. He recently voted for the Safer Communities Act, which expanded federal background checks and partially closed the ability for former domestic abusers to legally purchase a firearm. Joy believes it should be easier to carry firearms in New York state.

Election 2022: The time has come for voters to have their say – All up to you

› Tonko favors abortion rights while Joy is anti-abortion.

› Joy said she was peacefully protesting the election two miles away from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the same day as the attempted insurrection, and said she never condones violence. Tonko was evacuated from the building. His campaign has frequently brought up Joy’s involvement in bringing a bus of people to the largely anti-election event.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply