A new committee not affiliated with either major party is eyeing the North Country’s 21st Congressional District seat and searching for an “economic populist.”
Republicans are circling around former George W. Bush aide Elise Stefanik while Democrats in the 12-county district are receiving applications from members of their own party. Joe Seeman, a member of the new committee, said the ideal candidate would be a Democrat but the group is “not closing the door” on those registered to other parties.
Retirement plans announced by Democrat Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, open up the chance for a candidate willing to target economic inequality, get money out of politics and make sure corporations pay their fair share of taxes, said Fred Balzac, a Green Party member who describes the new committee as “ad hoc.”
He said the group is looking to find a candidate similar to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a lawyer elected in November 2012 and credited with working to hold the finance industry accountable.
“My definition of [an economic populist] is somebody who believes in using the resources and tools of government and public policy to help ordinary working-class Americans, middle-class Americans and those who are economically disadvantaged, climb up the economic ladder,” Balzak said.
The 21st Congressional District covers the northeast region of the state, home to 436,738 registered voters as of November 2013, according to the state Board of Elections. It includes parts of Saratoga and Hamilton counties and all of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington counties.
The district featured a strong Republican advantage in 2013, with 185,509 enrolled Republicans compared with 127,568 enrolled Democrats and 26,820 voters enrolled in no party.
About 268,000 people voted during the 2012 election and gave Owens 126,631 votes to Republican challenger Matthew A. Doheny’s 121,368 votes.
Seeman said posting ads on Craigslist may look like a gimmick, but it’s appropriate for the group, which is looking to reach “average people” interested in running for Congress.
Money to campaign with will be an issue for the candidate, Balzak said. Stefanik, of Willsboro, had collected more than $240,000 for her campaign by the end of 2013.
“We need public financing for candidates, we need to limit donations from big donors,” Balzak said. “The system really is almost kind of rigged for the wealthy and the corporations and the average person doesn’t have much of a say. We’ve got to change that.”