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Stefanik delivers keynote address at state GOP convention in Colonie

Stefanik delivers keynote address at state GOP convention in Colonie

North Country congresswoman criticizes Democrats
Stefanik delivers keynote address at state GOP convention in Colonie
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik speaks at the state GOP gathering Monday.
Photographer: Photo provided

COLONIE -- U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik opposes impeachment of President Donald Trump, but called Monday for Congress to take a strong oversight role in reviewing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"I don't support impeaching the president. I think we need to continue our oversight role," Stefanik told reporters after delivering a keynote speech at the state Republican Party re-organizational meeting at the Albany Marriott in Colonie.

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which will be hearing public testimony about Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible presidential interference in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 17.

"I expect there will be lots of questions from both sides for Mueller," said Stefanik, who has said her main concern is with the Russian interference, which Mueller's investigation concluded used social media and other avenues to try to swing voters toward Trump.

A number of Democrats in the House of Representatives, including U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, have called for at least preliminary steps toward impeachment proceedings. To date, only one House Republican -- Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan -- has called for impeachment.

At the GOP convention, where Nick Langworthy of Erie County was elected the party's new state chairman, Democrats were repeatedly lambasted for what speakers called an "extremist" and "socialist" policy agenda.

Langworthy is a conservative and supporter of Trump, as were many of the speakers. "This is a new dawn for the Republican Party in New York state," Fulton County GOP Chairman Sue McNeil said in a speech. "Tomorrow's Republican doesn't shy away from President Donald Trump, but stands by his side."

Langworthy is replacing Ed Cox, who has led the party for the last decade, but lost grassroots support this spring, particularly upstate. Outside of conservative rural areas, the Republicans have struggled to win in New York state in recent years.

"He could take up in a strong direction," Stefanik said of Langworthy. "He will take us in a new direction."

Stefanik joined in the attacks on Democrats. She drew loud whistles and applause as she urged the party to reach out to more women and minorities as candidates. "Today's Democratic Party is not the party or our parents and grandparents. It has taken a lurch to the left," she said.

Stefanik, who represents the North Country's 21st Congressional District, was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she took office in 2014, at age 30. She held that distinction until last fall, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected, at age 29, to represent a district in The Bronx and Queens. Ocasio-Cortez has since become one of the most prominent and outspoken members of Congress, describing herself as a democratic socialist.

"For those of you in this room, I am pretty much the opposite of AOC, and proud of it," Stefanik told the crowd of several hundred.

Stefanik, who was elected to her third two-year term last fall, is seen as a rising star in the party, as indicated by her keynote speaking role. For now, she said she's focused on the 2020 elections, in which she will be up for re-election, and she hopes her recent efforts to recruit Republican women to run for office will bear fruit.

In upstate, Stefanik singled out Liz Lemery Joy's announced 2020 challenge to Tonko and former U.S. Senate candidate Chele Farley's challenge to U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in a Hudson Valley district as the kinds of candidacies she supports.

With New York state widely expected to lose one, if not two, Congressional seats in the reapportionment following the 2020 U.S. census, Stefanik acknowledged concerns about future redistricting. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that federal courts don't have the authority to overturn the design of districts "gerrymandered" for political gain by state legislatures.

The current New York congressional district lines were drawn by a federal court magistrate in 2012, after the then-Republican-controlled state Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly reached an impasse. But if the Democrats still control the state Senate in 2021, the court decision could allow the party to draw districts to their benefit.

"That is going to be a challenge for Republicans upstate and on Staten Island," Stefanik acknowledged. "I think there's going to be a lot of talk about redistricting."

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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