By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM -- One of the Democratic Party members running for New York’s 21st Congressional District seat spoke with about 20 people in Town Hall Thursday night.
Saratoga County Democrat Patrick Nelson is one of four Democrats who wish to unseat incumbent Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in the November 2018 election.
“She will be defeated by the health care issue, though that’s not the only issue,” Nelson said in the town hall-style meeting.
The controversy over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the unpopular proposals from the Republicans in Congress to replace it, have inspired four Democrats to declare their intention to try to defeat Stefanik less than halfway through the Willsboro Republican’s second term.
The other announced candidates are Tedra Cobb of Canton, Katie Wilson of Keene, and Emily Martz of Saranac Lake.
Nelson said the issue is so important to people because of “the public policy intersection with our daily lives.”
He said that getting to “single-payer” health coverage in this country, which he favors, remains a long shot at this point, but that the plans that have emerged so far from the Republican-controlled Congress are deeply flawed. Some of those proposals include removing the requirement that insurers take on people with pre-existing medical conditions, and eliminating most of the subsidies to help low-income people get insurance.
He pointed to what he called the “dishonesty” of Rep. Stefanik when phone calls to her office to ask how she would vote on the House bill were answered by claims that she was still reading and evaluating the bill. He said that did not ring true since she was part of the GOP whip team lining up votes for the bill at the time.
Nelson said he suspects the result of the attempts to build a bill in Congress will be “some worse version of the Affordable Care Act,” and that Stefanik was not responding to the interests of people in the North Country. “And then they will own it, which gives us the pathway” to success on the issue down the road, including in the next election.
“The role of a representative is as a conduit” from constituents. We should all be involved in decision-making.’ He quoted from Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders; campaign for president when he said “It’s not me. It’s us.”
He said the linchpin to restoring faith in government lies in campaign finance reform and ethics reform, leading to “common sense, well thought out, evidence-based policy that works.”
Rather than try to point out the weakness of the other Democrats running, he said “We are more similar than different. We share core Democratic values.”
He said that a key to winning against Stefanik will not be only in good policy commitments, but in “inspiring people to vote.” He believes there are enough Democrats in the district without Republican votes, so that the result will be “more about mobilization than persuasion.”
As for the prospect of debating Rep. Stefanik, he says he will be prepared because he has followed closely the legislation in Congress “and her positions since she began.”
Among the other issues he discussed was relieving people of student loan debt, “which is crushing the economy. People can’t buy cars, can’t by houses.” Among other things, he proposes a program of loan relief for creators of new businesses. He said that the hardest money for a new business to raise “is the first money,” and that fact is holding back many potential entrepreneurs who still owe large sums on their student loans.
He favors a “rapid and immediate investment in renewable energy” that would create good long-term jobs.
He said “the Rooftop Highway appeals to me” if it’s done with environmental responsibility. That along with other infrastructure improvements could feed markets for locally produced food and other products.
His campaign has raised about $18,000 since January, which he acknowledges is far less than the incumbent’s tally, but that could turn out to be an advantage for him.
Most of her funding comes from outside the district, and much of that comes from lobbyists, he said.
“The fact that she raises a lot of money is a strength. The way that she raises money is a weakness.”
Nelson is not taking money from corporate donors, and will rely on small “grass roots” donations and web-based fundraising.
He said the Second Amendment “will not be an issue in this campaign,” since he supports the Constitution.
Also expected in the race will be Green Party candidate Matt Funciello of Glens Falls. He has run in both races that Stefanik won in 2014 and 2016, and finished third in both contests, with fewer votes the second time.