ELIZABETHTOWN — The 12 county Republican leaders of the 21st New York Congressional District have chosen Willsboro resident Elise Stefanik as their candidate.
All but one committee chairperson met in Elizabethtown on Friday to discuss who they would endorse for the seat held by Congressman Bill Owens, who is not seeking re-election in November.
Stefanik was present, along with two additional candidates looking for GOP endorsement: Mike Ring of Adams Center in Jefferson County and Joe Gilbert of Canton in St. Lawrence County.
The Willsboro woman earned more than 87 percent of the committee’s weighted vote.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the support,” she said as she accepted the nomination.
Ronald Jackson, regional vice chairman of the Republicans’ 21st District Committee, said petitions for the nomination have to be filed by March 4, in time for the June primary election.
‘NEED NEW LEADERS’
Stefanik told the Press-Republican that she would approach the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., with “fresh energy.
“Washington is clearly broken,” she said. “We need new leaders to help fix things.”
She has centered her campaign on experience as a small-business owner, focused on public service.
“My family owns a small plywood distribution business in Albany County,” she said.
“I talk to many different business owners every day, and I feel for the economy here. I hear firsthand the economic challenges that small businesses are facing.”
In accepting the nomination, she commended Owens’s work in Congress, although, she said, they don’t share similar views.
She outlined a political platform focused on growing small businesses with an aim to rewrite regulations to support that growth.
Stefanik said creating jobs and common-sense health-care reform are key components of work to be done in Washington.
She also named New York farms and Fort Drum as central concerns in her run for Congress.
“Fort Drum is the region’s largest employer. I would advocate to be sure the (federal) budget is not balanced on the backs of our military.
“Washington is broken,” she reiterated. “I look forward to being a voice for the North Country.”
Stefanik has ties to Republican leaders in Washington, having served as director of vice-presidential debate preparation for Paul Ryan and on the White House staff under President George W. Bush.
‘STOP THIS AGENDA’
Gilbert, 47, said he will pursue Republican votes in the 21st District.
From DeKalb, he grew up working on family farms and enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school.
He served three tours of duty in Iraq during 24 years of military service.
His approach to the juggernaut in Washington looks to disengage malfunction in the bigger, overall picture.
“Instead of taking it issue by issue, we have to see what has been brought into place for many years as the transformation of the U.S.
“It’s not a victory if the Republican Congress negotiates a debt ceiling of $11 trillion, while Democrats look for a $14 trillion debt limit.
“Until someone stops this agenda, things are going to get worse.”
Gilbert said he saw firsthand the work of “centralized power” in foreign nations.
“I am looking to represent the dignity of the individual citizens and respect and protect individual rights.”
Gilbert said he has a ground team in place to pursue three party lines in the 21st District election: Republican, Conservative and independent.
“We are at a turning point,” he told the Press-Republican Friday.
“Either we turn hard to the left or we reset ourselves, rewriting ourselves to function in a more conservative way.”
Ring, 58, is also a small-business owner and spent 37 years working as a broadcast engineer in the Watertown, Potsdam and Malone radio market.
He characterizes himself as a pragmatic conservative and was impressed with how Republicans in this district looked at individual platforms in an open process as they decided on their candidate.
“We presented our platforms at the same time and were able to share views in the process,” he said of meetings around the district.
He considers innovation and entrepreneurship key to rebuilding America’s economy.
Jackson said each candidate presented agendas to county committees in regional meetings, then chairpersons from each county chose who they would endorse.
Asked how the Republican Party here is working to redress what appears to be fracture on a national level, Jackson said, “I would say we are in reloading mode, in reference to the SAFE Act. I think that’s the correct term to use.”
At the committee meeting Friday, Clinton County Republican Committee Chairman Don Lee said the GOP in the 21st District is looking to change the equation, both on economic and political fronts.
“Quite frankly,” he said, “people want to be represented properly. We’ve (America) got to start paying our bills on time. We have to start manufacturing goods in this country again.”
Also at the meeting, held at the Halfway House Restaurant in Elizabethtown, were Franklin County Republican Committee Chairman Ray Scollin and retired Supreme Court Judge Jan Plumadore, party leader for Franklin County.
In a news release sent after the meeting, Stefanik said her campaign is just getting started.
“I will continue working as hard as I ever have to earn the support of Republicans, Conservatives and independents across the district to win this seat back,” she said.
“I thank the county chairs for the time and energy they’ve given during this process, and I thank the hundreds of county committee members who attended endorsement meetings during January.”
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New York's 21st District for the U.S. House of Representative includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington counties and portions of Herkimer and Saratoga counties.