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Dylan Ratigan faces cameras, criticism

Dylan Ratigan announces his congressional candidacy Wednesday in the Harrietstown Town Hall, Saranac Lake, promising a “serious” and “fun” campaign focused on principles rather than policies. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Dylan Ratigan, a Saranac Lake native and former cable television host, stood before a throng of media, voters and congressional candidates to announce his Democratic bid for Congress Wednesday. He delivered a passionate speech on the state of politics, was interrogated by local voters and was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In an upper room of the Harrietstown Town Hall, next to the Mayor Frank Ratigan Memorial Bridge — named for Dylan’s grandfather — dozens of voters, television cameras and family members holding campaign signs packed in to listen to the former MSNBC and CNBC host promise a different type of campaign.

He is the 10th Democrat challenging Rep. Elise Stefanik, who also faces an opponent from her own Republican party in New York’s 21st Congressional District, which spans northern New York.

Ratigan, 45, promised a campaign that will be both serious and fun. He said he is running to make America’s leadership more serious about running the country, and will have fun doing it.

He is basing his run less on a platform of policies and more on his anti-corruption philosophy, ability to gather the ideas of experts, and belief that what Congress members do can change every aspect of society, for better or worse.

He was critical of all current sitting members of the House of Representatives, saying they are not serious about using their positions as policymakers properly, but he never mentioned Stefanik by name.

Ratigan compared money and resources to water and said they will run down toward areas of least resistance and pool in small areas. It is his belief that the government’s policies should shape the “hill” the water runs down, sending it to areas that need it most.

Ratigan said he would support policies that move resources into the district and into the country as a whole, because when the actions of the government can ease the minds of its citizens, it allows them to move past divisive politics.

“When you remove resources from any environment … when I remove money, when I remove opportunity, when I remove possibility, I create insecurity, I create fear, and I engender the politics of hate and tribalism,” Ratigan said.

Ratigan dropped two “bombs,” as he called them, saying he did drugs in college — and a little bit afterward — and that he has never voted in his life.

“I think that putting people in jail for smoking pot is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Ratigan said. “Bankrupting ourselves to destroy communities by criminalizing things like marijuana is irrational.”

In an interview with the Enterprise on Tuesday, he said he favors decriminalization of marijuana but not other illegal drugs.

When asked why he has never voted, he said he was always “disgusted” with the choices he was given. He registered to vote in Essex County around a week ago.

A statement from the National Republican Congressional Committee, released Tuesday, pointed out that Ratigan’s first vote will be for himself, adding, “He’s a liberal talking head with no voting record, and now he’s running for Congress in a desperate grasp for relevance.”

“That’s awesome,” Ratigan said, smiling after hearing the statement read at the event.

He said he was probably the most aggressive person on cable TV criticizing both the Obama and Bush administrations, and that “liberal talking head” is code for “bad with money,” which he refuted.

Ratigan said a record of his opinions and policies exists online in clips from his days at MSNBC and CNBC, and more recently, at The Young Turks’ YouTube channel.

Several attendees asked the “carpetbagger” question, wondering if after living in New York City for so long, he still understands the district he grew up in. Ratigan said he has lived in Lake Placid since 2012, and though he travels around 200 days a year, his Adirondack home is his “refuge.”

He told the Enterprise Tuesday he has spent roughly 50 to 100 days a year in Lake Placid.

Three of the other Democratic candidates have criticized Ratigan’s entry into the race. Emily Martz of Saranac Lake issued a statement saying, “It’s the age of women … We’ve had enough of self-serving, wealthy individuals taking advantage of the North Country, peddling their wealth and notoriety to bolster their own agenda.” Katie Wilson of Keene told North Country Public Radio she, too, was disappointed, and Tedra Cobb of Canton issued a statement implying that Ratigan isn’t familiar with typical North Country residents.

“This campaign is about … the people whose hospital clinics and nursing homes Elise Stefanik voted to close; about our neighbors whose wages and economic prospects have stalled while Elise Stefanik has been in Washington. And, it’s about electing someone who knows them, who understands their issues first hand; who knows from experience how to effectively work with and for them — across political views.”

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