Cobb promises leadership free of influence of money

Democratic Congressional candidate Tedra Cobb talks with Enterprise staff at the newspaper’s office in Saranac Lake Sept. 6 about her campaign’s differences from opponent, incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

GLENS FALLS — Democrat Tedra Cobb said this election is a clear choice between her record as a 30-year resident of the North Country, local legislator and health care advocate and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who has not lived in the NY-21 Congressional District and has harmed the district with her votes.

“My first policy difference between Elise Stefanik and me is who we take money from and who we are beholden to,” she said Tuesday in a meeting with The Post-Star editorial board.

Cobb, who lives in Canton, said she does not take money from pharmaceutical or oil and gas companies and is free to vote in the best interests of her constituents.

She got into this race because of the vote by Stefanik, R-Willsboro, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Cobb said. Had that effort succeeded, it would have caused 64,000 people in the district to lose insurance and led to the closing of rural hospitals and nursing homes, Cobb said. Loss of jobs would have been a spinoff effect, she said.

Cobb said she supports expanding Medicare to everyone as an option, but would like to look at all different possibilities, including fixes to the Affordable Care Act.

“The guiding principal is that every person must have affordable and portable health care,” she said.

Cobb said Congress needs to hold hearings on this issue – in contrast to what happened with the tax bill, which she said passed in the middle of the night with “chicken scratch” written in the margins.

Medicare for all is attractive because administrative costs are 2 percent, much lower than with private insurers, according to Cobb. But, she said, expanding health care coverage could involve a hybrid system with Medicare and private insurance.

Costs go down when everyone is covered, she said, and added that she would also like to focus more on preventative medicine.

Cobb would support a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans to raise money for health care reform.

She said one negative effect of the Affordable Care Act is it caused some businesses to reduce employees’ hours down to 30, so they would not have to pay insurance. That forced people to pick up second jobs.

Environmental harm

Cobb also criticized Stefanik’s votes to roll back environmental protections, such as allowing companies to dump coal dust into streams and rivers and cutting funding that protects Lake Champlain.

The federal government needs to invest in renewable energy infrastructure and energy conservation and help people make their homes more energy-efficient, she said.

“Our housing stock is old and lower-income people are spending more of their income in heating their homes, which means they’re not able to invest in good food or education (or) clothing,” she said.

Cobb said she has a record of taking on businesses to protect the environment. While a college student, she fought against an incinerator plant setting up in St. Lawrence County. As a two-term county legislator, she organized resistance to the establishment of a concentrated animal feeding operation, she said – a huge dairy farm that would have had more than 80,000 cows. The company, Bion, decided against locating in St. Lawrence County.

Taxes and Social Security

On the same night as Cobb became the Democrat nominee, the Stefanik campaign tagged her with the label “Taxin’ Tedra,” because of her votes in the St. Lawrence County Legislature.

Cobb said many of those votes were for home rule legislation to fix problems like Medicaid costs, which were being pushed down to states. Every local government was struggling during the 2008 fiscal crisis, she said, and the county worked with the New York State Association of Counties to lobby the state to cap Medicaid expenses.

Cobb said, unlike Stefanik, she understands the impact of the federal government’s actions on state and local governments.

“Elise Stefanik has never lived in this district, never paid taxes in this district, never served in a local government,” she said.

She would oppose any privatization of Social Security, which would allow Wall Street to gamble with people’s money, she said. She raised the 2008 stock market crash as an example of why privatization is a bad idea.

One way to make sure Social Security stays solvent is to raise the cap on income subject to Social security taxes, she said.

She also criticized Stefanik for voting to roll back protections put in place after the financial collapse. One of those protections required financial advisers to disclose to investors the best course of action with their money, instead of pushing more risky options that might make more money for the adviser.

“The stock market might be great, but drive around this district and ask people how much money they have in the stock market,” she said.

Immigration fixes

Cobb said she supports a fix to the immigration problem. Farmers in the district are having trouble finding laborers. They rely on immigrant labor – some legal and some illegal.

Congress should create a program allowing renewable 3- to 5-year visas for agricultural workers, she said.

People who have been living in the country with temporary protected status after fleeing countries ravaged by war and natural disasters, such as Haiti and El Salvador, deserve an opportunity to become citizens and stay in the U.S., she said. They should not be forced to return to countries that are unsafe.

“This is about morality and fairness,” she said.

Cobb said she also supports a clean DACA bill, offering a path to citizenship for people brought to the U.S. as children and raised here as Americans.

Cobb said she believes the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement was a step in the right direction but does not do enough to get dairy farmers a fair price for their products.

“We’re willing to subsidize coal and oil, but we’re not willing to pay farmers what they need for milk,” she said.

Seeking bipartisanship

Cobb runs her own consulting business and does organizational development. She is seeking to unseat Stefanik, who is finishing her second term. Green Party candidate Lynn Kahn is also running.

Cobb said she hopes can break through the hyperpartisan environment, evident recently in the fight over confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“I have stayed true to my values and I will continue to do so. And at the end of the day, I think those values will win. That’s why I’m in the race,” she said. “If I didn’t think people wanted a different kind of leadership, I wouldn’t be here.”

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