Ratigan denies he would have voted for Trump, lays out plan for political reform

Dylan Ratigan speaks on Tuesday at the Watertown Daily Times. (Photo provided — Daytona Niles, Watertown Daily Times)

WATERTOWN — In a wide-ranging editorial board meeting on Tuesday, Democratic congressional hopeful Dylan J. Ratigan, Lake Placid, clarified that he would not have voted for Donald J. Trump for president.

According to a letter to the editor in the Glens Falls Post Star, written by Jill Nadolski of West Hebron, Mr. Ratigan said at a campaign event that he would have voted for Mr. Trump, had he voted for president in 2016.

North Country Public Radio later interviewed three other people at the event, all of whom confirmed Mr. Ratigan had said he would have voted for Mr. Trump.

“My poor attempt at humor has been leveraged by some (fellow candidate) Tedra Cobb supporters,” Mr. Ratigan said.

He did not deny saying that he would vote for Mr. Trump, but said the whole incident was used by those present to boost their candidate.

“When you look at a story where the sources are four supporters of another candidate who have an explicit agenda against anyone who is not their candidate working with a reporter who is based in the candidate’s hometown … it’s a layup,” Mr. Ratigan said.

The NCPR reporter, Brian Mann, lives in Westport, according to his profile on the station’s website. Ms. Cobb is from Canton.

The whole incident, according to Mr. Ratigan, is a perfect example of what he says is a hyper-partisan national politics concerned more with tearing opponents down than dealing with issues.

“I have been a (Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.) supporter for 10 years. … The record shows I did not vote for Donald Trump,” Mr. Ratigan said. “It also shows I did not support Hillary Clinton.”

This is a common theme in Mr. Ratigan’s campaign — it is the entire political system, not individual issues, that must be fixed.

“The question is less how you solve this tax code problem; the question is how do you solve the problem of a federal government with two political parties that not only refuse to talk to each other but actively cultivate hostility and accumulate power by saying ‘no’ at all costs?” Mr. Ratigan said.

His proposals include issues like primary reform and congressional districting.

Small primaries create extreme legislators who are better at campaigning than governing, according to Mr. Ratigan.

“You end up recruiting for the most extreme people who are the best at things like character assassination, who are then the most out of touch with everyone else,” he said.

As for districting, Mr. Ratigan suggests changing the district lines of NY-21 to include more Democrats. In fact, Mr. Ratigan would like to see as many districts as possible across the country redrawn to be competitive.

“The reality is the vast majority of districts are not in play,” Mr. Ratigan said. “The gerrymandering ensures that no matter what (incumbents) do, they will stay in power.”

Mr. Ratigan acknowledges these are not reforms that can be implemented from Congress — the redrawing of districts happens state by state and is subject to court review. Primaries are organized by parties. Instead, he says, it needs a cultural shift, one he hopes to champion.

“All you have as a congressman is the bully pulpit to expose and shame,” Mr. Ratigan said. “You can’t legislate that.”

He also said that every congressional candidate should be judged based on a number of key performance indicators for the district that would be published regularly and give the public a chance to judge their congressional representatives on.

“No congressman wants to be measured by key performance indicators,” he said. If they were, then they might lose their seats more regularly.

If part of his campaign is advocating for sweeping cultural reform in American politics, Mr. Ratigan also has number of specific programs he would champion for the district, like Fort Drum.

“It is the jewel of our district,” he said. “It’s a massive economic asset … but in addition to that, it is our greatest gift to the country and the world to provide the ability and the capacity that exists not just with the 10th Mountain Division, but the base at large.”

Mr. Ratigan wants to expand opportunities for veterans coming out of the service, siting his work with returning veterans as a volunteer teaching job skills.

“The transitioning veteran is treated much more poorly than they should be,” he said. “I think what you see in Watertown and around Fort Drum for people getting out is a great example of how we are failing.”

He also supports expanding private care options for veterans alongside the Veterans Administration hospitals.

As for economics, Mr. Ratigan supports expanding renewable energy — mainly hydroelectric and wind projects, although not ones that would interfere with Fort Drum. While he sees a future with all renewable energy, however, he does not support shuttering current power plants too quickly.

“Unless you’re offering an alternative … what basis do I have to reject nukes and natural gas?” he said.

As for industry, Mr. Ratigan thinks that investment in dairy, particularly value added products exported to large nearby markets like Boston, New York City and Ontario, will yield huge benefits to the district.

“We have enough capacity to produce all the yogurt, cheese, ice cream and butter for the North East corridor,” he said. “We’re not doing it.”

He also thinks a guest worker program is important for industries, like agricultural, heavily dependent on immigrant labor.

Like many Democratic candidates in the primary, he supports a Medicare for All option, which he says would allow the government to lower drug costs by negotiating with drug companies and give people more freedom to move between jobs without worrying about health care.

The Affordable Care Act, he said, was a failure by the Democrats to implement meaningful change.

“When they had the opportunity … they mandated everyone buy health care from an unreformed monopoly,” Mr. Ratigan said.

The Democrats settled for the ACA with both houses of Congress and the White House, said Mr. Ratigan, which is further proof that power in Washington has been divorced from reality.

“The voter has been disconnected from the government completely,” he said.