Dem committees: Pick a candidate who can beat Stefanik

On Wednesday evening, a letter from the Democratic committee chairs of all 12 counties in New York’s 21st Congressional District asked primary voters to “prioritize the candidate who you believe can actually unseat Stefanik in November.”

The primary race currently has five candidates: Katie Wilson of Keene, Emily Martz of Saranac Lake, Patrick Nelson of Stillwater, Dylan Ratigan of Lake Placid and Tedra Cobb of Canton. At one point it had as many as 10 candidates. The chairs have agreed not to endorse anyone until after the primary.

The letter asks voters to act pragmatically rather than ideologically.

“Each of the five remaining candidates agree on 95 percent of the national and district issues at hand,” the letter reads. “This is a moderate-to-conservative district. In order to send this ‘Rubber Stamp for Trump’ back to her DC Penthouse on K street, we need to be unified behind a candidate that can beat her.”

The letter was sent out about 10 p.m. on Wednesday, less than a week before the primary. Mark Bellardini, the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee chair, said the chairs have been keeping in contact through the primary process.

“We have not just laid down through this thing for the last 14 months,” he said. “We came to a consensus that the district needs a reformer.”

With all that is at stake in this midterm election, Bellardini said that he felt it was important to ask voters to support, not the candidate that they had fallen in love withbut the one who would stand up best against incumbent Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro.

“Pick the person who you think will be a tiger,” Bellardini said.

All the committees have declined to endorse anyone during the primary, despite, Bellardini said, pressure from many of the candidates to do so.

Bellardini said that this was not a tacit endorsement either of particular candidates or, more broadly, supporting moderate values over progressive ones.

“I don’t, I really don’t,” he said. As for selecting what values to support, he said, “I think the voters will do that.”

For Bellardini, the letter was less about endorsing an idea or candidate than inspiring Democrats to vote.

“We’re trying to rally the people,” he said. “It’s time for people to get off the couch and go out and vote.”

Nelson posted on Twitter that he thinks this letter is encouraging people to vote for a moderate candidate, a strategy he says will not work, especially with a Green Party candidate — Lynn Kahn — in the race.

“Many folks in the Democratic establishment never question the conventional wisdom that got us where we are,” Nelson said. “The conventional wisdom cannot any longer be considered wise if it no longer produces the desired results.”

Nelson had said that nationally, progressive campaigns, not moderate ones, win in otherwise conservative districts.

By staying in the center, “You come across milquetoast, like you don’t stand for anything,” Nelson said.

Wilson, on the other hand, wrote in a message to the Times that she supported the chair’s letter.

“I found their message to be thoughtful and correct,” she wrote. “Who has the broadest support among Rs and is … therefore best positioned to win in November? We do, with 21 percent (1 in 5) of our active volunteers falling into that category.”

Wilson also mentioned her volunteers from the Working Families Party, whose endorsement she received earlier this year.

The Times does not have a way to independently verify her volunteers’ numbers.

“This moment is about who can create unity, and clearly our campaign has,” Wilson wrote.