Wilson looks for solutions between battle lines

Democratic Congressional candidate Katie Wilson stands inside the Adirondack Attic, a consignment shop in Keene she started 10 years ago in the middle of an economic recession. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

KEENE — Democratic Congressional candidate Katie Wilson wants to be a political representative for the middle and lower classes in a world where upper-class ideologies rein.

She criticizes both the Democratic and Republican parties of not properly representing the average American, saying the political process has strayed from its original purpose, of letting local representatives support local interests in Washington, D.C.

“Our Founding Fathers intended our government to be a representative of and by the people, not a collection of wealthy people with the same experience, from the same socioeconomic class creating policy on behalf of everyone else,” Wilson said. “How can effective policy be created without an understanding of what it’s like on the ground?”

Wilson describes herself as “not the traditional type of person to run for Congress,” a single mother who has lived at the poverty line, with no prior political experience. She believes that is what the Founding Fathers intended with the American republic and said that, if elected, one of her priorities will be to reform the campaign finance system, making it easier for people with little to no money or connections to be competitive.

“It underpins every other issue in our society,” Wilson said. “It’s what keeps incumbents in power. It keeps the wealthy and well-connected in power and it keeps working people out.”

Economic conversation

Wilson enjoys economic philosophy, referencing Milton Friedman, quoting George H. W. Bush and citing articles and books on the subject. She didn’t study economics traditionally, but with her brother, Derek Wilson, in the field, having been engaged to a economic philosopher and always finding the subject interesting, she has strong views on the subject and enjoys debating the best systems to govern the country.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation about a difficult issue where I didn’t learn something new from someone with an opposing stance on it,” Wilson said. “I would rather make progress than be right.”

She said that Congress is too polarized and focused on arguments rather than solutions. She said instead of telling someone “you are wrong” when she disagrees, she gives them the information she has and lets them come to their own conclusions about what they believe.

She said this method of debate could let Congress find a positive economic solution between their two extreme ideals.

“People on the left are promoting these big ideas and ideals but don’t have a way to pay for it, and then people on the right are often like ‘we want small government but we need help,'” Wilson said. “What we need to do is come back to the middle. We want the same things, and they are in the middle.”

She supports government spending on programs that help its citizens, an idea unpopular with many conservatives and fiscal Republicans. She said that the trick is to spend enough to keep the economy afloat but not so much that it drains the tax base. Basically, choosing where to spend money wisely.

“In order to lift people up at a time of economic depression, we know from history that spending works. If we invested in a livable wage we would actually save money in housing subsidies and food stamps,” Wilson said. “It’s about allocating funds. We don’t need to raise taxes to fund government programs that help people of the 21st, but we cannot give a bunch of money away to people who are already wealthy at the expense of being able to fund the programs that already exist.”

Programs Wilson said she would like to invest in include: improved broadband to allow people to work remotely and sell wares online, student loan forgiveness programs to allow young people to stick around instead of moving to a metropolis to pay off their debts and increased outdoor recreation marketing for the Adirondacks.

She referenced an article from the Oregon-based Mail Tribune which states that outdoor recreation provides more jobs than oil, natural gas and mining combined, as well as a study from the Outdoor Industry Association that found Americans spend more annually in the outdoor recreation field than electronics, pharmaceuticals or automobiles.

Wilson also wants to create a center for young entrepreneurs to find advice, resources and information to help them get their businesses up and running.

“There’s a lot of resources out there and a lot of services out there and often what I’ve noticed is a lack of a liaison or a coordinator to bring those together,” Wilson said. “It’s like a switchboard operator; there’s someone missing who’s just plugging people into the funding services that they need.”

She said it’s about finding people already active in improving their community and getting them the resources they need.


Wilson is a strong opponent of “trickle-down economics,” the idea that if the upper-class and company owners get more tax breaks and can make more money, the cash trickles down to the employees. She clarified that she is not against business; rather, she is against profiteering.

She believes the popularity of trickle-down economics comes from “trickle-down thought” that starts with thought leaders who are working in the interest of the wealthy.

“The thinkers at the top are being influenced by the people who benefit from their economic policies,” Wilson said. “A lot of the narrative we see coming out of both sides comes from much larger forces at work.

“And those forces, those economic thinkers, are creating something that trickles down the effect to the rest of the general public but isn’t necessarily based in collective fact. It’s skewed by their political leanings and whoever their wealthy, connected friends are.”

Two-party conflict

Wilson is running on both the Democratic and Working Families lines, receiving the latter’s endorsement in March. With this nomination she will be on the election ballot come November no matter if she wins the Democratic nomination or not, a fact that some have pointed out conflicts with her promise to not run as a third-party candidate, risking becoming a “spoiler.”

She said the only way she can be taken off the ballot would be by moving to another state or dying. However, she said she will fully support the Democratic nominee whomever it is because her primary goal is to remove incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik from the seat.

When asked who she thought would be a strong contender in the November election, she said, “I mean, if I thought the other candidates could beat Stefanik, I wouldn’t be in the race.”

Although Wilson is competing in the Democratic primary, she said she operates outside of the party’s ideals, evidenced by the fact that 21 percent, or one in five, of the people volunteering, calling and donating on her behalf are registered Republicans or Independents.

Of course, she has been courting the Democratic party leaders and taking all the same formal steps all candidates do, but she wants to focus on attracting people from outside the Democratic party.

“That, to me, just seems to keep reaching the same echo chamber,” Wilson said. “I feel like its my job … to reach out and talk to and motivate everybody else.”

Speaking to the Keene Central School’s student government on Friday, she was asked a lot of questions about running a campaign and said a “vast majority” of the student leaders were registered to vote, which she believes is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.


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