Nation’s eyes on #NY21 as impeachment inquiry draws attention
The president of the United States declared North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik as “A new Republican Star” Sunday morning, Star Wars and Star Trek stars urged fans to donate to Tedra Cobb, Stefanik’s Democratic opponent in the 2020 election, and both candidates saw their Twitter follower numbers jump significantly this weekend as New York’s 21st Congressional District was thrust into the national political spotlight.
It started Friday as Americans tuned in to watch the House Intelligence Committee question former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as part of the impeachment inquiry inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is a member of that committee, and she stood out for her interactions with committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Her questions were cut off several times by Schiff for not following the hearing’s rules and she voiced frustration with how the hearing was being run.
Her interactions drew praise from the right for standing up to Schiff, who they say is running an unfair investigation, and condemnation from the left, who say Stefanik was breaking the rules of the inquiry, which specify when members are allowed to talk.
Both candidates’ Twitter accounts skyrocketed with new followers, according to data from Social Blade.
Cobb, who on Thursday had under 5,000 followers, saw that number multiply more than 40 times over, breaking 200,000 by Sunday and surpassing both of Stefanik’s accounts.
Stefanik’s personal account started the day with under 67,000 followers, which more than doubled by Sunday, reaching 175,000. Her congressional account started with around 47,000, and broke 100,000 by Sunday.
Momentum on all these accounts picked up exponentially as tweets, hashtags and stories were disseminated widely throughout the political side of Twitter.
Stefanik got support from people who oppose the inquiry, namely, GOP leaders including: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and former Arkansas governor and current host of “Huckabee,” Mike Huckabee.
Democrats, saying on social media they were looking to vent their frustrations over what they saw in the hearing, began a campaign supporting Cobb in her 2020 election effort.
Cobb received endorsements from actors Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series) and George Takei (Star Trek). George Conway, the husband of Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, posted a receipt showing he donated the maximum amount of money ($2,800) to Cobb’s campaign.
A fake image of Stefanik making an obscene gesture to a camera as Yovanovitch received a standing ovation was circulated online, with dozens of accounts sharing the photoshopped photo.
Conway had retweeted this image but later deleted the tweet. Later, he shared a photo showing how much time Stefanik had to talk during the hearing with the caption “@EliseStefanik is lying trash. Please give to her opponent, @TedraCobb.”
This kicked off the hashtag #TrashyStefanik.
Stefanik responded to Conway, saying “the one thing I’ve NEVER been called in my life is TRASH. You need serious help. My opponent Taxin’ Tedra can have your sick mysogynist support.”
She later said that Conway was an “abusive creep” and that “there is a rot in the Socialist Democratic Party.”
“DONATE NOW to help us fight back to the Far-Left’s unhinged Hollywood machine!” she tweeted.
Cobb thanked her new and old followers for the campaign boost, tweeting, “If anyone has ever doubted the serious power of #grassroots, the last 24 hours should be all the proof you need.”
“Stefanik’s partisan political theatre is beneath the dignity of her office,” Cobb wrote. “She skipped several important private hearings– now with the cameras on, she has repeatedly attempted to derail the public hearings. Stefanik should take her oath to the Constitution seriously.”
There had been a national interest in NY21 when Cobb and Stefanik faced off in the 2018 election, as the district was considered to be one of the closer elections in the country. Stefanik ended up beating Cobb by 14 points. Sunday, though, there was an unprecedented level of attention on the race, which is still a little less than a year away.