Cobb, Braymer campaign at Saranac Lake event
SARANAC LAKE — Several dozen voters gathered — socially distanced — in Riverside Park on Saturday to hear Democratic candidates Tedra Cobb and Claudia Braymer answer questions about their campaign platforms with fewer than 20 days until the Nov. 3 election.
Cobb, of Canton, is running for the second time against incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik to represent New York’s 21st Congressional District. She focused on her three big issues: health care, military and a general change in Washington.
Braymer, of Glens Falls, is also running on the Working Families Party line against Republican and Conservative candidate Matthew Simpson and Serve America Movement Party Evelyn Wood to represent New York’s 114th Assembly District in Albany. They are running for an Assembly seat being vacated by Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who is running for state Senate.
Braymer pitched herself to voters as a competent, hard-working and tenacious candidate with independent values.
Voters have already begun sending in their ballots this year, as the state has opened up no-excuse absentee ballot voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The forum was hosted by the Saranac Lake-based Adirondack Voters for Change organization, which typically supports Democratic candidates.
One attendee asked Braymer what they should tell voters when they ask why they should vote for her.
“I want you guys to tell people, ‘She is a strong, hard-working person, and she is going to serve us with independence, integrity and tenacity,'” Braymer said. “I am a much stronger advocate than my opponents.”
She said she would have a voice at the table in state politics, which she believes other candidates would not. The Assembly has a large Democratic majority.
She said she has a “tenacity,” which she attributed to acquiring through playing and coaching rugby. She said she had thrown around a rugby ball a bit that morning.
“I know I’m a small person, but that does not mean that I’m not feisty,” Braymer said.
She said she often votes with Democrats, but not always.
She said the North Country needs affordable housing, adding that the state has invested in tourism for the Adrirondacks and it now needs to to invest in infrastructure and make housing development easier. She said this is not simple to do, but that there are some “easy” ways the state can help. One of these is for New York to have money available to incentivize private developers to build affordable housing here.
Braymer said she will always fight to keep property taxes from going up.
She is an environmental lawyer by trade and wants to see the addition of a “conservation subdivision design bill” to the Adirondack Park Agency Act, which she said would streamline process for developers so they can responsibly develop in the park.
She said she began caring about maintaining the environment when she visited the Adirondacks in her youth. She suggested the state introduce a park-wide invasive species boat inspection program.
Braymer said she is endorsed by the Sierra Club.
She is also endorsed by, among others, the state Police Benevolent Association — which represents state Department of Conservation forest rangers. That stands out in an election year when Republicans are often campaigning on a “law and order” platform and touting police endorsements.
“I care about our law enforcement,” Braymer said. “I want to support them.”
She said she believes the state should hire more rangers to keep DEC staff from being “stretched thin.”
“Our governor and the commissioner of the DEC are not providing them with the staff support that they need,” Braymer said.
“I want you to clap if you think that Washington is working right now just the way it ought to be,” Cobb said at the beginning of her speech.
The crowd was silent with the exception of someone’s dog barking.
Her speech followed a pattern. She would say a certain issue is “on the ballot,” explain the issue and then say, “Elect me,” followed by her campaign promise.
Health care is the main focus of her campaign, and she said it is the reason she got into national politics. Cobb told the crowd about how in 2015 her daughter Aida got an emergency back surgery a month before Cobb lost her job and her job-supplied health insurance. She said this is “too familiar a story.”
She said she supports a Medicare public option.
“I will never vote to cut a dime from Medicare or Social Security, and I will never vote to raise the retirement age,” Cobb said.
“Fort Drum, troop safety and force protection are on the ballot,” Cobb said.
She again accused Stefanik of being “silent” on reports that Russia paid members of the Taliban to kill American troops. Stefanik has not been completely silent on the bounty issue, but she has not been particularly vocal or critical of Russia. Stefanik has said the bounty accusation has not been verified.
Cobb also said that until Stefanik condemns President Donald Trump’s alleged statements calling dead soldiers “losers and suckers,” the words “are her own.”
Cobb said she would try to fully fund and staff the Veterans Affairs department.
She also called on Stefanik to step down from her position as co-chair of the New York branch of the Trump reelection campaign. She said Trump has let people die of COVID-19 by not treating the virus seriously.
On the same day, at a rally in Plattsburgh, Stefanik called on Cobb to not participate in the forum and to denounce Adirondack Voters for Change, which hosted the Saranac Lake forum. Stefanik claimed that members of this group have “wished death on the president.”
An Enterprise article on the public’s response to Trump contracting COVID-19 included one interview with a Voters for Change member who spoke sarcastically about the president’s situation but did not wish him dead. Two Binghamton residents quoted in the story wished for Trump’s health to take a “turn for the worse,” but they are not members of the organization, Voters for Change member Rich Shapiro said Monday.
Shapiro said the two had stopped into the organization’s Broadway office earlier that day but that they are not associated with Voters for Change and did not sign up to join the group.
One attendee asked how the two candidates plan to improve the environment and economy simultaneously.
Cobb said voters should elect them both, saying things work better when the state and federal government work together.
“We need to pass the Scientific Integrity Act, which will allow scientists to do what they do without the influence of politicians,” Cobb said. “We’ve got to end subsidies for fossil fuels.”
One attendee asked Cobb what she would do if the Supreme Court chooses to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The court will begin hearing arguments on a lawsuit deciding the future of the act on Nov. 10.
Cobb reiterated that she supports a Medicare public option and said the American people need to advocate to stop the lawsuit.
Both candidates refuted the notion that they are “far-left,” as Stefanik has called Cobb.
“My opponent says a lot of things, and most of them are not true,” Cobb said.
Braymer said her opponents have not said she is far-left but are campaigning on pushing back on far-left politics.
“It’s just something they say,” Braymer said. “It’s not true.”