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Cobb launches PAC to support rural Democratic candidates

Tedra Cobb, former candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, is seen on election night, Nov. 3, 2020, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Canton. (Provided photo — Kara Dry, Watertown Daily Times)

WATERTOWN — Tedra Cobb thinks rural Democrats have been left behind, and she’s doing something to change that.

Cobb, the former Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, is launching a political action committee called BackRoads PAC to support Democratic House of Representatives candidates in rural districts races across the country.

“Rural America has been left behind,” Cobb said Thursday morning ahead of the PAC’s official launch. “It’s clear from the results of 2020 that rural voters just don’t hear enough from Democrats, and that has got to change.”

During her second run for Congress last year, Cobb developed a national profile, garnering attention from all over the country as she ran to unseat Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of Schuylerville. Cobb said she took in more than $7 million in donations over two cycles, developed a donor list of significant length and created a platform from which she can support other Democrats in districts like New York’s 21st.

Cobb said her plan is to identify, vet and endorse between 10 and 15 candidates per election cycle, then provide training, connections and eventually financial support after the primaries.

Cobb said she thinks the most important metric is finding candidates who have deep connections in the communities they’re running for office in.

“I’ve lived here (in the North Country) for 30 years, I’ve served in my community for 30 years, I know the district well, and I know my community well,” she said. “I want to see that from other candidates.”

Cobb said she’s found that candidates familiar with their districts are the best at understanding the complexities of the issues their voters care about. She said voters aren’t monolithic, and you can’t just put a candidate in a district and hope for the best.

“I think people who know their community, are a part of their community and are passionate about making their communities better are the kinds of candidates I’m hoping to support,” Cobb said.

While it’s still too early to identify potential candidates in other races, Cobb said she plans to support opposition to Stefanik, as well as a number of other Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s clear from the last week that Republicans have been willing to divorce themselves from any and all reality,” Cobb said. “Specifically, Republicans like Elise Stefanik, who even after an attempted armed insurrection voted not to certify the results of a free and fair election. Elise Stefanik and those members of Congress need to be held accountable.”

Stefanik has been widely criticized over the last week for her continued support of President Donald Trump following last week’s riots at the Capitol. She was prepared to share her objections to certifying electoral results in four states, as she and several Republican lawmakers had promised in the weeks leading up to the congressional certification of the Electoral College ballots, when the Capitol was overrun. She has also been criticized for continuing to object after the riots as other Republican loyalists of the president, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, decided not to object and said, “Enough is enough.”

Cobb said she knows firsthand that running against Republican candidates in rural districts can be a tough fight.

In 2020, Cobb made her second run at the North Country’s House seat. It was also her second race up against incumbent Stefanik. Cobb lost her run against Stefanik last year by a margin of 18 percentage points. Stefanik has repeatedly said that in the 2020 election, she won more votes than any candidate in the history of the 21st Congressional District.

Nationally, Democrats lost at least 11 seats in the House, and flipped none.

“My goal is to help these candidates,” Cobb said. “I’m tough; I’m not going to lick my wounds. We’re going to fight like hell alongside these candidates. They need help, and I’m going to provide it.”

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