No primaries for NY-21

Republican Elise Stefanik and Democrat Paula Collins are the only two candidates for New York’s 21st Congressional District who filed petitions last week to run on the state’s four major party lines, according to the state Board of Elections, meaning there will be no primary elections this election cycle. Candidates for independent lines can begin collecting signature petitions next week.

The NY-21 race was expected to have major party primaries, but the four other candidates did not get enough signatures, did not file petitions or were otherwise not eligible to set up primary challenges.

Republican Jill Lochner needed to gather at least 1,250 signatures to challenge Stefanik in a primary election. But she did not file with the state BOE, according to the board’s website. Why she did not is unclear. Lochner did not return requests to comment to the Enterprise by deadline.

Democrat Steve Holden, who also needed at least 1,250 signatures to make the primary ballot, said he “fell short of obtaining the required number of petitions to secure a spot on the ballot,” and alleged preferential treatment of other candidates by regional Democratic chairs and leaders as the cause of that. He is not continuing his campaign.

He did not specify which Democratic leaders he was referring to, nor did he go into further detail regarding his allegations. He said his campaign has evidence to back up the claim, but the campaign did not provide any evidence to the Enterprise by deadline.

Holden described feeling burned by the NY-21 Democratic leadership.

“While navigating this process, I observed disparities in the treatment received by different candidates,” Holden said in a statement. “It was communicated to me that there would be equal treatment among candidates regarding certain advantages. However, upon closer scrutiny, it became apparent that this was not entirely accurate.”

“I am no longer a registered Democrat because of this,” Holden told the Enterprise. “I’ve been a Democrat for 35 years.”

He said he filed paperwork to de-register from the party last Friday and that he is not endorsing anyone still in the race.

Working Families Party member Brian Rouleau had also sought to compete for his party line. But he also did not file with the state BOE, according to the board’s website, and why he did not is unclear. Rouleau did not return requests to comment to the Enterprise by deadline.

Scott Phillip Lewis had planned to run as a Democrat but after it was revealed he was not a member of the Democratic Party — and could not change his party registration in time to be part of that primary election — he now plans to circulate an independent petition to get on the November ballot on a different party line. Independent candidates need at least 3,500 signatures by May 28 to make the ballot.


So far, there have been no formal challenges to Stefanik’s petitions. Six people have filed general objections to Collins’ petitions on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, challenging the validity of the signatures on them. State BOE Public Information Director Kathleen McGrath said these challenges will be reviewed and “processed according to the law.” The specifics of these objections are due within the next few days, but have not been received yet by the state, according to the BOE’s response to a Freedom of Information Law request from the Enterprise.

Collins said she left herself a “cushion” for challenged signatures, but did not want to reveal how much cushion specifically.

If these petitions are deemed to have enough signatures to be valid, Collins will be on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, and Stefanik will be on the Republican and Conservative party lines come November.

“New York state has four official parties — Democratic, Republican, Conservatives and Working Families,” McGrath said. “Anyone seeking ballot access for the general election on a line other than those four parties would be an independent candidate.”

Candidates for independent lines can begin collecting signature petitions on April 16. These petitions will be due between May 21 to 28. They require 3,500 signatures, compared to the 1,250 required for major party lines.

Stefanik, of Schuylerville, is the only candidate on both the Republican and Conservative party lines, submitting 651 pages of GOP signatures and 127 pages of Conservative signatures, according to filings provided by the state BOE.

Collins, of Canton, is the only candidate on both the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, submitting 321 pages of Democratic signatures and 29 pages of WFP signatures, according to filings provided by the state BOE.

Six people have filed challenges to Collins’ petitions on both party lines, according to BOE documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request. These objectors are Republican politicians and activists, and two list residences outside the NY-21 boundary in Rome and Deerfield.

Campaign trail

Collins said as she collected signatures on the campaign trail she heard about major issues that voters see. Immigration is a concern in communities along the Canadian border, she said, but elsewhere, access to broadband and health care are the big issues she heard.

Stefanik’s campaign said the race looks good for the prominent Republican House member.

“Cycle after cycle, the local media salivates and spills front page ink over every and any possible primary and general election opponent of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik,” Stefanik Senior Advisor Alex DeGrasse said in a statement. “And a primary has never happened, and she has demolished every general election Democrat opponent at the ballot box.”

Stefanik had her highest quarter of fundraising ever to start 2024, raising $7.1 million from 70,000 unique donors — with some of the largest contributions coming from Jewish Republicans after she grilled the presidents of Ivy League colleges over antisemitism.

“Team Elise has now raised over $20 million cycle to date with millions transferred to the NRCC, millions raised directly for candidates, and millions for her New York Republican battleground effort,” a press release from her campaign reads.

FEC data on Collins’ fundraising is not currently available.

“I understand that Stefanik has raised an incredible amount of money,” Collins said. “I’ll be quite blunt and say that I have not raised an incredible amount of money. I’ve raised some modest sums of money. But this is not an election that’s going to be based on money.”

She looks at incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden vastly out-raising former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump in terms of money, but the two of them being “neck-and-neck in the polls.” She said she feels confident Stefanik has lost people’s votes and will vote for her instead.

Collins said with $7 million Stefanik could do a lot to fix the issues plaguing NY-21, like boosting broadband or heath care access.

“She could also feed and clothe some migrants instead of complaining about them,” Collins said.

“Stefanik will crush this New York City Far Left Democrat who has never even lived here, is newly registered to vote at a bed and breakfast, and even listed her New York City address on her petitions if she even makes the ballot for a possible lack of petitions,” DeGrasse said in a statement.

Collins listed her Manhattan law office address on her petitions under “contact person to correct deficiencies” but listed her Canton address as her residence.

Collins said she is renting efficiency apartments at that address in Canton.

“I have the ability to lease there for as long as I want,” she said.

She is in the process of building a home in Petersburg and this was a way to save money on hotels while traveling the large NY-21 district, Collins said.


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