NY-21 candidate Watson stumps in Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH — New York 21st Congressional District candidate Ezra Watson made his first campaign stop in Plattsburgh Saturday.

“If you choose to give me the honor of your vote, I’ll go to work every day fighting to improve your lives, all of your lives, so please join me on the path to the future,” he said through a megaphone at Trinity Park downtown.

One of four

Watson, 46, of Wilton, was the first Democrat to declare his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-Schuylerville) seat in April.

Now, he is one of four who have entered the race, along with attorney Matt Putorti of Whitehall, former U.S. speedskater and crime victim advocate Bridie Farrell of North River, and, most recently, former CIA operative and counterterrorism official Matt Castelli of Wilton.

Watson contended the other three Democrats are mostly running on identity, and said he does not think they have offered real proposals to combat serious issues like climate change, health care and infrastructure.

He said he aligns with progressive members of Congress like U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) as well as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) since the climate and health care crises are at the top of their agenda.

He said a stronger progressive caucus would help eliminate the wait in getting federal Build Back Better legislation passed.

Climate change

Speaking with the Press-Republican after his speech, Watson said multiple factors motivated him to run: deep-seated concerns about “the erosion of our democratic system,” the influence of multinational and special interests, and weaknesses in the U.S. health care system and job infrastructure exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also thinks being a father is what made him decide “to get up off the couch, off the sidelines and try and do something.”

That particularly ties into his concerns about climate change. Watson feels future generations are inheriting “the worst climate catastrophe that we have not seen yet” and “will be the ones to inherit the brunt of our inaction.”

During his stump speech, — attended solely by his wife, Jarunya Sudsadang-Watson; their daughter, first-grader Evelyn Watson; and supporter Wink Edelman — Watson said the biggest threat to livelihoods is climate change.

Pointing to more frequent forest fires and floods, as well as water shortages, extreme heat waves and crop failure in parts of the United States, Watson said climate change was no longer a hypothetical, future threat.

But he posited that the problem can be tackled through “strong, decisive action.” Watson said he would vote in support of the Green New Deal — a proposal that seeks to move the United States away from fossil fuels and address climate change — saying it would create millions of jobs while preparing the country for the future.

He also expressed concern over the Biden administration’s continued approval of permits allowing oil drilling on public and tribal lands.

Corporate influence

Watson decried corporate influence on politics.

He said Stefanik “has been in the pocket of special interests for years” and has become “the leader of the insurrectionist wing of the Republican Party.”

“She takes money from super PACs and the military industrial complex including Harris while spreading lies and turning a blind eye to the needs of her constituents.”

Watson said he does not take money from corporate interests or super PACs and indeed flat-out denies it.

“So there will be nothing standing in between your needs and requests and me if I get into government — when I get into government, into Congress.”

Free college

Watson supports making all public colleges and universities tuition-free, as well as providing training for those who would prefer to go into trades.

He claimed he has spoken with a U.S. Air Force recruiter who said there are not qualified people in the country to hire for advanced defense programs. Watson said a “massive brain dump” in the country was a national defense crisis.

“We should be paving the way to college with golden bricks, for free, to get back on track,” he said emphatically.

“No one here in this country is qualified to run advanced projects in the United States Air Force? Send them to school! Pay their way!

“There’s a genius on every corner. We’ve got to give him a chance.”

Medicare for all

Watson said he firmly backs Medicare for All, pointing to his own difficulties accessing health care as a fully-employed, though contracted, technical worker in the semiconductor industry.

He posited that other gig economy workers who are also not fully covered by insurance as well as small businesses facing higher premium burdens might support the program. He facetiously stated that such a system could be paid for the same way a 20-year war was, and that it would probably be much less expensive.

Watson said rural America has been largely forgotten, pointing in particular to lacking broadband coverage which he said would be addressed in the federal infrastructure package if it was passed.

He said reliable broadband is critical, necessary to work, learn, compete and stay connected to loved ones.

“Elise Stefanik has been promising to reinforce our internet infrastructure for years, but I don’t see it.”

Stefanik response

Stefanik’s senior advisor, Alex deGrasse, said it was “a race to the far left” for the district’s Democratic primary field.

“Far left Democrat candidates like Mr. Watson support Medicare for All, a gun ban and the largest spending bill and tax increase in our nation’s history — Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion boondoggle,” he claimed.

DeGrasse said Stefanik has a strong record of delivering results for NY-21, pointing to hundreds of millions in infrastructure funding through Northern Border Regional Commission grants, the multi-year highway bill and her work with former Federal Communications Commissioner Chair Ajit Pai, which he said led to the state being awarded $99 million for broadband funding.


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