Elise for Congress
WILLSBORO — Elise Stefanik, one of the two Republicans seeking to replace Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), received a boost of local momentum on Tuesday, May 13 when 14 of the 18 members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors offered their intentions of support.
The annoucement came after a private meeting with local officials at the Deer’s Head Inn in Elizabethtown on Monday, April 28.
“I am honored to receive the endorsement of these members on the Essex County Board of Supervisors,” said Stefanik in a written statement that listed the names of the endorsees. “I am incredibly humbled in their support of my candidacy.”
For many, the praise was effusive:
“Elise has great direction and some good focuses,” said Keene town supervisor William Ferebee (pictured above, center). “I’m thankful she was there.”
Moriah Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava told the Valley News he was impressed with her background in small business. Her experience dealing with her counterparts across the district, he said, is something that offers her a firsthand look at the hardships that are facing families in the North Country, including many of his constituents.
“Her youth is an asset,” he said. “She’s never held prior office before, which would also be a good thing because she won’t be swayed by special interests.”
Shaun Gillilland, the supervisor of Stefanik’s adopted hometown of Willsboro, offered a full-throated endorsement, calling her an “extremely bright and energetic small businesswoman.”
“She has great ideas,” he said. “And she has the guts to go out and run.”
Gillilland said he admired Stefanik’s decision to go up against Owens last August before the two-term representative announced his retirement in January.
“It was like David and Goliath,” he said.
Citing the district’s depressing demographics, including the brain drain of 18-to-35-year-olds, Gillilland said the North Country should welcome all contributing voters and taxpayers who are willing to serve the district.
“I’m real happy to have her,” he said.
In the press release announcing the endorsements, North Elba town supervisor Roby Politi called Stefanik the “most qualified and knowledgeable candidate with the right attitude and demeanor to best represent the people of the North Country” while Newcomb’s George Canon cited her early push to unseat Owens:
“She is determined to help revamp the unjust laws that have been piled on the residents of Essex County and the rest of the district,” he said. “I am proud to support her.”
Despite being described as endorsing the candidate, several Republican lawmakers appeared skittish when contacted by the Valley News for comment.
Asked if he planned on endorsing Stefanik, Crown Point town supervisor Charles Harrington paused for several moments:
“I think she has positive ideas that would help the North Country,” he carefully said. “I think she may very well have a strong positive influence in Congress.”
“I lean towards her very strongly, but I would prefer to make an endorsement until after the primary,” said Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Bill Grinnell, who was also reached by phone. “I feel doing so beforehand would be inappropriate and improper.”
Grinnell said he personally looked Stefanik in the eye and offered his support.
“She has some really good ideas,” he said. “I think she would get us on financially sound footing and put people back at the forefront instead of the government.”
While a registered Republican, Grinnell said he considers himself more independent than a pure partisan and tends to weigh candidates more on what they bring to the table rather than their political affiliation.
“I think Bill Owens has been an excellent Congressman,” he said. “Take away the vote on Obamacare and he’s everything a conservative could ask for.”
Asked about the ambiguity surrounding some of these statements, Win Belanger, the First Vice Chair of the Essex County Republican Committee and the adviser who facilitated this endorsement process, said he was mystified:
“I can’t speak for each supervisor for what the word ‘endorsement’ means,” he said. “I still believe that a person’s word is their bond and a handshake is an honor-bound commitment.”
Wilmington Town Supervisor Randy Preston, one of the two independents on the board, vocally endorsed Stefanik and explained his decision:
“I wasn’t comfortable with Aaron Woolf and the connection to New York City,” he said, referring to the Democratic candidate who now lives in Elizabethtown after spending much of his career working as a small businessman and filmmaker in New York City.
“I vote for and support who can do the job. We’ve got to do something different. I thought it was time for a change. Elise is highly educated and it’s time to give her a chance.”
Preston said both sides need to continue to work together to get the federal government under control.
“In the end, we all lose if nobody is working together. Everyone gets fed up and blames the other side — that’s why I’m an independent.”
“I plan on endorsing Aaron Woolf — and not because he’s a Democrat, but because he’s the best candidate for the job,” said Chesterfield Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow. “I endorse the person, not the party.”
Morrow cited Woolf’s lack of elected experience as an asset:
“He’s got some independent ideas, some fresh ideas,” he said.
Westport’s Dan Connell said he also planned on endorsing Woolf; Minerva’s Stephen McNally said he “wasn’t really up to speed” on the race and was refraining from making his decision until he had more information, an opinion that was shared by Board Chairman Randy Douglas:
“I would like to sit down with Mr. Woolf before I endorse him and we’ll go from there,” he said.
NEXT UP: Which issues are important to the Essex County Board of Supervisors and where do the candidates stand? Stay tuned.