By Tyler A. McNeil/The Leader-Herald
AMSTERDAM — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, lambasted Democratic adversaries and elucidated her vision of Republican command at an Amsterdam campaign stop earlier this week.
“Build the wall, support border patrol officers, and make sure that we secure our southern border once and for all,” Stefanik said, echoing some of the key tenets of former President Donald Trump platform.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Pinon and Republican candidate for state Attorney General Michael Henry, along with a who’s who of Republican candidates on the ballot in the Montgomery County area, cheered on the congresswoman in front of a GOP-friendly crowd. The event, a meet and greet at Jillian’s banquet hall on River Street, was held 35 days before the Congressional midterm elections, in which Stefanik will face off against Democrat Matt Castelli, of Glens Falls, who is a former CIA operative.
“My opponent is a downstate Democrat from Poughkeepsie, and we all know that is downstate,” Stefanik told the crowd. “As much as [New York City] people think that’s upstate, that is downstate when you are up here.”
Castelli was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, attended Siena College in Loudonville, lived most of his career in Washington, D.C, and moved to an apartment in Glens Falls this spring. Stefanik was also criticized earlier in her career after moving from Washington to Essex County a year before running for office in 2014.
Currently ranked third among GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives, Stefanik has maintained a controversial national profile since the beginning of the Trump presidency in 2017. Once considered a moderate, the congresswoman has grown to bill herself as “ultra-MAGA” and questioned Trump’s loss in the fallout of the 2020 election.
Stefanik took a swing at the administration of President Joe Biden for maintaining foreign energy dependence amid major cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and chided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, for championing bail-reform measures included with a COVID-19 bill back in 2020.
The 21st Congressional District representative touted the Supreme Court’s ruling against state concealed-carry laws in June as a win against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration. Some recent pushback efforts from the Hochul administration on gun permitting were placed on temporary suspension by U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby Thursday.
“We are seeing the results of one-party Democrat rule, both in Albany and in Washington,” Stefanik told the audience. “And it has created crisis after crisis after crisis.”
Stefanik voiced what has been a repeated forecast during her re-election campaign: this year will be a red wave.
Hometown Democrat U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko for 13 years has represented the town and city of Amsterdam. The 20th Congressional District lost Montgomery County and gained the remainder of Stefanik’s current holdings in northern Saratoga County, per redistricting earlier this year.
Schoharie County — currently zoned within the 19th Congressional District — will also become part of Stefanik’s territory should she win re-election in November.
Castelli held a campaign event on Thursday in Schoharie County’s largest village, Cobleskill.
Registered Republicans across Schoharie County outnumber Democrats, 8,436 to 5,431 as of February, according to the state Board of Elections. Independent voters number 5,504.
Castelli has positioned himself from the center in a year that federal institutions have suffered negative approval ratings amid record-breaking inflation and the Supreme Court’s permitting states to ban abortion for the first time in 50 years.
The Democratic challenger’s campaign in August claimed that he and Stefanik are neck and neck. Spanning 15 counties, the area is currently considered a GOP “safe zone,” according to polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight.
The 21st Congressional District insurgent last held a public event in Amsterdam on Sept. 19 at the same banquet hall. Stefanik visited nearly a day earlier for Sundae On The Farm, an annual farm event in the neighboring town of Florida.
When asked about the Oct. 5 Amsterdam event, Castelli in a statement claimed that Stefanik only favors speaking “closed door, controlled spaces” to supporters. “While I will always show up, Stefanik refuses any accountability for selling out upstate New York to benefit her career.”
The Amsterdam event was public, according to Stefanik’s senior advisor Alex Degrasse.