Written by Fernando Alba for the Press-Republican on October 11, 2020
PLATTSBURGH— Many of those attending a Plattsburgh rally backing Congresswoman Elise Stefanik Saturday say her support of law enforcement and veterans are what draws them to the candidate.
“She supports us big time here in the North Country,” said Steve Mitchell of Plattsburgh, who works as a correction officer at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
“A lot of the country isn’t supporting us and our governor is beating the hell out of us. There’s always a few bad eggs, but that doesn’t mean we’re all bad.”
More than 100 of Stefanik’s supporters gathered at the Oval Saturday morning for what Stefanik’s campaign called a Super Saturday Rally, with just a little more than three weeks to go until the Nov. 3 elections.
Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said Saturday’s event was important, despite the ongoing pandemic, because “Voters want to see and hear from their elected officials and their candidates directly.”
Stefanik’s message to her supporters revolved around reiterating her support for the police, military veterans and President Donald Trump, which drew roars from the crowd.
“We know how hard he has worked for the working people in this country,” the congresswoman said of Trump.
“This election will not be decided by San Francisco. It’s not going to be decided by New York City. It’s going to be decided by you, the American people.”
The crowd broke into a chant of, “Four more years,” before Stefanik shifted to her Democratic opponent in the New York 21st congressional district race, former St. Lawrence County Legislator Tedra Cobb.
Stefnanik called on Cobb to denounce the group Adirondack Voters for Change, which Cobb had a scheduled event with in Saranac Lake Saturday.
Stefanik claims the group: “Wished death on the President. She failed to condemn the organization. She should rescind that and cancel that event.”
But the article she referred to, which was published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, includes Binghamton residents wishing, “that [Trump] takes a turn for the worse.” It us unknown whether they were members of Adirondack Voters for Change.
As she has throughout this campaign and the 2018 campaign, Stefanik spoke about Cobb’s voting history on taxes in St. Lawrence County, which the congresswoman claimed she has voted to increase more than 20 times, as well as Cobb’s position on the second amendment.
“My opponent, in her own words, says guns, they should be banned,” Stefanik said, referencing a 2018 video that appears to include Cobb’s voice where she spoke with volunteers about how she told someone that she believed assault weapons should be banned.
Stefanik also railed against her opponent’s previous support for Medicare for All, which she called a “socialist takeover.”
For many of Stefanik’s supporters who were at Saturday’s rally, the congresswoman’s support for police stuck out the most to them.
Mitchell said Stefanik’s public support of law enforcement has earned her his vote time and time again, especially in a time when he feels as though a lot of the public doesn’t support the police.
Margi Carter, a mother of a veteran who served in the Marines in Afghanistan and a veteran herself, said Stefanik was instrumental in getting her son help from the Department of Veterans Affairs after he came back home, which she said was a big reason she came out to show her support.
“I called [Stefanik’s office] in desperation, and I think he was approved the next day or the next couple of days.” she said. “I was amazed at how quickly, once I called, that she was able to help me.”
Carter said her son suffered from PTSD and that made it more difficult for him to get help from the VA.
“As a veteran struggling with PTSD, he couldn’t have done it himself,” Carter said. “The process was horrendous. I can’t imagine what some of the veterans who don’t have the support of a parent or a family member or the congresswoman are going through.”
Speakers at the event also included New York State Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), who is running for State Senate against Democrat Kimberly Davis, the Clinton County treasurer, and William Fisher, a Republican candidate for Area 8 on the Clinton County Legislature who is running against Democrat Wendell Hughes.
Guidelines that were approved by the Clinton County Health Department were also in place to lower the risk of coronavirus infection among the crowd Saturday.
Those guidelines included staying socially distant and wearing masks. Event organizers also attempted to keep rally-goers organized in what they called pods, in order to keep the crowd socially-distanced.
However, many who attended the rally could be seen without masks or wearing them incorrectly. One Rouses Point resident and rally attendee even said, “We’re all going to get (the coronavirus) anyway.”
Event organizers offered masks to those who weren’t wearing them. By the time Stefanik arrived, a majority of the crowd was wearing masks.
Once Stefanik finished her speech in front of the crowd, supporters rushed to form a scrum around her to greet the congresswoman, creating a packed circle of people.
A handful of protesters were also present at the rally.
Patricia Blanchard, a 60-year old resident, waved a Black Lives Matter flag, which drew a “All Lives Matter” chant from a few in the crowd.
“That right there is why I came out,” Blanchard said of the chant.
“Because until Black lives matter, until people of color matter, nobody matters. Why do I have to fight for somebody’s right to exist?”
“Until my niece can drive down the street without being pulled over for being Black, no lives matter.”
Three high school students also brought signs saying “SAY THEIR NAMES,”“WEAR A MASK if you HATE ELISE” and “BLUE LIVES DON’T EXIST.”
The students criticized Stefanik. “She says blue lives matter, and that’s inherently racist,” Maria Murphy said.
Protester Elizabeth Bayer questioned Stefanik’s motives. “She doesn’t really care about us. She’s just trying to suck up to Donald Trump.”
“I don’t think she really knows the community. She’s not from here.”
The students also criticized the event, calling it unsafe. The students, who kept their distance from the rally, pointed out people in the crowd not wearing masks.
The Stefanik campaign event ended with campaign signs being handed out as well as the congresswoman delivering some signs door-to-door in the community.
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