By Tyler McNeil
September 27th, 2023
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, is putting her name behind a quintet of Republican candidates in Fulton County.
Among the recently-released list are supervisor candidates Christina VanValkenburgh of the town of Johnstown and Brandon Lehr of Mayfield, both of whom face Democratic opponents come November.
“I feel like the endorsements from the people at the state level is a big deal for our area because it gives us a foot in the door to where we might need them in the future and can rely on them for issues that may come up or even grant writing possibilities,” said newcomer Lehr.
The Gloversville firefighter and motorcycle crash survivor was described as a “strong leader.” Stefanik said that VanValkenburgh is qualified to serve based on her year’s worth of experience as deputy supervisor.
VanValkenburgh faces a challenge against Randi Smith and Lehr, Cynthia Fratianni. Neither of the down ballot candidates in either town race were endorsed.
“Well, that’s very well for her,” said Smith about her opponent. “I’m pleased that she got the endorsement.”
VanValkenburgh didn’t face a primary challenge, advancing to the general election on the Republican and independent United We Stand line. Lehr bested Conservative Party-endorsed Ralph Desiderio and Jack Putman for the GOP ballot back in June.
The Mayfield contender and Constantine Orfan, a Gloversville First Ward county representative hopeful, were the only political newcomers endorsed on the congresswoman’s list.
Democrat Marie Born has represented the First Ward on the Board of Supervisors for 16 years and is currently one of only three Democrats to do so. The former city councilwoman ran unopposed in 2019.
“Constantine Orfan is a Veteran with unmatched leadership experience, and I know he will represent the people of Gloversville’s 1st Ward better than anyone else,” Stefanik said.
Born didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stefanik also endorsed unopposed incumbents Sheriff Richard Giardino and longtime Coroner Margaret Luck. Both of them, along with VanValkenburgh, had previously endorsed Stefanik in her match-up against Democrat Matthew Castelli last year.
“I think that it’s great for our county and our district office that we have the number three Republican in the House,” said Giardino. “And she’s done a lot of work for veterans and law enforcement, suicide and mental health that people don’t know about.”
The U.S. House of Representatives chairwoman has maintained a controversial national profile since the beginning of the Trump presidency. The once moderate-casted congresswoman has grown to bill herself as “ultra-MAGA” and questioned Trump’s loss during the 2020 presidential election.
Historically, she’s favored well in deep red Fulton County. In 2022, Stefanik won the county by a more than 37-point margin. Overall, the congresswoman swept the mostly rural 15-county 21st Congressional District by more than 53,571 votes.
Read the article in the Leader-Herald here.