June 7, 2024

By Zach Kessel


Paula Collins, a Democrat running against Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) in the race for New York’s 21st congressional district, said during a recent Zoom town-hall event that her idea of a path forward from the Trump era in American politics involves “reeducating” Trump supporters.

“Even if we were to have a resounding blue wave come through, as many of us would like, putting it all back together again after we’ve gone through this MAGA nightmare and reeducating basically, which sounds like a rather — a reeducation camp,” Collins said.” I don’t think we really want call it that. I’m sure we can find another way to phrase it.”

Collins’s comments conjure memories of a statement from Hillary Clinton in fall 2023 in which the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said that “MAGA extremists” needed to be trained not to support former president Donald Trump.

“Maybe there needs to be a formal deprogramming of the cult members,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “And sadly, so many of those extremists, those MAGA extremists, take their marching order from Donald Trump.”

Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik, said in a statement that Collins’s attitude will lead to Republican electoral success this November.

“This radical New York City Democrat Socialist who literally is renting a bed and breakfast room in NY-21 was caught on tape saying she wants to force Trump voters through ‘re-education camps,’” DeGrasse said. “Everyone knows she will be defeated by Elise Stefanik by a historic margin. This is yet another reason why President Trump, Elise Stefanik, and voters in Upstate and across America will clean the Democrats’ clocks at the ballot box this November.”

DeGrasse referred to the fact that Collins has primarily lived in New York City and only began renting an apartment in the district earlier in 2024. While a member of Congress is not technically required by law to live in the district they represent in the House — needing only to reside in the state — Collins’s residence presents a potential point of attack for the Stefanik campaign.

National Review reached out to the Collins campaign for comment but did not receive a response. However, in an email statement sent to Fox News, Collins pivoted to a message about “civics education.”

“We currently have lawmakers, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, who mis-quote or mis-understand the law [sic],” she wrote to Fox News. “Even if MAGA were to be resoundingly defeated, we would need to engage in widespread civics education, which both red and blue voters acknowledge has been slipping in recent years.”

Collins pointed to reactions to Trump’s hush-money conviction as an example of what she believes to be a lack of knowledge.

“The goal would be such that regular citizens could understand the process by which the state courts process matters, compared to the federal court circuit, and so forth,” Collins wrote. She said Stefanik’s “outcry” over the case brought by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg — which legal experts, including those at National Review, have argued was predicated on politics rather than law — “bespeaks a lack of basic civics education, as well as a basic lack of respect for the state supreme court system in her home State of New York.”