A "Who's Who" of NY19 Democratic Congressional Candidates | National | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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A "Who's Who" of NY19 Democratic Congressional Candidates 

Taking a look at the crowded field running to challenge Republican John Faso in November

Last Updated: 06/12/2018 2:16 am

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Brian Flynn - The Happy Warrior

We all knew a “fun dad” growing up—the kind of guy who is as comfortable in a room of 5th graders as a room of adults, who is incredibly smart but still down to earth. That’s Brian Flynn, a corporate executive and activist from Greene County, in a nutshell. Flynn definitely wins the award for most lighthearted candidate, synthesizing an outward personal empathy with a compassionate progressive message aimed at appealing to those voters who feel the US is broken and that we need a healer, and “lifelong progressive,” in Washington.

Flynn has the greatest personal wealth of any candidate, having personally donated nearly half of the $1.4 million his campaign has raised, but you wouldn’t know it from his everyman charm. This works in tandem with one particular aspect of his campaign, the ‘Flynn and Riggs’ show, a series of Facebook videos with his campaign manager Carolyn Riggs that sometimes give an intimate look into Flynn’s looser and more personal side, a rare perspective in political campaigns. At the Kingston forum, Flynn probably had some of the strongest messaging of the night, connecting with the audience and painting himself as something of a father figure for the people of New York’s 19th. Those voting with their hearts may be inclined to cast their ballots for Flynn.

Pat Ryan - Calm, Cool, Collected

If there is a moderate in this race, it’s Pat Ryan. Still very much a progressive, Ryan, a West Point graduate, Iraq veteran, and tech businessman from Kingston, demonstrated a cool, battle-tested demeanor in both his character and ideology. Many of his proposals—and much of his ideology—are centered around his service record. He advocates for a national public service to “create opportunities for young people from very different, diverse backgrounds to come together,” and invokes his experience in the military (using assault-style weapons) to explain that there is no need for civilians to have weapons that are designed only to kill.

In spite of his coolness—or perhaps because of it—Ryan doesn't stand out much among the candidates beyond his comparative lack of fervor for hardcore progressivism such as that demonstrated by Jeff Beals. At the forum, however, he did have a particularly strong answer on a question regarding the environment, in which he made the compelling assertion that the environmental factors of New York’s 19th such as Hoosick Falls and Hudson River, are some of its most important assets, and that by doing damage to those natural wonders, coal and gas companies are not benefiting the economy of the area in the long run. Ryan has said that he has the rural and working class background that could best connect with the more moderate and conservative voters in the district. This is a strategy likely aimed at ameliorating concerns that Ryan would face similar electoral problems to those of the district’s previous Democratic nominees—Sean Eldridge and Zephyr Teachout, both progressives from New York City—faced when reaching out to non-progressive communities in their bids.

Gareth Rhodes - Showing Them How It’s Done

Gareth Rhodes, a former Andrew Cuomo staffer from Kingston, obviously feels he has a lot to prove to the voters of New York’s 19th, and he’s doing everything he can to show people he’s ready to represent them in Washington. At 29, Rhodes is by far the youngest of the seven candidates and it’s pretty easy to tell, both by his shaky stumping and his optimistic approach to campaigning. Rhodes is doing something very innovative with his campaign that voters should probably take note of. He is trying to insulate himself from the failures of previous nominees by supplementing his nearly $700,000 in contributions with a tour of all 163 towns in the district, from Kingston to Albany and everything in between (it should be noted that Teachout did visit all 163 towns as the nominee). 

His experience connecting with people from communities—red, blue, and purple—is apparent. He shares timely personal anecdotes and stories of constituents that reflect on current policy predicaments. But despite this individualized, community-centric approach, he comes off as somewhat stiff and inexperienced—like a high schooler presenting a class presentation—giving his great ideas a lackluster delivery. Rhodes shines, however, when talking about foreign policy, being one of the few candidates to bring up the importance of cybersecurity in modern policymaking at the April forum. He believes firmly that reaching out to the independents and Republicans is the key to both winning in November and bridging the partisan divide plaguing our nation.

Jeff Beals - The Wonk of Main Street

Like Delgado, Jeff Beals’ candidacy evokes the image of a national political figure: Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist who gave eventual nominee Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the 2016 primary. Like Sanders, Beals, a former US diplomat and teacher from Woodstock, is running to the left of his opponents and running more on ideas than personality. He has been endorsed by the Justice Democrats, a group of former Bernie advisors working to elect progressives across the country and get super PAC money out of politics. An impressive speaker, Beals offers impassioned pleas for as much a progressive mindset on the issues facing the people of New York's 19th as progressive solutions to them. He condemns the fact that businesses can be absolved of debt while students can’t and questions why he has to perform active shooter drills with his students.

Beals’ compelling policy statements come at a deficit of presenting his personality to the audience. His true self, it seems, is hidden behind his wonkish dedication to his ideology, for better or worse. At the April forum, he criticized Delgado and Ryan for supporting universal health care as opposed to Medicare-for-all, arguing that you can cut costs and treat everyone with such a healthcare system. It was a strong rebuke, and one that further solidified his ideological purity. If you’re a solid leftist voting on the issues, Beals might be your man.

David Clegg - Pillar of the Community

David Clegg, a lawyer from Kingston, is something of the uncle or grandfatherly figure in this race. At 65, Clegg is the oldest candidate, which may actually bolster his candidacy in a race where older progressives are highly energized and still hold substantial voting power, and where community roots will likely play a big role after candidates like Teachout and Eldridge—plastered as Carpetbaggers for migrating up to New York's 19th from New York City—consistently fell to their Republican opponents. Indeed, Clegg has a track record of  community involvement, from serving as a local deacon to coaching high school basketball. He has also worked for the NAACP and represented the Lakota Sioux tribes. Like Flynn, Clegg has a sizable personal fortune and has personally donated two thirds of his campaign’s $650,000.

But Clegg defies the stereotypes associated with people of his age and wealth, putting forth solidly progressive positions on issues like the environment, healthcare, and education. His strongest statement at the April forum came on a question about gun control in which he made a sophisticated connection between the issue of campaign finance and gun violence, arguing that the NRA has been given outsized lobbying power in our political system thanks to our broken campaign finance system. Clegg has the eloquence, legal background and community roots to be a strong contender, but with so many youthful opponents, he may have difficulty emerging victorious.

Erin Collier - Devil’s in the Details

Erin Collier, a former agricultural economist for the Obama administration, farmer, and triathlete from Cooperstown, is a workhorse. A farmer and self-described “working-class” woman, Collier reliably offers most quantitative, policy-based answers to questions, giving voters good reason to believe she would be able to tackle the legislative challenges she might face in Congress. However, Collier, like Beals, fails to present the audience with a distinct personality or character with upon which to base their impression of her. She is, without a doubt, the greatest underdog in the race, having raised just under $100,000 and being the last Democrat to enter the race. When I was polling audience members, one voicing of support for Collier was met with gasps and the question, "why?".

But she shouldn’t be discounted, especially considering her seemingly iron-willed work ethic, not to mention her true-blue history in the Hudson Valley. She hails from an eighth generation Cooperstown family spanning back to the Revolutionary War, after whom Colliersville, NY, is named. Nobody could ever accuse her of being a carpetbagger, that's for sure. At the April forum, Collier answered a question about immigration by first giving a testimonial in Spanish, wowing the crowd with her fluency. This was no Tim Kaine-style high school Spanish, it was the real deal. There’s no doubt that Collier is an impressive woman, and she probably has what it takes to serve the people of the Hudson Valley in Congress, but she might not have what it takes to make it out of the primary race.

New York State Primaries

New York's state and federal primary is rapidly approaching on June 26, 2018. Don't forget to vote! Register here.

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