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Democrat launches challenge to Elise Stefanik, calls her 'threat' to small towns

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With a higher profile comes constant opposition.

Democrat Matt Putorti announced on Monday he will run for New York’s 21st House seat, challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Putorti spent a large portion of his announcement video attacking Stefanik, who became the House Republican Conference chairwoman last month after Republicans voted to remove Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney over her frequent and vocal criticism of former President Donald Trump.

"Elise Stefanik is a threat to ‘spaghetti dinner towns,” Putorti said in an announcement video including a mashup of news coverage accusing Stefanik from pivoting from a centrist Republican to a Trump loyalist. “If we continue to divide people, they’re not going to be able to share that meal together."


Putorti, a lawyer, also addressed his sexual orientation in his announcement.

“I do think that being gay gives a different perspective in leadership that is important so that we can understand each other better,” he said.

Putorti faces steep odds of beating Stefanik in the rural upstate New York district that used to be a battleground but has turned increasingly Republican. In addition to midterm elections historically favoring the party opposite of the sitting president, the district has a Cook Political Report partisan voter index of R+8.

Democratic nominee Tedra Cobb challenged Stefanik in 2018 and 2020, with Stefanik defeating her by 14 and 18 points, respectively. Cobb, who started a PAC dedicated to electing rural Democrats, encouraged her followers to donate to Putorti’s campaign.

Stefanik’s campaign responded to Putori’s entry into the race by saying he only changed his voter registration from New York City to upstate Washington County just two weeks before his announcement.

Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik, called Putorti a “Far-Left Socialist Democrat candidate” and pledged that “the Stefanik campaign will continue to make sure voters know the choice next November between real results for the North Country versus another Far-Left Socialist who will be a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Andrew Cuomo’s failed policies.”

Stefanik had $2.5 million in campaign donations as of March 31.

One other Democrat so far is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Stefanik: Eric Watson, an advocate for Medicare for All and a “Green New Deal.”

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