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Cobb takes lead in straw poll after forum

MOREAU — After eight congressional candidates, hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, responded to questions for nearly three hours during the NY-21 Congressional Candidates Forum in South Glens Falls on Sunday, Democrat Tedra Cobb emerged as the frontrunner from a straw poll of 176 attendees.

The event at the Moreau Community Center drew nearly 200 who, by a show of hands, indicated they were there to learn more about the candidates and their platforms.

According to forum organizer Bob Lippman of CAT21, the grassroots organization hosting the forum, those who officially announced their congressional candidacy for the November midterm election as of Jan. 2 were invited to participate. Originally the deadline was Dec. 12, but it was later changed.

“Our goal is to increase awareness on issues relevant to the constituents of District 21 and to increase community engagement in the process of governing our nation,” Lippman said.

Of the eligible candidates, nine agreed to participate in Sunday’s forum, the second hosted by CAT21.

Democrats Tanya Boone of Granville, Don Boyajian of Cambridge, Tedra Cobb of Canton, Sara Idleman of Greenwich, Ronald Kim of Queensbury, Emily Martz of Saranac Lake, Patrick Nelson of Stillwater and Katie Wilson of Keene were present. Republican Russell Finley of St. Lawrence, who plans to run against Stefanik in both the Republican and Conservative party primaries, was unable to participate at the last minute because his mother was undergoing emergency surgery in Syracuse. Finley, however, sent his apologies, which Lippman read to the audience of nearly 200.

Additionally, Finley wanted to clarify a point about the upcoming election.

“To the media and constituents in attendance, I want to make a clarification about this race. This is no longer about which Democratic candidate is going to be challenging the winner of the Republican primary,” Lippman read from Finley. “Given that the Congresswoman has not attended any of the five forums, spent any time in the district with the voters and especially has not announced for re-election, this race is now which one of many Democrats will be challenging me as the Republican nominee in the November election.”

Those attending laughed.

According to Lippman, Stefanik did not respond to her invitation to attend. In an email response to The Post-Star last week, Stefanik’s campaign spokesman, Lenny Alcivar, said the congresswoman held a strong lead when she was previously elected and that the crowded pool of Democratic challengers shows support has not coalesced around any single candidate.

Nonetheless, Lippman said that Sunday’s forum, the second hosted by CAT21, was a way to begin narrowing the field of candidates vying for the nomination.

“As we are coming ever closer to the Democratic and Republican primaries, we have modified our format to help draw distinctions between the candidates, probe their positions and get a sense of whether favorites are emerging.”

At the opening of the forum, attendees were given a paper ballot and asked to mark their three top candidates for a closing straw poll to see where candidates emerged. According to the poll: Cobb, 23 percent; Nelson, 17 percent; Martz, 14 percent; Boone, 12 percent; Kim, 10 percent; Wilson, 7 percent; and Idleman, 7 percent.

SUNY Adirondack Assistant Professor of Political Science Wendy Johnston moderated the forum, asking candidates four questions relating to what percent of the funding they have already raised comes from the district; the recently passed tax bill and whether it will benefit District 21; what is their message to voters who supported Stefanik and how will they win their support; and will they pledge, if they are not the winner, to help elect the Democratic nominee.

Initially, Johnson invited all eight candidates to speak for five minutes about what distinguishes them from the pack. There was a common theme about how the American dream has vanished and how difficult it is for families to succeed. A majority of the candidates pointed to Stefanik as not having the interest of her constituents in mind.

“We need to ask, where was Elise?” said Cobb. “Where’s Elise? She’s not here, that’s what we need to do, we need to hold her accountable.”

Boone said she will work to reverse income inequality. She talked about how her grandfather, Daniel Boone (and yes, she said they are descendants of the American pioneer Daniel Boone) was able to make a living and how her maternal grandfather, who worked at Comstock prison, could support a family of nine children on one income.

“Today, my middle brother works two jobs and he works harder for less,” Boone said.

Others echoed Boone’s sentiments. And Boyadjian said he wants to be an architect for change.

Cobb talked about her family, her parents, her biological brother and her nine adopted siblings; about how she sees issues like CHIP funding, HIV-AIDS money; opioid addiction treatment through the lens of her life experiences and her time working with her own business and at a state prison.

Idleman said what distinguishes her is that she is electable; Kim said, as a lawyer, he works with clients about to lose their homes or those who have been sexually harassed. “Those are the laws I’m going to change,” he said.

With her economic development experience, Martz said she knows about how to get jobs and keep jobs. Nelson said he’s talked to voters from the Canadian border to the Capitol and they believe the government no longer works for them. “This is what corruption looks like,” he said.

And like many of the other candidates, Wilson talked about the pressures on families to just get by.

“Our families and our futures are under attack like they have never been before,” Wilson said.

Oprah, 'Three Billboards' triumph at black-draped Globes

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — With a red carpet dyed black by actresses dressed in a color-coordinated statement, the Golden Globes were transformed into an A-list expression of female empowerment in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Oprah Winfrey led the charge.

"For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men," said Winfrey, accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. "But their time is up. Their time is up!"

More than any award handed out Sunday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, Winfrey's moment — one greeted by a rousing, ongoing standing ovation and that left many attendees and viewers in tears — encapsulated the "Me Too" mood at an atypically powerful Golden Globes. The night served as Hollywood's fullest response yet to the sexual harassment scandals that have roiled the film industry and laid bare its gender inequalities.

"A new day is on the horizon!" promised Winfrey, who noted she was the first black woman to be given the honor.

With a cutting stare, presenter Natalie Portman followed Winfrey's speech by introducing, as she said, "the all-male" nominees for best director.

The movie that many consider speaks most directly to the moment — the revenge dark comedy "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," about a mother avenging the rape and murder of her daughter — emerged as the night's top film. It won best picture, drama, best actress for Frances McDormand, best supporting actor for Sam Rockwell and best screenplay for writer-director Martin McDonagh.

McDormand granted she was befuddled at the identities of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but gave them credit. "At least they managed to elect a female president," she said. McDormand added that the evening has a special feeling.

"Trust me, the women in this room tonight are not here for the food," said McDormand.

Host Seth Meyers opened the night by diving straight into material about the sex scandals. "Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen," he began. In punchlines on Weinstein — "the elephant not in the room" — Kevin Spacey and Hollywood's deeper gender biases, Meyers scored laughs throughout the ballroom, and maybe a sense of release.

"For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won't be terrifying to hear your name read out loud," said Meyers.

The first award of the night, perhaps fittingly, went to one of Hollywood's most powerful women: Nicole Kidman, for her performance in HBO's "The Big Little Lies," a series she and Reese Witherspoon also produced. Kidman chalked the win up to "the power of women."

"Big Little Lies" won a leading four awards, including best limited series and best supporting actress for Laura Dern. Like seven other female stars, Dern walked the red carpet with a women's rights activist as part of an effort to keep the Globes spotlight trained on sexual harassment. Dern was joined by farmworker advocate Monica Ramirez, Michelle Williams with "Me Too" founder Tarana Burke, and Meryl Streep with domestic worker advocate Ai-jen Poo.

"May we teach all of our children that speaking out without fear of retribution is our new North Star," said Dern, accepting her Globe.

Other winners continued the theme. Amazon's recently debuted "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," about a 1950s housewife who takes up stand-up comedy, won best TV series comedy, and best actress for Rachel Brosnahan. Elisabeth Moss, accepting an award for her performance in Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale," movingly dedicated her award to Margaret Atwood, whose book the show is based on, and the women who came before her and after her. "The Handmaid's Tale" later added the award for best TV series, drama.

"We no longer live in the blank white spaces at the edge of print," said Moss, referencing Atwood's prose. "We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the stories in print and we are writing the stories ourselves."

Hollywood's awards season is seen as wide open, and a handful of movies came away with big wins.

Greta Gerwig's mother-daughter tale "Lady Bird" won best picture, comedy or musical, and best actress for Saoirse Ronan. Guillermo del Toro's Cold War-era fantasy "The Shape of Water" won for its score and del Toro's directing. The emotional Mexican-born filmmaker wiped back tears and managed to quiet the music that urged him off.

Notably left empty-handed was Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk," Jordan Peele's horror sensation "Get Out" and Steven Spielberg's "The Post," which Meyers, alluding to its awards-season bona fides, feigned to present an armful of Globes before the show even started.

Best actor in a comedy or musical went to James Franco for his performance as the infamous "The Room" filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. Franco dragged his co-star and brother, Dave, to the stage and called up Wiseau. When Wiseau, wearing his trademark sunglasses, got to the stage, he moved for the microphone before Franco turned him back. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Franco as the audience chuckled.

Gary Oldman, considered by some to be the best actor front-runner, won for his role as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour," edging out newcomer Timothee Chalamet ("Call Me By Your Name") and Tom Hanks ("The Post").

Best foreign language film went to Germany's "In the Fade." Allison Janney took best supporting actress in a comedy for the Tonya Harding tale "I, Tonya." Aziz Ansari took best actor in a comedy series for his Netflix show "Master of None." Best animated film went to the Pixar release "Coco."

Sunday night's black-clad demonstration was promoted by the recently formed Time's Up: an initiative of hundreds of women in the entertainment industry —including Streep, Williams, Dern and Winfrey — who have banded together to advocate for gender parity in executive ranks and legal defense aid for sexual harassment victims.

Just about everyone, woman and man, celebrity and red-carpet reporters, was dressed in black Sunday, many of them wearing a Time's Up pin. "This Is Us" star Chris Sullivan even sported black fingernails. Later, his co-star Sterling K. Brown won for best drama actor. Brown, the first black man to win the category, thanked "This Is Us" creator Dan Fogelman.

"You wrote a role for a black man that can only be played by a black man," said Brown. "I'm being seen for who I am."

Bannon tries to make amends as aides defend Trump's fitness

WASHINGTON — Faced with a growing backlash, Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, released a statement Sunday reaffirming his support for the commander in chief and praising Trump’s eldest son as “both a patriot and a good man.”

Bannon infuriated Trump with comments to author Michael Wolff describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

But Bannon said Sunday his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting, and not Trump’s son.

“I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency,” Bannon said in the statement, first obtained by the news site Axios. Bannon said his support for Trump and his agenda was “unwavering.”

Hours before the statement came out, administration officials used appearances on the Sunday news shows to rally behind Trump and try to undermine Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.

Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance on CNN, described the book as “nothing but a pile of trash through and through.”

He also criticized Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was “tragic and unfortunate” that Bannon “would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country, pausing before answering because, he said on “Fox News Sunday,” it was such “a ludicrous question.”

“These are from people who just have not accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president and I’m sorry for them in that,” said Pompeo, who gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she is at the White House once a week, and “no one questions the stability of the president.”

“I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to, to lie for money and for power. This is like taking it to a whole new low,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

To Miller, “the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him.”

Miller’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” quickly grew heated, with Miller criticizing CNN’s coverage and moderator Jake Tapper pressing Miller to answer his questions and accusing him of speaking to only one viewer: Trump.

Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

Soon after, Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is “like, really smart” and, indeed, a “very stable genius.” He pressed the case again on Sunday as he prepared to depart Camp David for the White House.

“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author,” he tweeted.

Wolff’s book draws a derogatory portrait of Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the telephone to old friends.

The book also quotes Bannon and other prominent advisers as questioning the president’s competence.

On Sunday, two days after the book’s release, WikiLeaks tweeted a link to an electronic image of the text. Posting the text of a book without permission would violate copyright restrictions and potentially damage sales. Yet, hours after WikiLeaks tweeted the link, “Fire and Fury” remained No. 1 on Amazon’s lists of hardcover and ebook bestsellers.

Chatter about Trump’s mental fitness for office has intensified in recent months on cable news shows and among Democrats in Congress.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders this past week called such suggestions “disgraceful and laughable.”

“If he was unfit, he probably wouldn’t be sitting there and wouldn’t have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen,” she said, calling him “an incredibly strong and good leader.”

Trump and some aides have attacked Wolff’s credibility, pointing to the fact that the book includes a number of factual errors and denying that the author had as much access as he claimed.

“He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn’t exist, OK? It’s in his imagination,” Trump said Saturday.

Wolff told NBC on Sunday that “I truly do not want to say the president is a liar,” but that he had indeed spoken with Trump for about three hours during and since the campaign.

Trump has repeatedly invoked Ronald Reagan, tweeting Sunday that the former president “had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”

Reagan died in 2004, at age 93, from pneumonia complicated by the Alzheimer’s disease that had progressively clouded his mind. At times when he was president, Reagan seemed forgetful and would lose his train of thought while talking.

Doctors, however, said Alzheimer’s was not to blame, noting the disease was diagnosed years after he left office. Reagan announced his diagnosis in a letter to the American people in 1994, more than five years after leaving the White House.