PLATTSBURGH — Congressional hopeful Steve Krieg says he is now leaving the Democratic Party but vows to stay in the race as an independent.
The Plattsburgh man drew attention last month when he announced he was switching from Republican to Democrat to take on incumbent Congresswoman Republican Elise Stefanik in the 21st District.
A longtime Republican, Krieg said he switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year for the chance to challenge Stefanik because he was fed up with her lack of response to important issues such as health care for schoolchildren.
Stefanik’s camp responded by criticizing Krieg for comments he made on his own Facebook page in July that referred to the congresswoman as a “money-grubbing sniveling coward,” and a “little girl.”
Stefanik was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she first won her seat in 2014 at the age of 30.
She won re-election in 2016.
Krieg then drew more criticism after explaining his Facebook comments during a candidate forum in Canton last week.
Acknowledging his error in calling Stefanik a little girl, he said he deserved to be called a sexist.
“I think most of us, if we admit it, have some sexist in us, some of the racist in us. It’s something, if we are decent people, we recognize in ourselves and we struggle with it all of our lives,” Krieg said at the forum.
He stood by those comments again later last week when further criticized for his position.
Democrats distanced themselves from Krieg, with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Evan Lukaske saying that when Krieg’s party membership becomes official after the November election, “you can rest assured we’ll have no relationship with Mr. Krieg.”
On Monday, Krieg said both Democrats and Republicans are failing the public.
“As I got into this, I can see that the whole system is corrupt,” he said.
“Both sides are only interested in keeping their chintzy little jobs and the teensy-weensy bits of power they have.”
Krieg said it is ridiculous and frightening that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are playing fast and loose with public safety in order to preserve their own seats.
“They are willing to let the world get to the brink of nuclear war,” he said.
“The time has come for someone to stand up.”
Krieg said he agrees more with the positions of the Democrats on issues these days, but not enough to stay with the party.
“Democrats are just as bad as Republicans,” he said.
“When it comes down to it, they don’t really care. They just want to stay in power.”
Stefanik’s camp declined to comment on Krieg’s decision to leave the Democrats and become an independent.
Democrats also chose not to comment.
Krieg said the Democrats’ response to his comments at the Watertown forum had nothing to do with his decision to leave the party and go independent.
“I have no respect for either party at this point,” he said.
“It would be nice if there was a third party challenging in this race.”
Several Democrats are vying for the opportunity to challenge Stefanik in next year’s general election.
A primary is likely to be held next June to determine who the Democratic candidate will be.
Stefanik also could face a primary next June.