Republican congressional candidate Elise Stefanik said she expects to raise at least $2 million to fund her campaign.
“I’ve had a lot of good feedback and encouragement. And I know I’m going to work hard to raise the funds necessary to be a competitive candidate for this seat,” said Stefanik, who formally announced on Tuesday she is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, in November 2014.
Stefanik, a 29-year-old businesswoman from Willsboro, said creating jobs, reducing taxes and easing federal regulations will be key issues in the campaign.
“Overwhelmingly, the No. 1 priority I’ve heard from everyone and also that I’m running my campaign on is creating jobs and promoting economic opportunity for small businesses. And that includes fighting for fiscal responsibility,” she said in a telephone interview.
She said maintaining federal funding for Fort Drum and protecting Second Amendment rights at the state and national level will also be priorities.
“I think it’s very important that we have a leader that defends our constitutional liberties and individual freedoms. That’s another focus of the campaign,” she said. “I’ll talk more about that in the course of the campaign.”
The National Rifle Association endorsed Owens in his 2012 re-election campaign.
Owens, in a statement responding to Stefanik’s announcement, said he looks forward to a spirited debate on the issues, but right now he is focused on serving in Congress.
“I respect Elise Stefanik’s commitment to public service,” he said in the statement.
Owens was tied up in meetings on Tuesday, and was not available to comment directly, said Tim Biba, the congressman’s spokesman.
Stefanik works in sales, marketing and management for Premium Plywood Products, headquartered in Guilderland Center, a company that her family owns.
She worked in the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration, and she was a debate advisor in 2012 to GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Stefanik, who has been laying the groundwork to run for several months, announced her candidacy on Tuesday in a press release and in an online campaign video.
“I’ve seen first-hand how insiders in Washington have forgotten to fight for average small businesses like ours on Main Street. I want to change that,” she said.
Republican leaders, meanwhile, said that Stefanik’s connections in Washington make her a credible candidate.
“She’s an extremely bright girl and has a fair amount of experience with Washington politics, which I think would serve her well if she was elected,” said Essex County Republican Chairman Ron Jackson, who is regional vice chairman of the State Republican Committee.
Stefanik said Jackson’s comment wasn’t a contradiction of her web video.
She said her understanding of the federal government will make it easier for her to change the system.
“I do think of it as a strength because I’ve seen first-hand that Washington is broken. I’ve witnessed the gridlock that Washington faces,” she said.
She said her small business experience gives her another perspective.
The 21st Congressional District includes all or parts of 12 counties, including Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties, stretching from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario.
Jackson said it’s unclear whether Stefanik will face a Republican primary challenge.
“There’s a couple more out there,” who have been considering running, he said.
Joe Gilbert, a tea party leader from Gouveneur, has said he is considering running, and party leaders have said other unspecified Republicans have discussed the race privately.