SARANAC LAKE — Emily Martz of Saranac Lake officially announced her congressional candidacy to represent the North Country at an event attended by nearly 100 people Wednesday in Riverside Park.
The 45-year-old enters an already loaded field of Democratic candidates vying to challenge the North Country’s current representative, sophomore-term Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who hails from Willsboro.
Just a few hours before the announcement, over conversation at Origin Coffee Co. downtown, Martz shared the personal and professional journey that led her to this decision.
Personally, the native of Waitsfield, Vermont — a town of about 1,700 people in the shadow of the Green Mountains — said the Adirondacks and North Country have always been a part of her life, long before she moved to Tupper Lake in 2010. She said she grew up with a modest upbringing financially, raised by her minister father and public school teacher mother. The family looked forward to camping in the Adirondacks for their annual vacation because, she said, that’s what they could afford to do.
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So her earliest memories of the North Country harken back to days spent on the water at the Putnam Pond Campground in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.
“It taught me the value the outdoors brings to family,” Martz said, “and I know that a lot of people in this region have similar experiences with hunting, fishing, boating, snowmobiling and skiing.”
Professionally, since her graduation from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in political science, her journey has spanned each coast and several elements of the evolving modern economy.
She worked in financial services and economic development in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Northeast, for companies such as Prudential Insurance, Putnam Investments and The Hartford. She pursued graduate studies in history, with a focus on the mutual fund industry, at the University of Delaware while also instructing business, economics and history courses at Paul Smith’s College. And she helped to lead the Adirondack North Country Association’s job-creation and sustainable development efforts before she recently resigned, on amicable terms, from her posts as ANCA’s deputy director and director of operations and finance to run as a candidate full-time. She also resigned as a volunteer on the Saranac Lake Downtown Advisory Board to run for Congress.
It’s this recent experience creating what she believes are economically and environmentally sustainable jobs here in the North Country that Martz says sets her apart from other Democratic candidates. She points to her work with ANCA, partnering the private and public sectors to help to secure grants for local businesses. With that, she stresses that she’s already proven that she can help businesses of the future grow and create jobs for locals.
One example, she says, is Apex Solar Power, a national solar energy provider that opened up a satellite location in Keene Valley. Even if it was just three new jobs, Martz believes small wins like this are huge for the North Country and its people.
“And there is no reason we can’t take those same skills and deploy it throughout the North Country in different sectors,” Martz said to the applause of the crowd assembled in Riverside Park Wednesday evening. “That’s the kind of economic development we need.”
“That’s the way I’ve made my living,” Martz said over coffee earlier in the day.
“I’ve learned that economic development has to happen differently here,” she added. “We need to approach economic development here differently than in the cities. That’s the biggest lesson.”
Martz is the latest announcement in an early Democratic wave. In February, 27-year-old Democrat and 2016 Bernie Sanders delegate Patrick Nelson of Stillwater was the first to break, announcing just a month into Stefanik’s second term. His core message highlights a single-payer health care system.
Late last month, Keene lifer and small business owner Katie Wilson officially launched her campaign as she vowed to bring “authentically local and meaningful representation” to the district.
And just last week, local business strategist and former St. Lawrence County Legislator Tedra Cobb announced her candidacy as a Democrat.
All that comes fewer than 200 days into Stefanik’s second term.
Each candidate has preached how he or she has been energized by the response of many Americans since Republican President Donald Trump won the 2016 election. While Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton, Stefanik enjoyed a landslide victory over Democrat Mike Derrick of Peru.
Since then, Martz has been a leading example in Saranac Lake of the vocal progressive grassroots organizations that have burgeoned across the district. She helped to found Now What?, the Saranac Lake-based group that aims to inform locals of the political process while also cultivating more candidates for local office. She attended a “Progressive Summer Camp” event sponsored by Adirondack Voters for Change in Saranac Lake this past weekend, which Nelson and Cobb also attended. And she picketed in February in Lake Placid, part of a crowd that also included Wilson, which challenged Stefanik, who was there that day, to be more transparent with constituents.
Martz insists she has been engaged in politics her entire life.
“And I realized pretty quickly after the election,” she said, “that if we want to create economic development that’s going to sustain itself over the long term, if we are going to create the family-sustaining jobs that we need in this region — and sustained development which is working with rather than against the environment — to ensure people have access to affordable quality health care, we have to have the right people in office.”
Along with job creation and economic development through environmental sustainability, Martz said improving health care is her platform’s other primary focus. It was on this issue where, like many other candidates, she was most critical of Stefanik. Much like she said at several grassroots events and protests in recent months, Martz said Stefanik’s approach to health care is emblematic of the representative’s detachment from the district.
“There’s no other way to explain her votes on health care,” Martz said. “Her votes to allow coal companies to dump their waste in streams. There’s no other way to explain that other than her interests lie elsewhere.”
“Let’s use the resources we have here,” Martz continued. “What help can we get from Washington to harness the resources that are already here and we are having trouble taking advantage of?”
On health care, Martz said she isn’t a 100-percent supporter of a single-payer solution, though she is open to it and other ideas.
“Maybe it is single-payer, maybe it’s not,” she said.
During her announcement Wednesday evening, the crowd’s loudest ovation of the day came after Martz expressed unwavering support for Planned Parenthood.
“I believe that people who work hard should be able to take care of their families and that includes being able to afford quality health care,” Martz said Wednesday afternoon. “My goal is to expand quality health coverage until everyone is covered. And we are headed right now in the opposite direction. Our current representative is voting for and whipping up votes for a bill (the American Health Care Act) that would greatly reduce coverage. It reduces Medicaid. It hurts kids, senior citizens and veterans. ... It’s going to decimate our rural health care system. In Washington, I would move in an opposite direction and we need to look at all options.”
Martz said she plans to continue her tours of the district in the coming weeks and months, but if constituents are interested in talking to her they can email her at email@example.com or find the campaign on Facebook at “Martz For Congress.” Her new website, www.martzforcongress.com, also went live today and it’s where supporters can donate.