KEENE About 40 people attended a meet-and-greet event for U.S. congressional candidate Mike Derrick at his sister’s home here Sunday afternoon.
With the High Peaks hidden behind rain clouds, a half-dozen dogs lounging and attendees treating themselves to food while sitting on couches and on the stairs, Derrick fielded about 10 questions over 35 minutes, highlighting that his campaign has been targeted by national Democrats as a race the party can win.
With a Bernie Sanders sticker present by the food spread, the Democratic candidate compared his small-donor fundraising capabilities to those of the longtime independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
When asked who he was supporting in the presidential race, Derrick said “the writing is on the wall” that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will get the nomination, but he commended Sanders and said his campaign has been in discussion recently with Sanders supporters in the North Country about Derrick’s campaign.
Sanders won a higher percentage of the Democratic primary vote in the North Country’s 21st Congressional District than any of the state’s 26 other districts.
“A lot of the things that Bernie stands for, I will also stand for,” Derrick said. “You may not get your first choice in terms of nominating a presidential candidate, but I’m still here.”
“We do the Bernie approach,” he also said during the event. “People contribute small amounts of money and encourage others to contribute small amounts of money, and it continues to snowball.”
The retired U.S. Army colonel began by informing the group that his campaign earned one of 37 spots nationally on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Emerging Races” program, which provides support to “top” campaigns around the country that the DCCC deems has the potential to unseat Republican incumbents.
“This race has taken off in the last three weeks,” Derrick said. “We were noticed as one of the races in this country that can be won by the Democratic Party. That puts us in the top tier of winnable races, and that makes a huge difference because the eyes of the nation are now on this race.
“They see they have a strong candidate and a great grassroots effort that is ready to go,” he added. “That’s changed the dynamic, and for me when I go to call people to ask them to donate or contribute, all of a sudden they pay attention. Because when I wasn’t on that list and they were outside the district, they really weren’t interested, and now they are interested.
“I couldn’t be more pleased, because frankly I didn’t expect this to happen this early in the race, and now it gives us a bigger runway as we look toward November.”
Derrick, who grew up and lives in Peru, in Clinton County, is looking to unseat first-term Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who grew up near Albany but whose parents have a house in Willsboro.
Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello of Hudson Falls is also campaigning for the seat after a strong third-place showing in 2014.
After Sunday’s event, Derrick said he raised $150,000 from January through March and his campaign has $250,000 at the moment. He highlighted that he had double the amount of “small donations” of $200 or less than Stefanik, and he claimed that overall, he had more contributors from within the North Country’s district.
Derrick actually has raised less in small-dollar contributions than Stefanik, but his ratio of small-dollar contributions was double the congresswoman’s in the first quarter, the most recent report available.
Derrick received $19,745 in un-itemized contributions of less than $200 from each donor in the first quarter, which is 13.5 percent of his total contributions of $145,400 in the quarter.
Stefanik received $25,069 in un-itemized contributions in the first quarter, 7.5 percent of her total contributions of $332,021.
Funiciello, the Green Party candidate, did not file a first-quarter report because he had not yet reached the $5,000 threshold of contributions that required filing a report.
According to the Federal Election Commission’s website, Stefanik had about $1.125 million in cash on hand as of April 1 and raised $332,921 in receipts from Jan. 1 to March 31.
When asked how he differs from Stefanik, Derrick highlighted the environment and said there was a “stark and apparent contrast” on that topic between him and Stefanik, who he said has voted in line with energy companies who have helped fund her campaigns.
He also touched on more careful military spending, said he’d definitely target serving on the House Armed Services Committee, said the tax code is a significant part of income inequality and mentioned that improved cooperation between Republicans and Democrats is crucial in Washington.
“The ideological positions tend to harden on both sides because you don’t know the other party as a human being,” Derrick said. “Although there are fewer veterans in Congress since World War I, there is still a significant number, and I will make it a project on my part to reach out to vets on the other side. And there are far more on the Republican side.”
Post-Star reporter Maury Thompson contributed information to this story.