PLATTSBURGH — Mike Trudo once supported Rep. Elise Stefanik, but on Monday evening he joined a large crowd on Sesame Street to speak out against her.
The Plattsburgh resident was among nearly 200 people who came to the Mountain Lake PBS studio to protest the lawmaker's recent vote in favor of the American Health Care Act.
“I think government should be open and transparent, and Elise Stefanik has not been," Trudo said. "I will not vote for her again, and she has lost my trust and my vote.
"This health-care (bill) is not good for Americans, and it hasn't been investigated fully, and I think it needs to be."
The crowd began assembling at the location at about 4:45 p.m., just ahead of when Stefanik, R-Willsboro, would participate in a TV forum, set to begin filming inside the station at 6:30 p.m.
Many attendees carried signs bearing messages, such as "R.I.P. 377,000 Uninsured New Yorkers," "Repeal & Replace Elise" and "Health Care is a Human Right."
“Our group, (Plattsburgh) Change Through Action, has spent weeks calling Elise's office and consistently not getting clear answers as to what her stance was on the American Health Care Act,” said Tara Palmer, one of the event organizers.
And when the lawmaker finally voted in favor of the bill on May 4, she continued, “we knew that it was the time to bring people together from potentially all sides of all political backgrounds because this affects everybody.”
Along with chanting messages like "Shame!" and "I want the health care politicians have," protesters heard from several speakers, including Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman, a Democrat.
"Trumpcare will no doubt harm millions," he told the crowd. "The independent Congressional Budget Office says it will increase the number of uninsured, slash Medicaid and raise premiums and deductibles, especially for folks with pre-existing conditions.
"Good thing we have an opportunity to get a second opinion from the Senate. I can only hope their diagnosis will be to kill the bill."
At the front of the crowd sat a coffin covered in red rose petals and the names of numerous medical conditions, such as HIV, alcohol abuse, lupus, cerebral palsy, pregnancy, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
“This coffin represents the death of American health care under Trumpcare, and it lists the names of many, many existing conditions which will not be covered under Elise Stefanik's Trumpcare vote,” Carole Slatkin of Essex told the Press-Republican.
“We wanted something that would be powerful and dramatic and really hit home and kind of a visual reminder of what this is going to mean for many people if it goes into law,” added fellow event organizer Amber Germano, who built the coffin for the event.
About 14 people showed up to support Stefanik outside the forum, including Clinton County Republican Chairman Don McBrayer, Essex County Republican Chairman Shaun Gilliland and Franklin County Republican Chairman Ray Scollin.
In a statement afterward, the GOP chairs said Stefanik has been successful because she "is smart, dedicated to NY 21, willing to reach across the aisle when collaboration benefits the district, and she has a proven track record."
They said that since the election, "a passionate group of liberal protesters" has opposed virtually all the national Republicans and their plans.
"We share Elise Stefanik’s concern, and our friends on the left concerns, that health-care reform is essential to America," noting that Stefanik "was overwhelmingly elected making a promise to repeal and replace the ACA.
"Obamacare is falling apart and has saddled the American people with rising costs, less choice and skyrocketing premiums," the local GOP chairs said.
“'Doing nothing' is exactly what would happen if any health-care bill remained in the hyper-partisan House of Representatives. Elise Stefanik’s efforts has moved the process to the United States Senate.
"Democrats have a clear choice to make: whether to work together with the Republicans to deliver a health-care system that works for every American or continue to work against Americans and protect the proven ACA failures."
Laurie Davis of Canton said she, too, had written letters and made phone calls encouraging Stefanik to vote against the bill.
Her 32-year-old daughter, Sasha, has Down syndrome and receives Medicaid, which provides her with services, including transportation to sites, such as an animal shelter where she volunteers in her St. Lawrence County community.
Laurie fears the Medicaid cuts proposed in the bill will mean Sasha will no longer have such opportunities.
“There's not a lot in the North Country. ... And when you cut these services, we will be hurt more up here.”
"I think this legislation is an abomination," added Anne Morgan. "It's definitely anti-woman. There's no doubt about that."
She also expressed concern about what would happen to people with pre-existing conditions under the bill.
"If we don't have a healthy society," she asked, "what do we have?"