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Whitehall Democrat Matt Putorti challenging Stefanik

Whitehall Democrat Matt Putorti challenging Stefanik

Democrat Matt Putorti on Monday announced a challenge to U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville.

WHITEHALL — Whitehall resident Matt Putorti on Monday declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to face off against U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, in 2022.

Putorti, 37, a lawyer who works for New York City-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, has spent the majority of his career fighting insurance companies who wrongfully deny coverage.

Putorti, who attended Whitehall schools, announced his candidacy in a video in which he spoke about his deep North Country roots and his family’s service to the community. He also highlighted his candidacy as a gay man of faith.

“I’m running for Congress because Northern New Yorkers deserve a representative who will work to make their lives better,” Putorti said in the video. “Elise Stefanik is ripping apart the fabric of our community by bringing the divisiveness of our current politics to the North Country. My campaign will concentrate on the issues important to working families: access to good-paying jobs, health care everyone can afford and schools that provide pathways to success for every child.”

He stated that he is concerned about Stefanik’s votes against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral win and against forming a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. Putorti said Stefanik has promoted conspiracy theories and supported Arizona’s audit of the presidential election results.

Putorti, who is gay, has donated his legal services to advance LGBTQ equality, reduce gun violence and make the immigration system fair, according to a news release. The National LGBT Bar Association named Putorti one of the 40 best LGBT lawyers under the age of 40 in the country.

Putorti said his campaign team is led by strategist Eric Hyers, who helped get Democrats elected to state and federal office in competitive states. These include Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. He also led the successful campaigns for U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in Rhode Island.

Other members of the team are The Win Company on media, Garin Hart Yang on polling, Blueprint Interactive for digital communications and Deliver Strategies on mailing literature.

Putorti did not return a Post-Star email sent to his campaign Monday seeking further comment.

Democrat Ezra Watson, of Wilton, has also entered the race. Lonny Koons, who lives in Carthage in Jefferson County, seeks to challenge Stefanik in the Republican primary.

Stefanik’s campaign responds

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is serving her fourth term representing the NY-21 Congressional District, which covers all of Warren, Washington, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and portions of Saratoga and Herkimer counties.

The Stefanik campaign hit back Monday afternoon with a negative email, saying that Putorti changed his voter registration from New York City to Whitehall two weeks ago.

Stefanik senior adviser Alex DeGrasse called Putorti another “far-left socialist Democrat.”

“The Stefanik campaign will continue to make sure voters know the choice next November (2022) between real results for the North Country versus another far-left socialist who will be a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo’s failed policies,” he said in a statement. “Voters will immediately learn that New York City far left lawyer Matt Putorti supported and donated to radical socialist squad members of Congress who support defunding the police, trillions in new taxes, open borders and gun bans.”

DeGrasse said Stefanik has worked to “deliver results to the hardworking families of the North Country, especially our small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, seniors, veterans and military families.”

Local party leader weighs in

Warren County Democratic Chairwoman Lynne Boecher said the first time she heard about Putorti’s candidacy is when he gave her a courtesy call on Saturday to let her know he was running. She said he seemed like a nice person.

“I haven’t interviewed him or met him, so I don’t know what he brings,” she said.

Boecher said it is an uphill climb to challenge Stefanik, who is has become a force in Republican Party leadership as the conference chairwoman and is able to help other Republican candidates.

“I did have questions regarding a successful strategy here in Warren County and he said one would be coming,” Boecher said.

Stefanik beat Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb in 2020 with 58% of the vote compared with 41% for Cobb. That was an even better margin of victory than in 2018, in which she beat Cobb 56% to 42.4%.

Boecher said she has not spoken with Watson at all. Traditionally, the candidates will meet with party leaders a couple of weeks before announcing and they discuss the political landscape of their counties.

“There has not been that reach-out,” she said.

Boecher is not interested in a protracted primary like the one in 2018, which started with a large field of about 10 candidates that was whittled to a primary election with five candidates.

“I don’t think that benefited the primary or anyone,” she said.

When asked for comment, Watson said Putorti is off to a great start, including an endorsement from Tedra Cobb on Twitter.

“Obviously we need a powerful candidate to run against Stefanik, who has supported the Big Lie, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. On this, we are fully in agreement,” he said in an email. “However, will he be strong on major progressive proposals like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All? Will he work to strengthen the progressive caucus? We shall see as this race plays out, and know that I am still running, and in unyielding support of said proposals.”

Hanging over this is the redistricting and exactly what counties will be in the NY-21 Congressional District. New York state is set to lose one congressional seat and the lines for the districts will be redrawn.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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