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Joe Baxter

Joe Baxter, left, is Emily Martz's campaign field director. Here, on Tuesday, he listens to ideas from an attendee at a 'meet and greet' in Lake George for NY-21 Democratic congressional candidate Emily Martz of Saranac Lake.

LAKE GEORGE — Many North Country artisans are just one step away from having a business that sustains their family, said NY-21 Democratic congressional candidate Emily Martz on Tuesday at a meet-and-greet gathering in a local home.

“Let me tell you about a chain saw carver,” said Martz to a crowd of about 50 at Lynne and Bill Mason’s home.

In recounting how she, along with the Adirondack North Country Association where she was deputy director, helped the carver succeed, Martz talked about how her business experience can bring jobs and successful businesses to the district.

“Sometimes, artisans need help working with wholesalers and reaching out,” she said, referring to connections she has helped businesses make.

Martz, of Saranac Lake, is one of 10 Democratic challengers hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik this fall.

After sharing ideas in one-on-one conversations with those interested in her reasons for running and her views on topics ranging from narrowing the wealth gap to her plan for getting on the ballot, Martz answered sometimes difficult questions.

“When you get to Washington, how will you avoid the trap of being a captive of your contributors or your party insisting you drink the Kool-Aid?”

“How will you be different?”

Martz said she will stand up for the people of the North Country.

“I have a lot of respect for that question,” she said. “I grew up as a picked-on kid ... I started standing up for kids who were getting bullied,” she said, adding that she will keep focused on the needs of the district.

She said she is running because she wants to “live in a just world where everyone has the chance to realize their full potential regardless of race, religion or sexual preference.”

“We all deserve that basic right,” she said.

Without access to health care, the people in the district suffer, she said.

“There are still too many people who cannot get the health care they deserve,” she said.

When asked about what she sees as the nation’s biggest challenge, Martz said “the ever-widening wealth gap.”

She said that gerrymandering — drawing the lines of voting districts to favor one party over another — is destabilizing the country. And others present were nodding their heads “yes” and commenting about how it had to change.

Other big issues include the environment and clean energy, access to health care, jobs, non-itemized deductions in the new tax laws and working together.

“I partner with people, finding common ground to get things done to close the wealth gap,” she said. “I ask of everyone here to engage other people. Make it a mission of yours to get engaged and once they are engaged, they can get five more people engaged, and another five engaged.”

Currently, Martz and her campaign are organizing a petition strategy to ensure her name gets on the primary ballot.

Starting on March 6, Martz and the other congressional candidates can begin collecting signatures of registered Democrats to reach the required 1,250 by the end of June.

“We set up a captain system,” said Joe Baxter, Martz’s campaign field director.

The campaign has leaders in different parts of the district who will focus just on collecting signatures, he said.

According to Baxter, the district has 122,000 registered Democrats, and even though Martz needs just 1,250 signatures, they want to collect about 3,000 because there are so many candidates in the pool.

“If there are duplicate signatures on petitions, they do not count toward the total,” he said. “We’re ready to go out and get signatures on March 6.”

Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a features writer at The Post-Star. She can be reached at kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com for comments or story ideas.

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