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Stefanik, Cobb take very different campaign approaches as they gain national fame

Stefanik, Cobb take very different campaign approaches as they gain national fame

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As New York’s 21st Congressional District candidates receive national attention and donations during the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, one issued few statements and the other issued several false statements.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, drew national attention this past week by challenging Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that is questioning witnesses on Trump’s infamous phone conversation with Ukraine’s president. Republicans praised her and donated to her campaign, and Trump hailed her as a “new Republican Star.”

Stefanik’s televised defense of Trump also energized Democrats nationwide to support her Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb of Canton, who said she collected $1 million last weekend from people all over the country. Celebrities joined in the impromptu fundraising, including Mark Hamill and George Takei of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” fame, respectively.

In response, Stefanik tweeted that Cobb is a “gun-grabbing,” “far-left” “socialist,” and “the #1 pro-impeachment Democrat candidate.” These claims range from dubious to completely false. Cobb has taken few hard positions on policy matters in her last two-and-a-half years of campaigning.

Meanwhile, Cobb spent the majority of her time in the social media spotlight away from the public and avoiding the press.

Fact check

Cobb, while saying she supports the impeachment inquiry, has not taken a stand on whether the president should be impeached, saying it is too soon and she wants all the facts first. Many Democratic candidates around the U.S. favor impeachment, but Cobb has been noncommittal, so this claim by Stefanik is false.

Cobb has not taken many hard stances on issues thus far, giving little credence to terms like “far-left” or “socialist.” She has focused on health care issues such as protecting Medicare and lowering drug prices, as well as getting corporate money out of politics, but not much else.

When asked Tuesday by an activist at the kickoff of her new campaign tour in Queensbury if she would support Medicare for All, she did not commit to doing so. In her 2018 campaign, she told reporters she could support Medicare for All or an expansion of Medicare or the Affordable Care Act.

On guns, Cobb was seen in 2018, in a video secretly recorded by a paid monitor for Stefanik’s campaign, telling supporters she personally supports an assault weapons ban but could not support one as a candidate, because she would not win the election. She has publicly taken no further positions on guns this election cycle, so the “gun-grabbing” claim by Stefanik cannot be verified.

Cobb

Although Cobb announced her 2020 campaign in February, she has generally refused to be interviewed by reporters, instead issuing occasional statements.

While her name flooded social media hashtags and donations poured in over the weekend, Cobb was again not available to journalists. She attended St. Lawrence University’s North Country Symposium Monday morning and left without talking to the press as reporters gathered to talk to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, according to North Country Public Radio News Director David Sommerstein.

As Cobb approached $1 million in donations in a three-day period, her Twitter page posted a video of her clearing her driveway with a solar-powered snowblower, which she said she was doing to celebrate the influx of cash.

George Conway, the husband of Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, was one of the prominent people promoting Cobb’s campaign while Stefanik participated in the hearing Friday, and Conway donated the maximum amount of money ($2,800) to Cobb’s campaign.

In one of his tweets he said “@EliseStefanik is lying trash,” which kicked off the hashtag #TrashyStefanik.

In a statement Monday, Stefanik asked if Cobb agreed with Conway’s statement, and if she would return the money her campaign received from him.

Cobb has not used the hashtag.

“I won’t take the bait. I don’t do name-calling,” Cobb wrote in a tweet. “I’m old enough to remember when we could expect our leaders to take the high road.”

Cobb lost in 2018.

On Tuesday, Stefanik’s campaign spokesman Leonardo Alcivar tried to paint Cobb’s campaign as not viable, citing Dave Wasserman, the House editor of the Cook Report, who surmised that Stefanik’s seat is not vulnerable in 2020. Wasserman cited statistics that Stefanik beat Tedra Cobb 56% to 42% in 2018, which was a big year for Democratic Congress races, and said Stefanik is “well-aligned” with her district.

Stefanik has received letters of support from New York state leaders of the Republican and Conservative parties, all 12 Republican county leaders in her district and the state Independence Party, which described her as moderate.

Photo with alt-right candidate

While attending a fundraiser for her campaign in Palm Beach, Florida, organized by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., to highlight her efforts promoting female Republican congressional candidates, Stefanik had her photo taken with Laura Loomer, an alt-right, anti-Muslim internet personality turned congressional candidate.

Stefanik’s spokeswoman Madison Anderson said Stefanik did not know who Loomer is and that she had not invited her to the event, but she has not yet condemned the congressional candidate’s views.

“She has taken photos with thousands of women over her 5 years in office,” Anderson wrote in an email. “A photo is absolutely not an endorsement of a candidate or their views.”

Loomer, known for her nationalist and anti-Muslim views, has spent years getting banned from various social media — from Twitter to Uber Eats — for her Islamophobic statements. She has called the religion “cancer” and has said “Muslims should not be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country. It should be illegal.”

Loomer is running for Florida’s 21st District, where the event was hosted. She posted a photo of her and Stefanik on Telegram and said she donated to Stefanik’s campaign.

“We are both going to be Adam Schiff’s worst nightmare when we are serving in Congress together,” Loomer wrote. “It was a pleasure spending the evening with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.”

Anderson did not respond to questions asking if Stefanik will support or oppose Loomer’s campaign or statements.

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Related to this story

The president of the United States declared Rep. Elise Stefanik as “A new Republican Star” Sunday morning. While Star Wars and Star Trek stars urged fans to donate to Tedra Cobb, Stefanik’s Democratic opponent in the 2020 election, and both candidates saw their Twitter follower numbers jump significantly this weekend as the 21st Congressional District was thrust into the national political spotlight.

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