© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
New York's 21st Congressional District includes all of Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, Essex, Warren, Washington and Fulton counties and parts of Saratoga and Herkimer counties.0000017a-3c50-d913-abfe-bd54a8740000The incumbent is Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro). Stefanik was first elected in 2014 -- in which she made history by becoming the youngest woman in the House -- by defeating Democrat Aaron Woolf 53-32 percent.Other declared candidates in the 2016 race for the seat include Mike Derrick (D), retired Army colonel; and Matt Funiciello (G).

NY21: Stefanik makes history as youngest woman in House

Brian Mann
Elise Stefanik claimed the North Country's House seat last night by a sizable margin. She celebrated at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls.

It was a triumphant night for Republican Elise Stefanik, the 30-year-old Republican who moved last year to Willsboro in Essex County.

She’ll go to Washington DC as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She built a juggernaut campaign, promising bipartisanship and new ideas.

She's where all of us were when we were thirty years old. She sees the way it could be, the way it ought to be
A Handy win in a strong GOP year

Polls throughout the race showed Stefanik holding a comfortable lead over her Democratic and Green Party rivals. On a night when Republicans seemed unstoppable nationwide, she claimed the North Country’s House seat by roughly an 11-point margin in unofficial results. Taking to the podium with a beaming smile, Stefanik promised to represent everyone in the region.

"Every decision I make, every single vote I take, I will ask myself one single question: Will this help the hard-working families of the North Country?" Stefanik said.

It was an emotional moment for Stefanik, who was just 29 years old when she launched this campaign.  After thanking her supporters and her campaign team, she hugged her mom and dad.

"I want to also recognize the important people in my life, my family," Stefanik said to booming applause. "The greatest blessing I've had is being born to my parents."

Stefanik built a region-wide network of support

This was also a triumphant moment for the Republican Party, who finally reclaimed a seat that was once safe GOP territory, but was lost half a decade ago. Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham was an early Stefanik supporter. He says it was clear to party leaders that this was a candidate with a big future.

"You could just look at her biography and see her accomplishments and her connections," Graham said.  "She obviously had a plan."

This theme, Stefanik’s youth, her energy and her intellect, echoed again and again, including from state Assemblyman Dan Stec from Glens Falls.

"She's got an optimistic perspective," Stec said. "She's where all of us were when we were thirty years old.  She sees the way it could be, the way it ought to be."

A return to her stomping grounds in Washington DC

Elise Stefanik has worked to distance herself from her decade-long record working with some of the most powerful conservatives in Washington D.C. Photo: Stefanik Campaign, via libertarianrepublican.net

Stefanik will face some big tests in Washington. Before running for Congress, she worked in that city for much of the last decade as a staffer in the George W. Bush White House and a political aide to some of the country’s top Republicans, many of whom supported her campaign with huge contributions of cash and support. 

Turning the page from the divisive politics that have defined the nation’s capital and infuriated voters won’t be easy. Stefanik promised to try. 

"To those of you who did not support me today, know that I will work hard every day to earn your respect and your trust and hopefully your support," Stefanik said.

Big wins in much of the district for Stefanik but also some weak spots

Stefanik won by big margins last night, but her victory came despite lackluster support in some counties.

Democrat Aaron Woolf actually won a majority of votes in Essex County, where he and Stefanik both live.  Woolf also won Clinton County and came close to tying Stefanik in Franklin County.

But in the rest of the district, Stefanik won handily, with support in some counties topping 60 percent.  In Herkimer County, she captured nearly 69 percent of votes cast.

Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello also saw a huge variation from county to county. 

In Warren County, where he lives and owns a business, Funiciello won nearly 24 percent of votes. But in some counties his support ranged from five to six percent.