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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).

Sparks fly between Stefanik, Cobb in first televised debate for NY-21

Julia Ritchey
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) and Democrat Tedra Cobb prepare before their debate on Oct. 19 at WWNY-TV in Watertown

The first debate for New York’s 21st Congressional District was held Monday, and tensions were visible between Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville)  and her Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb. Both candidates outlined their differences on issues ranging from health care to the military during their first of two televised debates.

Even before their debate on Monday, the two campaigns were already feuding. Democrat Tedra Cobb publicly declared she had tested negative for COVID-19 last Thursday and challenged Stefanik to take one as well. Stefanik, meanwhile, blasted Cobb for not agreeing to a third debate in Albany.

The sparks did not subside once the two candidates arrived at the studios of WWNY-TV on a rainy afternoon in downtown Watertown, where they debated for about an hour.

The coronavirus and the federal government’s response was a large focus at the top of the debate. When both candidates were asked for their opinion of President Trump’s job performance, Cobb did not hold back.

“The president lied to the American people," said Cobb. "He knew how dangerous this virus was, and didn’t tell the truth. With public health, we need to trust the American people to do the right thing.”

Stefanik, who is running for fourth term in Congress, defended the president’s actions.

“Take a look back at where we were in February. President Trump made the right but tough decision to ban flights from China," said Stefanik.

But quickly, Stefanik pivoted to criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Now when it comes to the state decision on COVID-19, I’ve been very critical of the governor," she said. "My opponent is a former political appointee of Gov. Cuomo, and she was silent when Gov. Cuomo tried to seize our ventilators and shift them toward downstate.”

Cobb later clarified she was not a political appointee of Cuomo’s, and said both the state and federal government should be held accountable for any failures during the response.

This story was published courtesy of North Country Public Radio. Read more about Monday's debate here.