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Conservative Party says Stefanik ‘perfect’ to replace Cheney in House GOP leadership

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville).

Former President Donald Trump and some prominent Republican members of Congress are endorsing North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik to take over Rep. Liz Cheney’s conference chair, which would make Stefanik the third-highest ranking Republican in the House. Conservatives say they’d be happy with the change, but some question the long-term implications.

Gerry Kassar, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, said it’s inappropriate for Cheney to stay as the conference chair.

“She is laser focused on a vendetta against President Trump and that is completely the wrong platform to be using as the leader of the House,” Kassar said.

He said Stefanik is the perfect replacement. She has raised nearly $1.5 million through her political action committee to help recruit and run Republican women candidates in the 2020 election.

“We take great pride in her and are very hopeful that she’s able to elevate herself to what would be a historically significant position,” Kassar said.

An Associated Press article said Cheney isn’t backing down and quotes her spokesperson as saying “this is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash” the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Cheney voted for Trump’s impeachment after the attack. Stefanik has defended Trump and voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Luke Perry is a political science professor and director of the Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research. He said having Stefanik hold a position of power in Congress is positive for upstate and the North Country, because she could shape policy agendas and bring resources back to the area.

But he said stepping on Cheney to get into a leadership role may not age well. Cheney has said the 2020 election was not stolen and Trump lost, while Perry said Stefanik, who started her political career as a moderate, has transitioned into essentially a Tea Party conservative with unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

“While it makes sense in the short term to perhaps strategically adopt this persona and perspective, I do think Trump’s influence on the party is going to continue to diminish and then serious questions will be raised about where this leaves people who have embraced him, particularly the elements of his perspectives that are conspiracy theories,” Perry said.

A vote to remove Cheney in the House could happen next week.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.