Elise Stefanik vs. Matt Castelli: Get to know the 21st Congressional District race

On Nov. 8, voters of New York's 21st Congressional District will choose between Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik and Democratic challenger Matt Castelli.

The 21st Congressional District encompasses the North Country region of New York, consisting of Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, Essex, Warren, Washington and Fulton counties, as well as parts of Saratoga and Herkimer counties.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting in Herkimer County is available at Benton Hall Academy in Little Falls through Nov. 6.

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Here's what both candidates had to say to about their platforms, achievements and plans to serve their constituents.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order and were given the same questions. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Matt Castelli, Democrat/Moderate Party

Describe yourself and your platform.

I’m a moderate who will bring people together to get things done to solve problems for NY-21, not create them. I will fight to bring down costs for working families and seniors to create a strong economy that works for everyone. I will fight to defend our freedoms — from the right for women to control their own bodies to the Second Amendment.

I will fight to protect the security of all Americans by fully funding our police, securing our borders, defending our democracy, supporting our military and veterans and protecting Social Security and Medicare. And I will fight to drain the swamp with term limits, stopping the flow of corporate money and banning members of Congress from getting rich from stock.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I grew up in Upstate New York down the street from a dairy farm in a bipartisan household — Dad’s the Democrat and Mom’s the Republican — and for much of my life I was an Independent.

I attended Siena College and after the 9/11 attacks, I chose to focus my life’s work on protecting our country through counterterrorism and national security. I became a CIA officer, where I led intelligence collection and counterterrorism operations; serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. I led teams hunting down some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, working within the same unit that found Osama Bin Laden.

My success at the CIA led to the opportunity to serve as Director for Counterterrorism at President Obama’s National Security Council. In that role, I developed strategy, policy, and operations to keep America safe from terrorism and extremism. I was asked by the Trump Administration to stay on in this role for the first year before returning to the CIA, and I did because if I’ve learned anything it’s that when it comes to keeping our country safe, secure and strong, it requires putting country before party.

What issues are facing the district and how would you handle them?

I'll fight to lower taxes, reduce gas prices, and ensure housing and child care don't break the bank. I'll invest in our long-term success by combatting decades of weak economic policy with common sense solutions that strengthen our supply chain, and bring jobs and manufacturing back home. I will prioritize investments that drive economic growth and help the 21st District win the 21st Century. Investments in broadband and cell service will help us all to compete and succeed.

I spent my career combating extremists, I know what it takes to protect American families — a strong national security, ensuring our men and women in uniform have the resources they need, and providing for our military families back home. I also grew up with and spent my career working with law enforcement. Our federal, state, and local law enforcement face unprecedented threats: from the gun violence that threatens children’s lives to the rise of domestic terrorism. I will work to ensure our police have the resources necessary to protect and serve our communities, including additional tools for public safety, addiction and mental health.

In a time of increasing political polarization, what issues do you think you can work together with Republicans to solve?

For me, being in Congress is not about scoring political points, it’s about working for the people I represent. So I don’t care about credit, or heat from my own party. If it’s the right thing to do, I’ll support it. And on specific issues, like border security, my national security background makes me uniquely positioned to work across the aisle to solve problems that both parties have failed to solve for decades.

Lastly, why should people vote for you?

In Congress, I’ll work with or stand up to anyone to do what’s right for NY-21. I will fight for better jobs with higher wages and to bring down the costs of childcare, housing and healthcare so everyone can thrive. I will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare so that we can all retire with dignity. And I’ll fight for our freedoms: from protecting our Second Amendment rights, to women’s freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without government interference.

While my opponent has sold out Upstate New York to advance her career and benefit her big dollar corporate donors, I’m running to return government to what it’s good at — security, roads and bridges, strengthening communities — not interfering in our personal lives. In NY-21, we come together in our communities across party lines to solve problems. It’s time our representative in Washington was part of that proud tradition. As your representative, I will always fight for you.

Elise Stefanik, Republican/Conservative Party

Describe yourself and your platform.

I'm running on my record of results that I've delivered to Upstate New York in the North Country. I have represented portions of Herkimer County and I'm working hard to earn the support of all of Herkimer County.

I'm proud to stand up for small businesses, for veterans, for local farms and hardworking families. I also am proud to lead the effort against Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi's failed record.

House Republicans are focused on reining in inflation and lowering energy costs, which are the top concerns of voters in this district. I also strongly support our law enforcement and have been endorsed by state law enforcement unions, as well as county sheriffs across this district because I proudly back the blue. My opponent has earned zero law enforcement endorsements, and then I also will work to secure the border, which is so important to our communities.

What achievements from your time in office are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of the results that I've delivered to this community: whether it's standing up for family farms, whether it's being the number one rated Republican on issues related to small businesses, or whether it's the over $100 million I've delivered to rural hospitals in this district, which are so important for rural health care.

In addition, I've delivered over $5.5 million to upstate New York veterans and we're going to continue making sure that our brave men and women who served in our nation's military get access to the benefits they deserve. I also am proud to have the highest rating when it comes to my 2nd Amendment support. I have an A+, my opponent has an F and he deserves an F.

What issues are facing the district and how would you handle them?

Voters and my constituents know me and they appreciate the hard work, and I'm so grateful to them for their support. The top issues this election cycle; number one is inflation. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden's reckless spending have caused this inflation crisis, as well Albany's reckless spending under Democrats have caused this inflation crisis which is why it's important to have the Republicans win back the House to put a stop to the reckless spending.

Another issue is energy prices which continue to increase whether it's gas, whether it's home heating bills, heading into what will be a very expensive winter, and House Republicans are focused on unleashing American energy independence, to make sure that we lower the price of energy, as well as again the support for law enforcement that makes me unique, and I'm honored to have their endorsements.

In a time of increasing political polarization, what issues will you work across the aisle to solve?

I'm proud to be in the most bipartisan top 25% Members of Congress. I'm also one of the Top 10 as rated by the Center for Effective Policymaking, Top 10 most effective Republicans and Number 1 most effective on issues impacting small businesses. So I've delivered results whether it's support for rural hospitals, whether expanding rural broadband and cell coverage right here in Herkimer County, or whether it's my work supporting veterans as well as farmers. Those have been all bipartisan results.

Plus, I represent Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division and I've delivered significant support for military families and have been the chief advocate for that base.

Why should people vote for you?

I am the only candidate in this race who represents Upstate New York values. I'm the only candidate who has never voted to raise taxes and never will. I'm the only candidate who supports the Second Amendment, and I'm the only candidate who lives here and who is representing this district and focused on delivering results. My opponent is a far-left, radical downstate Democrat carpetbagger who does not share our values.

This article originally appeared on Times Telegram: Elise Stefanik vs. Matt Castelli: Get to know the congressional race