Lonny Koons, Carthage man who dropped out of NY-21 race amid fraud allegations, redeclares his candidacy

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May 25—CARTHAGE — Lonny W. Koons, the former Republican candidate for the 21st Congressional District who dropped out last month amidst allegations he'd forged petition signatures, is getting back in the race.

In an email to reporters Tuesday night, Mr. Koons said he believes he needs to get back into the race for Congress in light of the newest district lines, finalized Saturday. Mr. Koons said the new district excludes Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik's home in Schuylerville, and he doesn't believe that someone from outside the district should run to represent it.

"How can you represent your district if you're not really from the district?" he said in a phone interview. "I know she's just going to end up using that address in Essex County, the cabin or whatever was used last time, but the fact of the matter is she doesn't actually live in NY-21."

Under the new district lines finalized Saturday, NY-21 now excludes Saratoga County, where Rep. Stefanik currently lives. However, House representatives are not required to live in the districts for which they're running, as long as they're residents of the state. During redistricting processes, which happen every decade, it's not uncommon for incumbent members of Congress to announce candidacies in districts they don't live in at the time, and they typically move into the district for which they're elected.

Congresswoman Stefanik has declared her intent to run for NY-21, but has not made public if she plans to move her legal address back into the district as well. She previously ran for Congress while registered to vote at a cabin owned by her family in Essex County.

Mr. Koons lives just inside the district lines, in the town of Croghan in Lewis County, although his home address is in the Carthage mailing area. The twin villages of Carthage and West Carthage were cut out as the easternmost point of New York's 24th Congressional District, which stretches from Jefferson County to north of Niagara Falls on the other side of the state.

He brands himself as a blue-collar man of the people, intent on bridging the wide gap between liberal and conservative voters in today's U.S. He's a radical supporter of the Second Amendment, notably believing that American citizens should have access to all the same weaponry the U.S. government has, including nuclear weapons. He believes in some of the false allegations that voter fraud was rampant in the 2020 presidential election, supports term limits for members of the House of Representatives and has promoted a regulatory committee to control social media companies, news organizations and other publishers.

A month ago, Mr. Koons abruptly withdrew from the race for NY-21, after video from a political tracker showed him writing on petitions to appear on the ballot at a Walmart parking lot in Essex County.

In the video footage, Mr. Koons can be seen clearly writing in blank fields on a petition form, reading from something unseen in the passenger seat of his vehicle. He does not appear to notice he is being filmed through his driver side window.

When the video footage was released, Congresswoman Stefanik's campaign was quick to call him out, and called for him to be prosecuted for a crime, although state election's officials said he didn't commit a crime under election law because he didn't turn the documents in or present them as legitimate. No law enforcement agency is known to be pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Koons for forgery.

In a statement Wednesday, the congresswoman's senior adviser Alex DeGrasse said the evidence against Mr. Koons is unequivocal.

"Lonny Koons illegally forged signatures on video and immediately stopped his campaign because he knows he committed a serious crime and would have more than likely faced jail time had the fraudulent signatures been submitted," he said. "Forging the names of voters is a serious crime that goes to the heart of why election integrity is so important."

Mr. Koons said he was not forging signatures, as the video appears to show and the Stefanik campaign says.

"I was writing people's names above signatures, and somebody filmed that," he said. "Basically, they tried to say I was forging signatures so I just stopped."

Mr. Koons said he was frightened by the swift response of the Stefanik campaign and was afraid of a legal battle and potential criminal charges. He said he doesn't have the time or money for a court battle like that.

But after the last district lines were thrown out, the petitioning process was reopened with a lower number of signatures required and anyone is able to restart the process. Candidates who successfully completed the petitioning process under the last district lines may declare for one of the new districts without having to circulate petitions.

Mr. Koons said he is hopeful he will have more success with this petitioning process and is hopeful for the support of local Republican county committees, who he said he would like to abandon Rep. Stefanik now that she doesn't live in NY-21.

He said he's heard from constituents in the district, who he said were disappointed he dropped out of the race in April and disappointed with the idea of their congresswoman living outside the district.

"She has the funding to get a house or use an address in the district, but that just goes to show that she's so much different from the average U.S. citizen, because none of us can do that," Mr. Koons said. "That's another thing separating the elite status she has from what we are."

Mr. Koons is largely running his campaign himself, and his campaign takes in next to no donations. He said he doesn't want to ask the people of this district to finance his campaign and is happy to work his regular job as a semi-truck driver as he campaigns.

"My job pays the bills, I can't stop doing that," he said. "I'll have a webcam set up in my semi. When people want to talk or interview, I'll do it all from there."

Mr. Koons will have to restart the petitioning process from scratch and obtain 1,062 signatures by June 10, about two weeks away. Those petitions, if filed, are likely to garner close attention from the Stefanik campaign and elections officials, in light of the allegations that previously pushed Mr. Koons out of the race.

If the petitions are successfully submitted and accepted by the state Board of Elections, Mr. Koons will stand in a primary election against Rep. Stefanik on Aug. 23, the second-to-last Thursday of the month.