In the three weeks since Tedra Cobb won the Democratic Party congressional primary, she has experienced a whirlwind of political drama, and she expects more to come.
“I think this will be a campaign of perpetual lies,” Cobb said about her opponent Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro.
Cobb, 50, won the primary on June 26 by a wide margin over four other candidates.
She is now taking on Stefanik, the incumbent, in the 21st District.
Green Party candidate Lynn Kahn is also running.
Almost immediately after Cobb won the primary, Stefanik’s camp launched an attack, calling her “Taxin’ Tedra” and highlighting 20 times that she voted to raise taxes while she was on the St. Lawrence County Legislature.
Cobb, who lives in Canton, said the message from Stefanik was completely misleading, but she was not surprised.
“Unfortunately, Elise Stefanik doesn’t understand local taxation, nor does she understand tax rate and tax levy,” she said.
“These are the things that are important to understand local government. That’s partly why I’m running. I understand what it means to be a local representative.”
Cobb said many of the tax increases Stefanik’s camp talked about were driven by Republicans on the legislature and were to protect the county against unfunded mandates by the state.
“I think that is a poor piece of work and absolutely inaccurate,” Cobb said of Stefanik’s attack.
“I’m surprised by their inability to follow the facts. It will be a campaign of lies, and we will continue to say that’s not true.”
Cobb said she will campaign on her ideas, which she says resonate with voters, as evidenced by her significant victory in the primary.
“People want a representative who lives here, who understands the district,” she said.
“I’ve been committed to this place which I’ve made my home for 30 years, and I will keep working as hard as I have been, and I think I have a reputation of commitment, of hard work for this district, and I hope to bring those values to this district as a congresswoman.”
As Cobb was greeting visitors at the Clinton County Fair on Wednesday, a young woman walked by and shouted encouragement. Cobb asked her if she was signed up to volunteer.
The woman, as she continued walking, said she would like to, but she works six day a week and does not have the time.
“She probably works in health care if she has to work six days a week or has to have two jobs,” Cobb said, lamenting the rising costs of health care.
“People need to understand just what we are facing and how much things like health care affect this district.”
Cobb said she did not think Stefanik has done enough to stand up to President Donald Trump on what many are calling a soft stance on allegations that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election.
Stefanik tweeted that she disagreed with the president’s expression of support for Russia during the recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cobb said that’s not enough.
“She chose party when she chose to close down the investigation of the House Intelligence Committee,” Cobb said.
“In 1972, that committee was formed by Tip O’Neill (former speaker of the House), and everyone said that it couldn’t be nonpartisan, and he said it will be,” she said. “In this past year, we’ve seen them (Republicans) destroy that legacy, so a tweet does not undo her vote. This is about choosing the country first. This is about finding the truth.”
She said the investigation of the Russian question and legislation allowing it to go forward needs to be approved by Stefanik and Congress.
“She has not signed on to that, and it has not passed Congress,” Cobb said.
“People need to be held accountable for those actions, and she is not doing the job we elected her to do, which is to uphold the constitution and protect it first and foremost.”
Cobb’s campaign manager Michael Szustak left the job shortly after a controversy over Cobb’s stance on gun control.
The candidate was secretly recorded saying that she is in favor of a ban on assault rifles, but could not say so publically because it could hurt her chances to win in this district.
She has since clarified the situation and her position on guns, saying that she had been having a candid moment talking with students about the inability to pass any commonsense gun solutions without politics getting in the way.
“My policy goals are to protect our schools, homes and streets by banning dangerous people from owning or possessing firearms,” she wrote in a statement to the Watertown Daily Times on Wednesday.
“I believe in establishing a federal process by which certain classes of people, such as convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, gang members, the dangerously mentally ill and people who commit acts of domestic violence do not have access to firearms.”
Cobb said Szustak did not leave because of that flap, but would not discuss why he left.
“This is what happens on campaigns,” she said.
“People come and go. Since I do HR (human resources) work, I think it’s probably not appropriate to comment on that.”
Cobb said she is in the process of interviewing people to become the new campaign manager.
She has added Evan Chernack as the campaign’s finance director.
At this stage of the campaign, Stefanik holds a huge advantage in campaign funds, with about $1.5 million in her coffers to Cobb’s $93,000.
Cobb was able to raise a significant amount of money for the primary ($363,484), and she believes the recognition she got from that campaign will help her re-build her warchest.
“As people are watching this race, even from outside the district as well, I think that will help us communicate with more people,” she said.
Campaign volunteer Andrea Audi of Saranac Lake said Cobb’s big victory in the primary should convince potential donors that she has a viable chance against Stefanik.
“It put to rest whether this is a competitive race,” Audi said.
“It makes people who are interested in this district and who are interested in new and good representation ready to engage.”
Cobb is attempting to obtain signatures to form her own ballot line — CD 21 Unites — that she wants to run on in addition to the Democratic ticket.
“To me, it is always a good idea to have a neutral line, especially in this district, which is fiercely independent,” she said.
“I think a lot of people in the district vote for a person and not a party, so I think having our own line will show our independence.”
Stefanik herself did not respond to Cobb’s assertions.
Her campaign spokesman Leonard Alcivar said Cobb is “running the worst Democratic campaign in American politics.”
“Just three weeks into the election, Tedra Cobb has lost the confidence and trust of North Country voters,” Alcivar wrote. “Today, Tedra Cobb’s campaign is broke, broken and alone, abandoned by Democrats and with no positive vision for the future of the 21st District.”
Alcivar said Stefanik has a strong record of serving the district with transparency, bipartisanship and results for families and small businesses.
“Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters are standing behind Elise because they always know where she stands,” he said. “Our campaign looks forward to standing with our network of grassroots supporters and volunteers to share Elise’s record and to winning in November.”