Written by Chad Arnold for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on September 28, 2020
WILTON — Hundreds gathered in support of Rep. Elise Stefanik on Saturday at the Wilton Travel Plaza, where a slew of local Republican candidates representing Saratoga County criticized their Democratic opponents in November of supporting far-left policies they would adversely impact the country and state.
The rally comes the same day that President Donald Trump said he would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court a week after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The president’s nomination will not only alter the direction of the court for years but will likely set off a fierce battle in Washington little more than a month before Election Day.
“We’re going to fill that seat!”Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, told the tightly packed crowd as the rally began.
Many in attendance were seen not wearing masks as they cheered on speakers. Social distancing protocols were also not enforced as the crowed moved closer to the stage once the event began.
But those in attendance didn’t seem to be bothered. Many lined up to collect lawn signs, posters and campaign memorabilia in support of both the president and congresswoman.
Many held signs that read“Make America Great Again”and waved blue and red flags with the words“Trump 2020”written in white.
Several in attendance held signs that read“Peaceful Protester,”an apparent jab at the large demonstrations that have been taking place throughout the country calling for police reforms and the end of systemic racism in the wake of several high-profile police killings, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The crowd cheered as Stefanik, who is seeking a fourth term on Nov. 3, thanked the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office for presiding over the event, and flaunted a string of recent endorsements from law enforcement agencies, including the union representing State Police and the New York State Law Enforcement Officers Union.
At one point, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo, a Republican, took the stage and waved to the crowd of cheering supporters.
“I represent tens of thousands of law enforcement officials in this district, and I will always have their back,”Stefanik said.
She went on to criticize a series of recently implemented criminal justice reforms in the state, including the state’s controversial bail-reform measures, which were first approved by the Legislature in 2019.
The reform measures were altered in April in order to give judges more discretion in setting bail, following months of pushback from Republicans and law enforcement officials around the state.
Several in attendance said they were against the changes, fearing a potential spike in crime.
They added they were supporting Stefanik because she“backs the blue.”
The rally even garnered attendees from outside the 21st Congressional District.
Brian Buanno, an Amsterdam resident, said he traveled nearly 40 minutes because he wanted to show support for Stefanik because she supports the police.
“She’s for veterans that fought in wars and supports police,”Buanno said.“I think we need police to keep law and order. Those two things are massively important.”
Amsterdam is part of the 20th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
Stefanik garnered national attention last year during her staunch defense of Trump as the House or Representatives readied articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
Trump was impeached, but the Senate ultimately voted not to remove him from office. Both votes occurred along party lines.
“That attack on President Trump was not just an attack on the president,”Stefanik said.“That was an attack on the American people and their vote.”
Stefanik went on to criticize her Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb, whom she also ran against in 2018. She again accused Cobb of wanting to defund the police and increase taxes. Cobb has said she does not want to defund police.
“Taxin’ Tedra,”Stefanik said to the crowd, which erupted in boos.
Several Republican incumbents and hopefuls also spoke at the rally. They criticized their Democratic opponents, while emphasizing that a system of checks and balances is necessary in state government. Democrats currently hold the majority in both houses of New York’s Legislature.
Matthew Simpson, the Republican town supervisor of Horicon running to replace Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury in the 114th Assembly District, said the“progressive left”has made life difficult for New Yorkers in the district.
Stec is currently running to replace Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, who is retiring when her term expires. The 114th Assembly District covers portions of northern Saratoga County, all of Warren County and portions of Washington County.
“I need your support to keep this seat red,”Simpson said.
Assembly members Robert Smullen, R-Meco, and Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, also spoke at the rally. Republican David Catalfamo, who is running against Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, in the 113th Assembly District was also in attendance.
Meanwhile, Brian Benedict, a Wilton resident, said he decided to attend the rally at the last minute after learning about it at a nearby store.
Benedict, a registered independent, said he is a staunch supporter of the president because of his economic policies, and he plans to support Stefanik in hopes that Republicans can recapture the House of Representatives.
“We need to take the House back,”Benedict said.“That’s important to me.”
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