Western Montgomery County gets to know future area MP Stefanik – The Daily Gazette

CANAJOHARIE — Officials and residents of western Montgomery County are reflecting on the outcome of the redesigned congressional districts as they get to know their possible future federal leader, Representative Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville.

“We’re really excited about what she brings to Montgomery County,” Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Michael McMahon said Monday. “For the redistricting, it has really been a good thing for Montgomery County. I can’t say that’s the case everywhere, statewide, but we’re very happy with how we got through it.

The redrawn congressional and legislative districts passed largely along party lines in the Senate and state Assembly this month before being signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul. Republican state leaders have criticized the redrawn maps which they say will give Democrats an advantage in future elections.

The process ended up in the hands of state officials after the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission was unable to agree on new boundaries for elected state or federal positions. .

Although she lambasted the redistricting process and acknowledged that a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the redrawn congressional maps has yet to proceed, Stefanik met with local business owners, farmers and officials in the newly added territory on Monday. to his district in western Montgomery County.

“The reality is that the lines, if you look statewide, have been very gerrymandered to protect Democrats to eliminate the voice of upstate New York. I am running for re-election in the newly redesigned 21st congressional district,” Stefanik said.

“I will work hard to win the support of Montgomery County voters who are in the new district,” she continued. “My job is to make sure your issues are at the highest level, that you have a voice in Washington and I am committed to doing that.”

The redistricting process expanded the already sprawling 21st congressional district that spans the north from 12 counties to 18 counties largely due to population loss. The district will take over western Montgomery County and Schoharie County, territories currently contained in Rep. Antonio Delgado’s 19th congressional district, D-Rhinebeck.

“There are many similarities in terms of economy, need for rural broadband, agriculture, small business support, number of seniors, veterans,” Stefanik said of communities in the district. . “We will work hard to represent every county of the 18 in this district.”

Eastern Montgomery County will remain in the 20th congressional district currently held by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.

Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort was less enthused about the ‘awkward experience’ at the local level with redistricting, but is excited to meet new faces who could represent the county next year after the election general.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in Montgomery County, but we’ve done it through partnerships at the state and federal levels. So to be able to start our relationship and hopefully work together over the next few years, I think it’s going to be a perfect fit,” Ossenfort. “I’m all about moving forward.”

Although she has the advantage in the heavily Republican district, several Democrats have already filed a request to challenge Stefanik in the next election before the redistricting process is complete, including Matthew Putorti, Matt Castelli, Birdie Farrell, Ezra Watson and Keith Sherrill.

Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Bieniek plans to endorse one of the nominees once the petition is completed in the spring and actively support Stefanik’s challenger.

“I guess it’s back to work,” Bieniek said. “It’s going to be an interesting year.”

Bieniek, who did not participate in the introductory activities, criticized Stefanik’s support for former President Donald Trump and focused on his national position. He expressed disappointment with West Montgomery County’s shift from Delgado District to Stefanik District.

“I think Delgado just solved the problems and tried to help the district as much as he could,” Bieniek said.

Still, several local farmers and business owners who met Stefanik at the Peruzzi meat market said Delgado hasn’t had a strong local presence since taking office in 2019.

“We have had several agriculture-related events in this county and region and he has yet to attend one. We’ve seen voters from other counties and areas come here to see what we’re doing between Montgomery and Fulton counties,” said Marybeth Shults, co-owner of Shults Farm.

The fifth-generation farmer shared with Stefanik the biggest challenges facing her pasture dairy and meat operation, from the impacts of inflation to concerns about the possible transition to a 40-hour overtime threshold for farms.

“It’s not a 40-hour workweek and it’s never going to be a 40-hour workweek,” Shults said.

Although state leaders have proposed subsidies that could eliminate the financial burden on farmers, Stefanik lambasted the Farmworkers’ Wages Council’s recommendation to reduce the current 60-hour overtime threshold over the next decade. Farmworkers lobbied for the change to ensure fair pay and equal treatment.

“When an apple is ready to be picked, the apples must be picked,” Stefanik said. “The Farm Labor Wages Bill is written by someone who doesn’t live in an agricultural region.”

Stefanik has expressed an immediate interest in exploring options at the federal level to improve K-12 education on the role of agriculture in food production and the importance of whole foods and dairy in a diet. healthy, as Shults suggests.

The congresswoman has also previously signed on as a co-sponsor of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2021 to expand access to whole milk of all flavors in schools to support student health and the stability of dairy farms.

Retired dairy farmer Duane Spaulding, who is involved in volunteer efforts to educate the public about the importance of agriculture, said he is open to working with any representative supporting the agriculture industry. He noted that Delgado was another co-sponsor of federal milk legislation.

“I myself believe in crossing lines and fixing New York,” Spaulding said. “Anything we can work together as a team and fix broken wheels in our farming and other things that need to be fixed.”

Stefanik’s first foray into new communities in her redesigned district on Monday largely saw her engage with like-minded officials and constituents who picked up on her message that she would support local farmers.

“Maybe because she’s new, it’ll be the only time she comes here, but I think at least we have a voice, she understands what we’re saying,” Shults said.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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