Primary Preview: Meet the 2 NY Democrats vying to take on Elise Stefanik

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 5:27 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York is gearing up for its second primary of the summer. After its political redistricting was ruled unconstitutional, the congressional and state Senate primaries were pushed back.

The Senate race will not have a primary for our region, leaving only one race to watch -- the two Democrats vying to take on Rep. Elise Stefanik in November.

Matt Castelli says he was born and raised in upstate New York and that the 9/11 terrorist attack led to his career in the CIA.

His 15 years of experience leading counter-terrorism efforts is what got him the job as director of counter-terrorism at the National security council in both the Obama and Trump White Houses.

“If I’ve learned anything throughout my career of public service, it’s that when it comes to protecting this country, protecting our community, my family, your family, it requires us to put country before party and my belief in that has never waivered,” Castelli said.

He says the January 6th insurrection and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s response to it was the tipping point that made him want to run for office. “How she turned her back on democracy has continued to, I believe, violate her oath to the Constitution and I think she poses a unique direct threat,” Castelli said.

He says the big issues facing New York’s 21st Congressional District are inflation, child care, affordable housing, improving access to care, and protecting American freedoms.

Because of his deep roots in the region, Matt Putorti says this race is personal. “I’m the only candidate who was born in the district, that grew up in the district,” he said.

Putorti lives in Whitehall, where his family runs a grocery store that opened in 1927. His niece and nephews attend public school like he did and he thinks the community isn’t getting the representation from Stefanik that it deserves. “Even from the time she first ran, she’s really only used this district to further her own personal political gain, and it’s about time this district has somebody who cares about the district,” Putorti said. He says he would be the voice the district isn’t getting in Washington. “The people everywhere I’ve been to are facing similar things.”

Putorti says that includes a “bucket of economic issues” including rising costs of basic needs. He also says preservation of rights that Americans have and combating climate change are priorities. “We certainly have more work that we need to do,” he said.

Early voting in New York starts Saturday. It’s a closed primary so it’s only open to registered Democrats.

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