5 Democrats to face off in primary to challenge Stefanik

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) New York's North Country is getting ready for the state's primary election in less than two weeks. On Tuesday democratic candidates for the packed District 21 House race faced off in a debate.

It's a blue race this year with five democrats looking to clinch the seat and send incumbent Congresswoman Elise Stefanik packing.

"We need a representative who understands our needs and challenges, who lives were we live and who will fight for us in Washington, and that is not Elise Stefanik," said Tedra Cobb, a Canton business woman running in the primary.

Tuesday night's debate was focused on what's best for the North Country, and all candidates agreed it's not Rep. Elise Stefanik. Following Democrat Rep. Bill Owens decision not to run in 2104, Stefanik was elected to Congress as the youngest woman ever. The Republican went to Washington saying she would represent both parties in New York's 21st district.

The five candidates seeking her seat spoke in depth about health care, bringing better jobs to the North Country, and how they can improve the Democratic party.

The New York Democratic Primary will be closed this year, meaning only those requesting a democratic ballot can come out and vote on June 26th.

"If we don't reconnect the government, we cannot have a government that works for us. We must address gerrymandering, we must address campaign finance reform, we must talk about rank choice voting, we must move away from the politics of extremism, character assasination, and fundraising," said Dylan Ratigan, a former MSNBC journalist from Lake Placid. He says his focus is on political reform.

Cobb says it's her political backround that sets her aside from the rest. "My work as a legislator, passing an ethics law, serving my community is something that specifically sets me apart. None of the other candidates have ever been elected for local office," she said.

Katie Wilson is a small business owner and community organizer from Keene. She's backed by the Working Families party, a group which says it aims to make sure the voices of the North Country are heard. "We're in this moment where people are just fed up with politicians, and you know, I'm the outsider. I'm the person speaking to power and standing up for the little guy and going into the communities that no one else is really visiting," Wilson said. "How we can raise the quality of life in our community and we have to meet people's basic needs, and we're just not right now."

Patrick Nelson of volunteer political organizer from Stillwater says he wants to make sure the basic needs of the environment are met. "We must get off fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible, modernize our electric grid or everything else falls by the wayside. We need to ensure a future for future generations," he said.

Emily Martz of Saranac Lake is a former college professor with experience running a North Country nonprofit. She says looking out for future generations is critical and one of her main focuses is on public education. "The public schools are the beacons and the foundation of our community and when students graduate we need to make sure that they are well positioned with the skills and the resources they need to excel in whatever it is they go out to do," she said.

In New York's closed primary system, only registered Democrats can participate in the June 26th vote.