Is Donald Trump already shaping the North Country’s congressional race?

stefanikA spokesman for North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said the Republican will skip the GOP’s national convention this summer in Cleveland.

In an email to North Country Public Radio sent on Wednesday, campaign spokesman Lenny Alcivar wrote that Stefanik will instead remain in the district “working for her constituents” while Republicans are gathering. The decision was first reported in the Watertown Daily Times.

It’s uncommon for a rising politician like Stefanik to sit out a national convention, especially in a year when a fellow New Yorker appears likely to win the Republican presidential nomination. The Cleveland convention will also be chaired by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a close Stefanik ally and mentor. In an interview with CNN, Ryan urged members of his party not to skip the event. “It could be a great historical exercise. I mean, it could be something you’ll remember the rest of your life, so I would go if I were, if I had a chance to go,” Ryan said.

But this may not be the kind of memorable event that politicians from competitive districts like to experience.

It’s a particularly tough spot for Stefanik. Trump won strong support in the North Country, garnering nearly 60 percent of the vote in Hamilton County and topping the 50 percent mark in most of the region. But his rhetoric has angered many voters, especially moderates, independents, and women. Stefanik’s staff has said that she will support the GOP’s presidential nominee, no matter who it is.

But her Democratic opponent has already worked to make Trump an issue. “What we see right now is that the Republican Party is in chaos,” said Mike Derrick, from Peru, in an interview with NCPR. “If Donald Trump is at the top of that ticket, then the chaos will only be heightened. There will be respectable Republicans who say, I cannot be part of this.”

It’s unclear how competitive the NY21 House race will be. Stefanik is nearing the end of her first term and faces a credible opponent in Derrick, a retired Army officer who unlike Stefanik grew up in the North Country. But a run by Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello (who garnered 11 percent of the vote in 2014) could make it difficult for Democrats or Greens to solidify opposition to the Republican incumbent.

35 Comments on “Is Donald Trump already shaping the North Country’s congressional race?”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    To be fair,60% vote in Hamiltion county is like winning 60% in a medium sized town. Still, Trump won solidly district wide. The scuttlebutt I hear is that Stefanik actively campaigned for Trump; not in a highly visible way but supportive none-the-less. Is there any truth to that?

  2. The Original Larry says:

    Tough time to be a Republican, with a polarizing candidate like Trump leading the race and the party. For better or worse, his influence is undeniable. Candidates must walk the line between party loyalty and madness. Not an easy task.

  3. Peter Hahn says:

    She is smart and ambitious. This is a case of rats deserting a sinking ship.

  4. PirateEdwardLow says:

    To be an echo from another keg party… I find it kind of amazing that Congresswoman Stefanik tallies any votes in elections. Her presence here seems to be little more than photo opportunities. Though if you follow her twitter account, she speaks lots of the North Country, without actually being here.

    It does appear she will come and talk to you if you ask ( ) though that might mean at one of the three offices on the corners of district 21. Without sounding any more snarky, I would point out this is likely no different than most elected officials… though congress is off this weekend and I don’t see her on the ncpr schedule. But if she is fund raising or campaigning for candidates that would make sense

    But to my point. I don’t ever see much action from her office. Town Halls, senior centers.. schools… not much.

    It seems that not only is she too busy to speak directly with NCPR, a staff member replied with an e-mail.

    And who are her supporters, I’ve seen very few comments from supporters, since I don’t read many letters to the editors, maybe I am missing where most of her supporters gather.

  5. Brian MOFYC says:

    This is, what, the 10th or 12th story related to the Congressional race and NCPR still can’t be bothered to do one story on one of the three candidates (Funiciello). The only one where he was mentioned in an ancillary way was tainted by the “spoiler” lie/hype/spin. Is this laziness or is he being consciously blacklisted? It frustrates and angers me that NCPR’s journalism is so excellent in every other domain but falls so badly short in local electoral coverage. And it makes me wonder why.

  6. Brian MOFYC says:

    And if Brian M is tired of hearing this, I assure him I’m tired of saying it. But I truly believe that public service journalism on electoral politics doesn’t truly serve the public until they fairly report on ALL the choices the voters have, without usurping the voters’ prerogative to decide who is or isn’t “serious.” You report, let us decide.

  7. Pete Klein says:

    Stefanik has frequently come to Hamilton County.
    Warren County Republicans have endorsed Trump.
    Trump will be the Republican nominee and will probably beat Clinton, the War Hawk who wants to be Queen of One World Government.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Brian MOFYC –

    It’s April. The election is in November. We have a small newsroom and I’ve had Matt Funiciello “next on my list” for a couple of weeks and I keep being sidetracked by other stories. It’s that simple.

    This stuff about a blacklist is intellectually lazy and silly. Really, you know better than that. We gave Funiciello a ton of coverage two years ago and we’ll do the same this year.

    As I often say, the idea that any particular story is a big enough deal to us in the newsroom that we would compromise our ethics over it is – well, it’s laughable. If I ever planned to cheat (and I don’t) it sure the hell wouldn’t be over a House race.

    Setting aside the conspiracy theory stuff, I know that you think it’s wrong to report that a candidacy by a third party on the left makes it difficult for a Democrat to get elected. Fair enough.

    My job is to report reality, not satisfy your personal orientation about these things. But I will say this: If at some point the dynamic changes and Matt Funiciello and the Green Party become the odds-on favorite to win votes on the left, then I’ll write the sentence a different way.

    I would be perfectly comfortable writing that Funiciello is a local businessman from the Green Party who is mounting a strong challenge in the 21st district, but his shot is complicated by Democrat Mike Derrick.

    Right now, that narrative just doesn’t seem accurate to me.

    In 2014, Funiciello ran a strong campaign, was widely covered, appeared in all the debates, and he only got about 18,000 votes. The Democrat that year, Aaron Woolf, ran a lackluster campaign that never found its footing, and he won three times as many votes.

    But who knows? This year’s campaign is young. It may be that Funiciello will quickly establish himself as the go-to alternative to Elise Stefanik. If that happens, we’ll report it, happily and accurately.

    Brian, NCPR

  9. PirateEdwardLow says:

    Why not back the small newsroom up and not ‘interview’ candidates like Stefanik, who won’t talk to you.. and take the little time you have and actaully talk to candidates who are in he area and perhaps willing to talk with NCPR (small, but national at times) news team

    Or why not an article that Ms. Stefanik won’t talk to you?

    Just thinking out loud here

  10. Mitchell Edelstein says:

    Footnote – one of the reasons why the Democratic Party created “SuperDelegates” is that many members of Congress were skipping the conventions. They were skipping for many reasons, including the cost of attendance or that they didn’t want to run against local political volunteers who wanted an opportunity to attend the convention.

  11. Brian Mann says:

    Rep. Stefanik speaks with us regularly. It’s common on a story like this for a spokeperson to issue a statement. I reached out to the Stefanik campaign late last night and they responded promptly with the information I asked for.
    -Brian, NCPR

  12. David Duff says:

    So if you’re in Stefanik’s shoes and you have decided/been advised ) that Trump is not going to win the election if he gets through the convention spectacle, (1968 Democratic convention comes to mind as an example of spectacle) what “legitimate” reason would you offer for your absence that has any possibility of being interpreted as “legitimate and creditable” by your constituents and the press? It’s a no brainier from where I sit. The convention is giving every indication of imitating a slow motion train wreck, and she’s distancing herself, all the while vowing to support whom ever her party chooses. Any body wanna buy a bridge?

  13. PirateEdwardLow says:

    These nuances are just like politics.. kind of saying but not saying at the same time.

    This is actually one of those times I feel sorry for Stefanik… It doesn’t appear she has direct participation in this presidential election, but somehow it is a story… though to be clear they did as Mike Derrick (a democrat) how he feels about a republican, but they didn’t ask him about how he felt about the democrat who is running

    Matt Funiciello a Green Party Candidate was thrown into this story, though he wasn’t ask anything, because we don’t talk about Jill Stein.. and I guess when you are a Green Candidate, you don’t get to talk about the Presidential candidate in any way shape or form, though I am sure if you called Him, he would not have a waitress at his restaurant talk to NCPR.

    But Funiciello is thrown into the story, because we haven’t mentioned he is a ‘spoiler’ enough.. and let’s give him his one paragraphy of being a spoiler.

    Now Mike Derrick brings up Trump, because he thinks that is important to the NY21, so he forces NCPR to make this a story and not talk to Stefanik, because she is smart enough to realize this is a non-issue… but so she won’t see out of touch, she has a staffer talk for her with an e-mail, even though she does talk to ncpr all the time

    For the life of me I don’t Matt Funiciello doesn’t tell everyone that they should raise an issue in NY21 that Bernie Sanders received a lot of votes in the district, and since Sanders and Green are both non-mainstream

    oops check that, non-mainstream is a non-issue because the small news office, doesn’t have time for non-mainstream.. well at least not a lot of time, but just enough time to cover this non-issue that was created by Mike Derrick to game some political purchase

    Fortunately we now have a little area to discuss a non-issue, and to call out ncpr, which really is a small news staff and doesn’t have time to address the discussion about a non-issue story.

    …man I am totally confused

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Glad you brought up the issue of Funiciello and his position on Sanders. Yes, the district came out very strong for Bernie. It would be very interesting for NCPR to report on what Funiciello has to say about Bernie. From what I can tell Funiciello doesn’t like Bernie much at all.

  15. Gunslinger74 says:

    I listen to NPR on occasion, I have noticed that they blatantly push a liberal agenda, and at times it’s just too obvious. They never report fairly. As far as Stefanik, she was supposed to be one of the “stand with the people” republicans. Now she is too spineless to have an opinion. I’m disappointed in her. Now on to Donald Trump. If he has insulted one woman personally, I think it does a great disservice to woman by making it a woman’s issue. Insulting one woman doesn’t mean you’ve insulted ALL woman. If you try to spin it that way, then you are in fact minimizing woman. I would urge the media, especially NPR to stop putting their liberal twist on everything and try…JUST TRY to actually report news in a fair benign way.

  16. LC Resident says:

    Elise Stefanik is the most worthless representative district 21 has ever had. Her only accomplishment is being the youngest woman ever elected to congress. She is the female version of Obama. All she does is fund raise and photo ops. Plus like Obama, when people need help. She runs to the ski slopes in lake placid instead of the golf course like Obama. This republican is voting anyone but Stefanik.

  17. bill redmond says:

    I totally agree with lc resident elise stefanik is worthless a Politian who says what you want to hear then does the opposite the only reason stefanik wont go to the republican convention is she doesn’t like trump and wont admit it. she wont get my vote she only cares about rich constituints in and around Wellsboro and the family plywood business

  18. Rich says:

    Given the challenge of representing a district the size of 21 with its large geographic dispersion and a host of constituencies with often differing interest, Representative Stefanik has done more than a credible job. I admit I’m speaking as someone from Jefferson County where she has gone more than that extra mile in her support of Fort Drum which is absolutely necessary to our economic survival. I can’t say much for the Democratic candidate, other than the fact the party couldn’t seem to find anyone willing or qualified to run from within the District. Does seem to be a bit odd they needed to go all the way to Colorado to find and import a candidate.

    Regarding Trump. It’s interesting to note that he at least respected the District and its voters enough to make two campaign appearances just prior to primary. Where was Hillary? Among the missing, out partying among her Hollywood friends perhaps?

    Like or respect Trump or not, at least he talks about the issues that most concern Americans, namely jobs, the economy, security and the drug problem. This while the Democrats are most concerned about setting felons free from prison, global warming and allowing transgenders to use the restroom of the choice.

    Other than raising the minimum wage, the Democrats have no economic plan. Their perfectly content in letting the economy limp along at a 1 percent growth.

    I opposed Trump from the beginning but looking the alternative, Trump is looking a whole lot better.

  19. The Original Larry says:

    Is all the anti-Stefanik animus because she’s a Republican, because she doesn’t support Trump or because she hasn’t done a good job?

  20. Peter Hahn says:

    Brian – we need more coverage of Ms Stefanik, not less. She specializes in deceptive advertising and someone has to fact-check her. What is her actual position on social security and medicare? (for example) vs what her advertising implies.

  21. Dan Francis says:

    A couple of points – from my foxhole:

    1. Ms. Stefanik will do, say, pay, try, lie, imply, or deny anything to (a) stay in the limelight, and natch (b) to win at any cost. Right now she has nearly $1.5M in the bank (most from outside the district BTW – and probably will hit nearly $2M before Nov 8th). This congress as a 13% JAR and guess what? Most will get reelected and who says “money doesn’t count?” BTW: her overall record stinks, that is unless happens to like her and be a GOPer…

    2. Derrick has a bundle too that he can draw on … mostly money tied up on CO in his business dealing from there. Will his military card work; can people just calling him by his retired rank (Colonel) work – we are about to find out. If he were retired enlisted, would he be addressed as Sergeant Derrick or Chief, etc.? Doubtful … respect for his service, of course, but let’s talk hard reality: those darn issues, okay?

    Do issues matter – they should.

    /s/ a close observer of these things – and I hope you are too. Oh, on support for Trump – being a weasel sure comes to mind – support your party banner leader or leave the party – pretty simple really.

  22. Mike Flynn says:

    “Rep. Elise Stefanik remains a shadow Candidate & MOC”

    For the record: I’ve always been fair to Rep. Elise Stefanik: what a lot of people like to ignore, is I supported Rep. Elise Stefanik in 2014 Republican Primary against Matt Doheny.

    I didn’t support her in the General election, because she lied about how close she was to Rep. Paul Ryan, and I couldn’t support the Ryan budget plan, which was a bad joke, that insisted on using ‘Sequestration’ indiscriminately for across the board budget cuts. The same cuts that have crippled our military readiness!

    Rep. Stefanik is now going to have to run on her record, a record steeped in a lack of ‘elan’ in terms of bringing needed funding to NY 21 for Fort Drum, and for needed infrastructure improvements throughout the district.

    Rep. Stefanik sits on the Armed Services Committee, but has yet to right one important position paper on Syria, and Russian incursions into Crimea, or E. Ukraine, and how America needs to address them.

    To date she’s refused to endorse Donald J. Trump or attend his rallies in NY21

    I think the media and Voters need to take a very hard look at Elise Stefanik this election!

    A major point of controversy last election is just how much a single woman running for Congress should have to reveal about her significant other, while both Aaron Woolf and Matt Funiciello had to introduce their wife children, or in Matt’s case girlfriend to the press and voters. Rep. Elise Stefanik remains a shadow in terms of her personal life. We don’t even know if she wants to start a family while in office. How can that not be significant to families trying to survive on a tight budget. Is she really aware of families with children go through in this tight economy in NY 21?

    Mike Flynn ‘Middle Class Mike’


  23. LC Resident says:

    I’m a lifelong republican and my only issue with Stefanik is, she doesn’t do anything for the people who really need help. Her district has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and she has done absolutely zero for her constituents. I called her office after 160 people in Lewis county were thrown on the street after a business closed, and The woman I spoke too didn’t even know where Lewis county was. to this day. Stefanik hasn’t acknowledged she even gives a crap about anyone in the north county. Except to have her picture taken when she is handing out a metal to a serviceman or women. ( which they all deserve).

  24. Peter Hahn says:

    Or – what does she plan to do about health coverage for the 20 million people who will lose coverage if she repeals Obamacare? What is the “replace” in their slogan and what would it actually accomplish?

  25. Peter Hahn says:

    and… Less Funiciello is better than more. What would he mean for Fort Drum? That alone makes him an non-viable candidate. Would he vote to repeal Obamacare if it was part of the Republican plan to just repeal? Or would he hold out for the politically impossible “single-payer”? How would he even handle “constituent services” and run his bread baking business?

  26. The Original Larry says:

    I was unaware that any candidate for office “had to” introduce family members or “significant others” (how I hate that phrase!); I thought it was a personal choice, or does that not apply to single women? Anyway, misogynistic nonsense notwithstanding, it’s clear that anything Stefanik does will bring disapproval from those who oppose her. Why not come right out and say it’s because she is a Republican, and a conservative (open to debate), besides? Its also clear that when it comes to Trump, there’s no safe position for a Republican: supporting him makes you a lunatic; opposing him makes you a weasel.

  27. dave says:

    “My job is to report reality, not satisfy your personal orientation about these things.”


    So very well said, and so appreciative that we have a local news source that operates this way.

    Regarding Stefanik, the thing that has had me scratching my head about her is not her politics or her performance, but the fact that she seems to be exactly the sort of candidate that the North Country says they dislike. An outsider. Someone who is associated with and mentored by Washington elites. Someone who has very little connection to this area. Unlike the people who ran (and will be running) against her, who truly were/are connected to and committed to the area. So it really seems like she won that election simply because she had an R next to her name, and in spite of everything most people here say they want in a representative.

    Will be interesting to see if the same thing happens this time around.

  28. mr. kent says:

    Stefanik was elected to office for no other reason than she was a Republican and if she loses an election for no other reason then that is the nature of the game she is part of. She attended private schools in Albany as a child then on to Harvard then strait to Washington as a domestic policy wonk for the GWB administration and then on to more wonk work in the Bush administration. Her adult life was spent as a resident of Washington D.C and only when she needed to claim residency in the District she now represents did her father give her a ” job” and she claimed legal residency in the District.

    Fine. Nothing illegal about any of it, but really, for anyone to muse that people may vote for her opponent only because she is a republican and she may become collateral damage because Trump or Cruz may run for POTUS is , well, amusing. She may just as well win the next election because of a Republican running for office. She has received and will continue to receive vast amounts of money from the RNC and PACS as she is one of the very few women from the republican party in congress. T’is the nature of the beast and there are no tears in politics.

  29. Jersey Girl says:

    In my humble opinion, Trump needs to be stopped by either the Republican party or voters. You’ve got your choice between a raving maniac or a crooked liar. I guess I’ll go for the crooked liar. The only decent candidates have already lost. God Bless the Dumbing Down of America!!!

  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I think it is important to voice my abhorrence at the idea that Stefanik should make her personal relationships public. Not our business.

  31. georgebearup says:

    For what it’s worth,as a former Stefanik supporter I thought I would inject my experiences and opinion to the discussion.
    First off I am a retired 25 year correction officer and live in Watertown.Due to the untimely and unnecessary death of a wounded warrior member of our family, I did contact MS Stefanik by email with my concerns.
    Retired Sergeant Dan Rhode,my future son-in-law and dear friend,died at age 30 due to the dysfunctional VA.
    Dan was experiencing breathing problems in late January.After finally getting an appointment with our local VA his problem really began after being diagnosed with pneumonia.As Dan’s conditioned worsened he continued to have problems with the VA.From lapses in medication to cancelled appointments there was a lack of any real treatment.On March 22 Dan died in his sleep.Cause of death? Pneumonia,what a surprise.
    As said,being mad,disgusted,depressed and any number of other emotions I emailed the Congresswoman with all details.I did get a response. A form letter stating she was working hard on problems like mine and with an increased donation she would be able to work harder.
    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Watertown part of her district?Being a representative for the Federal Government shouldn’t she have at least reached out to Dan’s family or at least inquired at the senseless loss of one of our greatest heroes?
    I did follow up with an email expressing my disgust with her lack of respect for Veterans ,our military heroes, and her constituents.I promised her I would do whatever I could to reveal her real agenda.What a surprise, shortly after she made an unexpected visit to Fort Drum extolling Veterans rights.It was a grand affair with the reporters top brass and Front page coverage in the local paper. What a phony!
    In retirement I started a business that shadows Ms Stefanik’s territory. I beat the drum for her in places that never heard of her.Now I learn she is just a new ringleader in this dysfunctional political circus.I will beat that drum too.
    In closing, being a retired CO I know our military and Veterans would love to be treated as well as an inmate. My sympathy goes to our active military,and wonderful Veterans God bless you.You’ve lost an amazing comrade,but please believe he was as loved and welcomed in our family as his.Rest in Peace SGT Dan Rhode and thank you for your service.

    George Bearup
    [email protected]

  32. telfish says:


    You need to complain to John McCain who has blocked funding for Veterans affairs along with all the other GOP congress critters who just love our vets until it’s time to actually help them. Thanks also to G Bush for bringing so many back in coffins or physically/mentally injured. And all for precisely nothing.

  33. kirk peterson says:

    why is Elise described as a “rising star” in the republican party? is it because they have so few other candidates that are not on the face of it absurd? or is it because she is willing to follow the ideologues regardless of what is good for her constituents–remember her recent vote against clean air for the North Country?

    Kirk Peterson
    Lake Clear, NY 12945

  34. georgebearup says:

    Telfish please don’t misunderstand.I’m not trying to make this a political issue. The fact is a young man did his service and died needlessly after he returned home and no one cares! I will support any person from any party that makes this insanity stop.

  35. georgebearup says:

    NCPR thank you for being one of the very few media to express my views.

    George Bearup

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