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.