Elise Stefanik has elected Donald Trump’s inner circle power politics over the communities in northern New York.
That election made her number 3 in the House of Representatives’ Republican caucus.
But it has strained her connection with the district she has represented since 2015.
Once positioned as a relatively moderate Republican in the tradition of the New York wing of the party, Stefanik faced Donald Trump. But when it became clear that the former president would continue to be the dominant figure in the GOP despite his defeat in the 2020 elections, Stefanik turned to where the power lay.
That earned her a high profile appearance as chairman of the House of Representatives Republican Conference, replacing a more conservative Republican, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney, who is unwilling to tell Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol parroting.
But it also gave her serious competition in the 2022 election.
Matt Putorti, a 37-year-old lawyer from Whitehall, NY, Just started his campaign with a message that is rooted in the small towns of northern New York – as opposed to the Mar-a-Lago ballrooms and high-priced DC bistros where Stefanik cast their lot.
Putorti is focused on embracing the incumbent of Trump’s divisive policies, Putorti says: Stefanik “is tearing the fabric of our community apart by bringing the division of our current politics to the north.”
He’s right. And he knows how to speak to the people of the closely connected communities that Stefanik gave up when she took hold of power.
“I describe Whitehall as a spaghetti dinner town. It’s a place where the community comes together when someone needs help. If someone loses their job or their health insurance is insufficient to cover a life-threatening illness, the community throws a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to help that person, ”he explains, noting that, as in many other small towns,“ too if at the end of the day we may disagree, everyone will support you if you need help. “
“Elise Stefanik is a threat to spaghetti dinner cities,” says Putorti in a video about the start of the campaign that warns “If we keep separating people, they won’t be able to share this meal together.”
Putorti is Stefanik’s third challenger to start in the 21st district of New York – the others are Democrat Ezra Watson and Republican Lonny Koons. While the incumbent is an amazing fundraiser and will receive enthusiastic support from Trump in 2022, the district could become more democratic after the redistribution. So this competition has the potential to become a competitive one.
Putorti understands the challenges and opportunities that characterize competition. As an openly gay lawyer whose campaign says he did it “Has spent most of his career battling insurance companies that wrongly deny insurance and has made significant volunteer efforts to promote LGBTQ equality, reduce gun violence and make the immigration system fair,” he said has assembled a team that includes top strategists, media advisors and pollsters with experience in the campaigns of President Biden and other prominent Democrats.
But his greatest strength as a candidate is likely to be his family history. Putorti’s campaign launch pays homage to Whitehall and the grocery store his great-grandmother opened more than 90 years ago. His parents, who are still running the shop, are just as prominent as pictures of the village, which, according to the latest census estimate, has just under 4,000 inhabitants. “The Whitehall church is the foundation of who I am,” says the candidate. “I think it speaks volumes about my desire to run for Congress.”
This is good news for a challenger to a senior congressman who is more interested in representing Donald Trump than the spaghetti dinner cities of upstairs New York.