Cobb hits trail with fire in the belly
QUEENSBURY | Tedra Cobb said her approach to campaigning is the same as it was when she entered the race 14 months ago:
The Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District will continue to travel the district, making her case to voters for why she’s the best person to deny Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) a third term in office.
“I want people to know who I am; why I’m running and why they should vote for me, and that strategy has been consistent through the primary and it will be consistent through the general election,” Cobb told The Sun.
Full title: Cobb hits trail with fire in the belly — but policies remain elusive
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Tedra Cobb, a Democrat, aims to defeat Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) in November. Photo by Pete DeMola
Cobb was energetic and turbocharged in an interview ahead of a campaign event last week — she ripped into Stefanik again and again with gusto — at one point even mimicking throwing punches.
But despite delivering a series of haymakers, the candidate stopped short of offering specific policy solutions as her campaign chugs towards the Nov. 6 finish line.
Asked if she planned on rolling out any new policy proposals during the two-month sprint to the general election, Cobb said, “If that comes forward, and it fits the values, then I would support that.”
Instead, the former St. Lawrence County legislator appears to be leaning on a strategy based on sketching out broad principles and what she defines as “core values” — not concrete policy ideas paired with bold messaging that candidates have traditionally used to frame their campaigns.
“Policy comes out of values,” said Cobb. “To me about it’s about the values that we have and policy comes out of those values. We never know what new policies or new legislation might come forward.”
Cobb believes Stefanik, a former policy aide to President George W. Bush, cannot win re-election if she talks about her voting record. She repeatedly excoriated the second-term lawmaker for her vote to repeal Obamacare, an effort that ultimately died in the Senate last summer, and on her environmental record, which she called “abysmal.”
Those votes, Cobb said, reflect the lawmaker’s policy positions, she said, and by extension, her core values.
“Either you live your values or you don’t,” Cobb said.
Cobb linked her approach to her mission to further ethics reform during her campaign for county legislator in 2001, which ultimately resulted in the passage of an ethics law.
“If I say I value this, then I have to live that and show it,” Cobb said. “Voting is policy.”
HEALTH CARE IN SPOTLIGHT
Cobb has cited Stefanik’s health care vote as the catalyst of her campaign, likening the May 2017 vote to the day two decades ago when Cobb was among the group of student activists protesting a proposed waste incinerator.
A St. Lawrence County legislator turned their back on the group.
“You don’t deserve to be there, and I’m going to run again,” Cobb said.
Two decades later, Americans are now grappling with high deductibles while paying high premiums, she said, including her husband, Scott, who accompanied her to a campaign event in Canton, foot still encased in a boot following an injury in May.
But despite making health care a campaign centerpiece, Cobb on Friday declined to definitively embrace a specific policy proposal designed to further a solution if elected, including a single-payer health care system or Medicare for All, the catch-all term for universal health care that’s become a litmus test for progressives in races around the country.
“Every person should have portable and affordable health care,” Cobb said. “Medicare for All is an option, and it is one we should explore. We could explore Medicare and an expansion of the (Affordable Care Act).”
The candidate said she has experience crafting solutions through her work as a strategic planner.
“You don’t start with the answer — you start with the problem — and that is that there are still millions of Americans with no health care,” Cobb said.
The candidate’s campaign website states Cobb supports providing “comprehensive health insurance for all United States residents, such as what is detailed in the United States National Health Care Act,” which is the single-payer health care bill now stalled in Congress.
‘RETURN TO SANITY’
Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held seats to win control of the House this fall, and historical trends paired with an unpopular president have progressive voters pining for a “blue wave.”
Despite the heavy volleys against Stefanik, Cobb declined to identify a specific policy that she would pursue if elected and takes office in a Democratic-controlled House.
“The first thing is to return to the sanity of Congress and that is actually to bring forward legislation and hold hearings,” said Cobb, noting the failure of the GOP-controlled House to hold hearings on health care and the tax plan. “That has been lost in this Congress.”
She circled back to a return to good government and civility.
“What can I do on day one? I can be who I am and who I was as a county legislator, and make a commitment to work with other people — those that don’t always agree with me, and make sure I’m representing every person in this district.”
Stefanik has often criticized the use of presidential executive orders, which she has used to justify votes, including her 2015 vote to repeal the Clean Power Plan, then-President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
But Cobb believes doing so is a crutch to avoid making hard decisions.
“She should have put together legislation, and while she was in the majority, she should have passed that legislation,” Cobb said. “But they didn’t do it.”
‘SHE’S BEHIND ME’
Just eight weeks before voters head to the polls, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has offered limited “strategic guidance and advice” to Cobb, but has not pledged financial support.
Cobb appears unperturbed.
“The DCCC does not vote here. Would I like more money? Sure. But I have run this race with the people in this district,” she said. “And I knew going into the primary that I needed to run a lean campaign because we’re a modest district, and we did.”
Cobb carved out a 56 percent blowout in the five-way Democratic primary.
But since then, the road has been rocky.
The candidate is emerging from a turbulent summer largely dominated by media coverage of a secret video shot by a Republican operative that captured the candidate telling teenage supporters while she is in favor of an assault weapons ban, she cannot say so at the risk of alienating voters.
In the aftermath, Cobb’s campaign manager departed and the candidate has held few press events (and has issued no formal policy statements) as the GOP pummels her daily on transparency and her record as a two-term St. Lawrence County lawmaker — including a radio ad released by the Stefanik campaign on Monday that proclaimed Cobb and “her big money liberal allies are desperate – lobbing false attacks on Elise Stefanik.”
The ad is on heavy rotation in every media market.
Cobb said Stefanik going on the offensive means she’s actually on the defense.
“When you’re in the lead and people are stabbing you in the back, it means that they’re behind you, so I welcome every stab. It means she’s behind me, and that is a weakness on her end,” Cobb said.