Stefanik raises record $1.1 million

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Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 1:33 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik rolls on.

Stefanik’s campaign announced she raised $1.1 million between January and March, setting a record for money raised during the first three months of an off-year (a year in which there is no race for congress) in northern New York.

“Energy and momentum are on our side as we continue to build off the historic success of 2020,” Stefanik said in a statement.

The $1.1 million, added to what she already had, leaves Stefanik with $2.5 million in the bank.

It was the sixth consecutive three month period in which Stefanik raised in excess of a million dollars, the web site Politico noted.

Equally important: how she got the money. Traditionally, Republicans have been thought of as the party most likely to collect big donations from corporations and other monied interests.

In this case, Stefanik’s average contribution was only $25 - but she collected it from thousands of donors, with 30,000 donors overall, 10,000 of them new.

Stefanik has always been a strong fund-raiser, but has moved into a whole new league at the same time she has tacked to the right, becoming one of former President Trump’s most ardent and public defenders, and a frequent guest on right-wing media like NewsMax TV and Fox News Channel.

“There’s a new kind of donor, newly mobilized into politics and it’s the Trump supporter,” said Alexander Cohen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clarkson University.

“It’s small ball individually, but boy, it adds up.”

The money couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as Stefanik contemplates running for governor next year.

She regularly assails Governor Cuomo as “the worst governor in America,” and it’s no secret she has some - no one’s sure how much - interest in the job.

The campaign is getting ready, just in case: a senior aide to Stefanik said in a statement Stefanik “would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election,” should she choose to run.

And members of the Stefanik camp have reached out to some Republican officials to make sure there are no quick endorsements of Republican congressman Lee Zeldin, who announced last week he’s running for governor.

Still, running for governor as a Republican in New York state is an almost impossible task . Democrats hold a two to one advantage over Republicans when it comes to voters, and Governor Cuomo - though weakened by scandal - has millions of dollars of his own to spend on a campaign, should he run for a fourth term.

One theory about Stefanik and the governor’s race: next year, the state legislature will go through the once a decade exercise in redrawing the boundaries for every congressional district in the state. Democrats could choose to break up the north country district Stefanik represents, to make it harder to hold onto her seat in congress.

So running for governor becomes a threat, a “if you mess with my district, I’ll be forced to run for governor and make your lives miserable.”

Cohen says there are advantages to running, even if she loses.

“Think of Stacey Abrams. Stacey Abrams lost in Georgia; now she’s a key player in the national Democratic party,” he said.

“I think the story line of nearly beating Cuomo - or if he resigns, nearly beating someone who replaces him, there’s a million ways to spin it - victory is not the only way she wins.”

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