Newest Stefanik challenger: I’m a conservative Democrat

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 3:53 PM EDT|Updated: 23 hours ago
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The latest Democrat to seek the north country’s seat in congress describes herself as a ‘conservative Democrat.’

Brigid “Bridie” Farrell announced Wednesday she’ll challenge four term incumbent Elise Stefanik to represent NY-21, the congressional district which takes in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, along with nine other north country counties.

Farrell is from the Saratoga Springs area, and now lives in Warren County.

When Farrell announced her candidacy Wednesday, Stefanik’s re-election campaign immediately branded her a “far-left socialist.”

In an interview with 7 News Thursday, Farrell described herself differently.

“I’m a conservative Democrat. Look, my name is Bridie Farrell, I’m a Catholic, Irish girl from the north country,” she said.

On the issues, Farrell said she supports abortion rights - “It’s a private decision. It’s a hard decision. But it’s one that should be left, I think, for the families.”

On banning assault weapons, she said, “We should bring people in and have the conversation. Do I think we should have automatic assault weapons and have people walking around shooting? No one does. No one does. But, I’m north country. We fish, we hunt, right? I’m not gonna go take people’s guns away.”

Farrell stressed both education and health care as issues important to the north country.

“I went to both vocational school and public school in the district. She (Stefanik) was sent to Washington to fight to make our schools better. She hasn’t, and I will,” Farrell said.

As a former Olympic hopeful (she’s a speedskater), Farrell had repeated surgeries.

“I know how hard it is to navigate the health care system, how tricky it is, how one can have insurance but still not be able to afford care. We need to work on premiums and deductibles,” she told 7 News.

In 2020, she filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and others, alleging that when she was a teen, she was sexually abused by a male speedskating star more than twice her age.

Since first going public with her story nearly a decade ago, Farrell has become an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, and was one of the people who lobbied for a change in New York’s law which allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits over abuse which took place years - or decades - earlier.

“I did not want any little girl, or little boy, to go through what I did,” she said. “It is about holding these institutions accountable that were able to turn a blind eye to systematic problems.”

Farrell faces a formidable opponent in Stefanik: Stefanik raised more than a million dollars for her re-election in the last three months and will have millions to spend to keep the seat; she routinely beats Democrats by large-to-laughably large margins; she’s running in a district where Republicans hold a huge advantage in voter registration; she’s an ally of former President Trump and a rising star in national Republican politics; she’s now the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives.

She is not an easy target.

Farrell didn’t seem to much care Thursday.

“Enough of this. We sent her to Washington to work for us. She hasn’t.

“She might intimidate people, but she doesn’t have a hold on this place, and she’s never run against me.”

(The other two Democrats running against Stefanik are Matthew Putorti, a lawyer from Whitehall, New York, and Wilton resident Ezra Watson.)

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