Telling a story of military service and personal challenges overcome, Kyle Van De Water of Millbrook, Dutchess County, this evening won support of Otsego and Schoharie counties’  GOP executive committees to challenge Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19th, in the November elections. At left is Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, who is unchallenged for the Republican nomination in the 102nd District.  At right is Jan Bartow, Town of Middlefield committeeman; foreground is Steve Curry, City of Oneonta committeeman. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Ola Hawatmeh, founder of OLASTYLE in St. Louis who returned home to Poughkeepsie to run for Congress, said she plans to stay the course through a primary.

WORCESTER – Kyle Van De Water, a lawyer, Army veteran and father of three triplets – his daughter, challenged since her days in the womb, has undergone 30 operations in her 10 years – received the unanimous backing of the Otsego and Schoharie county Republican committees’ executive committees here this evening to challenge freshman Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, in this fall’s election.

The straw poll, while expressing the executive committees’ consensus, must still be affirmed by a meeting of the two full county committees.

Meeting at Worcester’s White House Inn, executive committee members heard from both Van De Water and the other Republican contender, Ola Hawatmeh, a Poughkeepsie native and successful fashion entrepreneur in St. Louis, Mo.

Peter Oberacker, Schenevus, who is running to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, in the 51st District, and Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, who is running again in the 102nd (it includes Cherry Valley,  Roseboom, Decatur and Worcester in Otsego), also addressed the gathering.

One thing was clear:  If there is a June 23 Republican primary, whoever wins it will be a strong conservative.  Both Van De Water and Hawatmeh expressed dedication to President Trump – Hawtameh said Stephen Moore, a Trump adviser in the early days of the administration, has signed on as one of her advisers.

Among other affinities, both were adamantly in favor of a the president’s wall across the southern border to stem the inflow of illegal immigrants there.

West Oneonta Committeeman Don Cannistra, foreground, left, confers with Oneonta City Council member Len Carson while, in the background, Kyle Van De Water introduces himself to delegates from Laurens.

Raised in the Poughkeepsie area, Van De Water, who turned 40 last month, traced his military career from ROTC at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to deployment in Afghanistan, with one notable hiatus.

While stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. – “Fort Lost in the Woods,” as recruits called it – his wife Melissa, who was with him, became pregnant – with triplets, it turned out.  (In addition to the triplets, 10, the couple also has a 5-year-old boy.)

“When you have triplets, you have to have a sonogram every three weeks,” he told the gathering.  Undecided on the issue, during this experience “I became Pro-Life instead of Pro-Choice.”  He took a leave from his assignment, and the triplets were delivered at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie while he was working at West Point.

He later served in Afghanistan.  In response to a question, he said that, on departing for home in 2011, “I wasn’t sure why we were there.”  His conclusion was, “It’s time for us to come home,” although  he favors keep limited Special Forces in Iraq to prevent ISIS’ resurgence.

He also expressed worries that if the U.S. Supreme Court finds Obamacare unconstitutional, the default will be “Medicare for All.”  With Medicare already paying just 75 percent of hospitals’ costs, “the system will collapse.”

Asked about his three key issues for Otsego County, he said: providing beds and counseling to stem the opioid crisis, to “keep farms going and growing” –  NAFTA’s successor USMCA, in requiring Canada to accept U.S. dairy products, will help that happen – and reducing taxes to help keep “people and businesses here.”

Ola Hawatmeh chats with Schoharie executive committee members Denise Lloyd from Middleburgh, center, and Elizabeth Farr from Schoharie.

Ola Hawatmeh – daughter of immigrants from the Middle East, she described herself as the Republican answer to Congressman Ilhan Omar, the fiery Progressive – also had a compelling personal story.

In an “arranged marriage,” she spent 17 years with an abusive husband, before breaking free and establishing a successful fashion house, OLASTYLE, in St. Louis, Mo.  Since, while raising three boys, one now in the Coast Guard, she twice survived cancer.

Since, “I used my fashion platform to save lives,” she said, founding Survivor Fashion Week, where cancer survivors modeled her designs that were tailored for their needs.

As did Van De Water, she took a hard right line on issues.  Asked about immigration, she replied, “My parents came here the legal way.  I don’t want anyone taking advantage of my parents – and taking advantage of me.”

Asked about the three key issues for Otsego County, she said fighting opioids, “corruption” and lowering taxes.

Peter Oberacker, the Otsego County representative from Schenevus, said he will model his approach after retiring state Sen. Jim Seward.

In his remarks, Oberacker said “you don’t replace Jim Seward’s 34 years of continuity” – the veteran senator from Milford is retiring.  In his line of work – president of FormTech, Oberacker develops products for national food companies – “you find something successful and copy it.”  In this case, “34 years of excellence.”

He quoted Ronald Reagan:  “There is no right.  There is no left.  There is only up or down,” and noted that Seward’s tenure in the 51st “is an example of what can be done if you use common sense,” contrasting that with bail reform and other excesses of the downstate Democratic majority in Albany.

In his remarks, Tague spoke to the need to turn at least one house Republican. Today in Albany, he said, he heard a Democratic proposal to outlaw rodeos in New York State, and another to tax owners of empty storefronts.  “If there was ever a time we (Republicans) have to get together, it’s now.”

Tague asks, Will candidates force a primary, or not?

He also asked a pointed question of each Congressional candidate:  If county committees endorse one of the candidates unanimously, will the other forego a primary?

Hawatmeh said no.  She has already invested $100,000 of  her own money, and plans to invest another $100,000.  She will force a primary if necessary.  (In Otsego County, she said, her supporters include Tony German of Oneonta, the former state adjutant general who dropped out of the race a few weeks ago.)

Asked the same question, Van De Water said he wouldn’t force a primary.  “We need to raise $4 million, $5 million and more (to combat Delgado), and we have to start right away.”


  1. Santos M Lopez

    When I spoke to Ola she did not move back from St. Louis to run for Congress she move back to district 19 because of domestic violence her ex. She decided to run for Congress because she was wanted to help NY and make district 19 the example the US can follow and lead by example.

  2. George Schambach

    Congratulations. on your primary win
    I look foward to working with you. Thank you for what you sre doing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Prove you're not a robot: *