2018 RACE ALREADY JOINED
Divert Anger At Faso
Grass-Roots Organizations Form,
Collaborate Around 19th District
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.COM
With the 2016 campaign just over, the 2018 campaign in Otsego County’s 19th Congressional District is already starting.
Multiple grass-roots groups in Otsego County that have sprung up since Donald Trump’s election as president Nov. 8 are planning to rally with perhaps “several thousand” of like-minded people at Congressman John Faso’s Kinderhook office this weekend.
Shortterm, the goal is to convince the 19th District congressman to, one, host “town hall meetings” in each of the counties in the district, and, two, to work to assure central guarantees in the Affordable Care Act.
“I do feel strongly: We need to find some way to work with Faso, because he can do a lot of damage in these two years,” said Pam Kline of Indivisible CD19 NY, which is reaching across the 19th District to bring activists to Kinderhook.
“But if he continues to ignore us and vote along party lines, I don’t think he will be congressman for long,” she said.
Although Faso has only been in office six weeks, Steve Brisee, who works in the IT field in the Hudson Valley, has set up a website and Facebook page announcing his intention to challenge the congressman in 2018.
Kline said her neighbor in the Town of Livingston, Will Yandik, who ran against Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic Congressional primary last year, has been asked to try again. And Teachout, who lost to Faso Nov. 8, has told supporters she will decide by June on another run.
Kline also reported meeting with Faso, where she asked him to schedule a town hall meeting. While he has declined to do so, his spokesman, Courtney Weaver, said he is planning a “telephone town hall for hundreds of residents who have already signed up through his web page.”
Faso has also met “with dozens of constituents in our district office who have successfully advocated their positions, met with healthcare and insurance industry leaders in the district and throughout the state to ensure that New Yorkers are protected and insured, spoken at public policy forums, and participated in live call-in programs on both radio and television,” Weaver said.
This weekend’s rally could be the largest single manifestation of grass-roots political opposition since Trump’s election – although, together, the women’s marches and rallies in Oneonta, Cooperstown and around the 19th Saturday, Jan. 21, in sympathy with the Women’s March on Washington would certainly surpass it.
But smaller actions began almost immediately, with the formation of Positive Action Cherry Valley by Kathleen Taylor within days of the election, and Melinda Hardin of Cooperstown’s 80-person gathering of dismayed voters Nov. 19 in the First Presbyterian Church.
The released energy was evident in the 75 people who attended a Sustainable Otsego (S-O) meeting last Thursday, Feb. 16, at Brewery Ommegang, hosted by the brewery’s creative director, Larry Bennett, and S-O Moderator Adrian Kuzminski. Attending were Jeannine Webster of Positive Action Cooperstown and Elayne Mosher Campoli of Oneonta’s Women’s March Movement.
S-O isn’t interested in preempting any of the other efforts, Kuzminski emphasized, but is simply offerings its communications “infrastructure” – its sizeable Listserve of e-mails, in particular, and its Facebook page – to help connect the various groups.
Issues raised include immigrants rights (Webster), challenges to public schools (Kim Jastremski, Cooperstown), climate change (Lou Allstadt, Hardin’s spouse) and political reform (Jim Herman, Hartwick).
Antoinette Kuzminski, Adrian’s spouse and a recently retired Bassett physician, announced two upcoming meetings to raise the local level of understanding about healthcare reform.
Thursday, March 2, former Bassett President/CEO Bill Streck will discuss impacts of proposed changes; Thursday, March 9, Dr. Chris Kjolhede, who manages Bassett’s in-school clinic, will moderate a discussion about advocacy possibilities. Both are 7-9 p.m. at Templeton Hall.
While recognizing the range of activity, Vince Casale, Otsego County Republican chairman, said it is, as yet, unfocused. “My first question is, what do they want?” Lacking that, events like this weekend’s rally are “demonstrations for the sake of demonstrations.”
Casale said Faso “is never avoiding his constituents: He wants to meet and talk with them.” But, “if there are concerns out there, those concerns need to be brought to a forum that’s conducive to a good dialogue, an exchange of ideas that’s fair – and even safe – for everyone who’s there.”
“What about other voices that want to talk about other issues?” Casale continued. “Discussions with constituents should be for everyone, not just a small group of people seeking to hijack the conversation.”
Stormy town hall meetings were expected across the country this week, a congressional recess. According to reports, Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, when asked to schedule town hall meetings, arranges smaller, more intimate conversations.
Meanwhile, Kline said, “Our ‘Indivisible’ group has joined with other groups, such as Our Revolution” – inspired by Bernie Sanders’ campaign – “Move Forward New York and Swing Left. There’s a whole group of resistance groups, for lack of a better word, that we’re joining together with.”
Swing Left, she said, has identified congressional districts across the country where Republicans were elected by less than 15 percentile points, and thus vulnerable to challenges in 2018. Faso bested Democratic Teachout by 8.6 points Nov. 8, and thus falls into the category.
U.S Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-Utica, whose district includes a northwest section of Otsego County, is also in a swing district, having won by just 5 percentage points, Swing Left reports.