The Times Union - TWO YEARS OUT, DEMOCRAT EYES NY-21 SEAT
It's roughly 640 days until Election Day 2018.
But Patrick Nelson, who is already moving to get himself on the ballot in the 21st Congressional District, has his focus on the next three months.
"I think that the conversation will be defined largely by what we see in the first 100, 200 days of the new (White House) administration," the 27-year-old Stillwater Democrat told the Times Union. "I want to be a part of that conversation. We want to comment on major legislation in real time as it's happening to give the voters as best we can an appearance of what they would get if they select me to represent them in Congress."
Nelson, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate and staffer for Democratic Assemblyman Phil Steck of Colonie, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to form a campaign committee six days before Republican President Donald Trump's inauguration. The day before the Republican took the oath of office, Nelson made his official announcement in a YouTube video, which he has followed up with policy-rich segments.
Like Steck, Nelson was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He speaks passionately on the subject of climate change, which serves as a sort of hub for his other policy views.
"We have to fight climate change the same way the Greatest Generation fought the Nazis," Nelson said.
He proposes ending federal subsidies for fossil fuels in order to inject the savings into other parts of the budget. He wants more of a focus on solar energy generation and microgrids — an opportunity to not only build up resiliency against violent storms, but also a chance to bring manufacturing and research jobs to the North Country.
More broadly, Nelson wants to improve infrastructure that would allow the region's agricultural sector to ship its goods more efficiently as it experiences an unintended benefit of climate change: a mildly longer growing season.
Nelson, a 2015 candidate for Stillwater Town Board who has never held elected office, faces a long road ahead — geographically and figuratively — in challenging Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who has begun her second term representing a district that runs from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain and from the Canadian border to Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.
Campaign spending during the 2015-16 cycle neared $3.9 million. Donors did not seem as receptive to pouring money into the campaign of Democrat Mike Derrick as they were about giving to Stefanik, who outraised the Democrat by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
Nelson isn't due to file his first financial statement with the FEC until April.
Then there's the question of Stefanik's political prowess. A young gun on the rise in the House GOP, Stefanik outperformed Trump in her district in November, and trounced Derrick by 34 percent.
(It's likely that Nelson will also have to contend with the Green Party's Matt Funiciello)
And while some congressional Republicans have fallen in line with Trump early on — leaving Democrats licking their chops — Stefanik has taken a slightly different path. She voiced early and forceful opposition to Trump's controversial executive order on immigration and has urged a delicate multi-year process for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
Still, Nelson said he wouldn't jump into the race if he didn't feel like he had a base of support.
Asked if he thought a Sanders-style Democrat plays in the 21st district, Nelson pointed to former President Barack Obama's two victories in the 21st District, and the success of former Rep. Bill Owens, a Plattsburgh Democrat who won the seat in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
"What I learned from Bernie Sanders above all," Nelson said, "is that if you tell the truth and you stand up and fight for working families, people will support you."