Malone Telegram - PROUD TO BE CALLED A PROGRESSIVE: CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE PATRICK NELSON SAYS AUTHENTICITY IS KEY TO ELECTORAL SUCCESS
MALONE — Patrick Nelson is a proud progressive — and he wants everyone in the 21st Congressional District to know that.
“People are sick and tired of double-talking politicians,” said Nelson, one of seven Democrats seeking that party’s nomination for the opportunity to take on incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik in the November election.
Nelson said he is not concerned that proclaiming his progressive values will put him at an electoral disadvantage in a congressional district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by roughly 50,000 voters. Republicans and Democrats alike share many concerns, he said — an economy that seems to have left many people behind, the spiraling cost of health care, crumbling infrastructure and the proliferation of gun violence — adding that he believes he can make the case that progressive solutions to these problems can woo voters from all points on the political spectrum.
Voters across the congressional district, which covers most of the north country, and across the nation are looking for a change in the way the nation’s business is conducted, Nelson said in an interview with the Telegram Tuesday afternoon. Too many people believe corporations and the rich have outsized influence on the decisions Congress makes and they want to see dramatic changes in the way they are governed — and the way those who are chosen to govern are elected, he said.
That sentiment was a large factor in the election of Donald Trump, but Trump has failed to bring about the change people were seeking, Nelson said.
Nelson said putting his positions on the issues — from backing a single-payer health care system to calling for a shift in drug policy from enforcement to treatment — in front of the voters will draw support even from those who may not disagree with all his stances, but will be attracted to his willingness to state his beliefs — and stand by them. Recent attempts by the Democrats to appeal to voters on the right by adopting moderate positions have not worked, he said.
“Moderate Democrats just lose,” said Nelson, who interned in the 2014 congressional campaign of Aaron Woolf and worked for Mike Derrick’s 2016 effort. “The solution is emphasizing our values.”
Among those values is a call for Medicare-like universal health care, which he called a right. The current health care system has left between 35,000 and 50,000 residents of the 21st District without health insurance, with many more underinsured or reluctant to use the insurance they have because of unaffordable deductibles and co-pays, he said.
Changes in health care also need to go beyond physical health to include mental health care as well, he added.
Nelson, who was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, also backs the Vermont senator’s call for free college for all. Creating a more-educated workforce would pay for itself as it would stimulate existing businesses to move forward into new fields and create new jobs and would attract investment from overseas drawn by the quality of the workforce, he said.
The change would be “an investment in the intellectual infrastructure of the United States of America,” he said.
The elimination of student loan debt, which he called “a back door tax on ambition,” would also boost the economy by allowing those struggling to pay for their educations to use that money to buy goods and services, he said.
Nelson also called for a re-institution of net neutrality, more emphasis on addressing climate change — which he called an “existential crisis” — and enacting restrictions on firearms by adopting what he called “consent agenda” items that the vast majority of Americans agree on, including improved and expanded background checks and a prohibition on bump stocks.
“Why can’t we get this done?” he asked rhetorically.
Nelson acknowledged that he is not an expert on all the issues he would face if elected to the House of Representatives, but said he would rely on input from those who are. He also said his strength is his ability to see the “connections and correlations” between issues that are too often put into silos, with efforts being made to address each as if it did not affect others. As an example, he cited health care, which impacts a broad range of issues, from employment and the overall economy to education.
“There is no isolated area,” he said.