STILLWATER, N.Y. >> He’s a tall, 28-year old red-head whose passion for public service is as fiery as his unkempt locks.

Patrick Nelson is the only other male left in the field of Democratic candidates who are vying for a chance to defeat incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik. His opponents are Tedra Cobb of Canton, Katie Wilson and Emily Martz, both from Keene, and Dylan Ratigan from Lake Placid.

When voters go to the polls on June 26 to decide which of the five candidates represents the voters’ values and also has the best chance to defeat Stefanik, it remains to be seen whether a white male under the age of 30, who was also a campaign worker in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, will be able to edge out the savvy finance and political journalist turned reformer or the three women who have the wind of the “#MeToo” movement at their backs.

If Nelson fails to win the day on June 26, it won’t be for lack of effort or inability to articulate his positions and priorities in a commanding, well-informed fashion and an authentic passion to back up his words.

Nelson said that he was the first of the candidates to ardently support universal healthcare. “This is the most important issues in the 2018 election season,” he said. He added that the DCCC has miscalculated its assessments of what voters – not just Democrats, but also independents and republicans – want. “The people are waiting for the party to catch up.”

Nelson is a “local boy.” He grew up and attended public school in Stillwater and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics from RPI. He boasts that he is the only candidate in the crowded field who can lay legitimate claim to a deeper understanding of ecological systems, the negative environmental impact on those systems and the science behind developing ways to reverse those effects in positive and substantive ways.

Nelson’s views on the most important issues in the midterm elections are unabashedly progressive and, at the recent candidate forum held at Maple Avenue Middle School, he made no bones about his disdain for declared “pragmatism” on the part of opposing candidate, Katie Wilson, from Keene,.

With the exception of opponent Tedra Cobb, who has eight years of experience in politics as a St. Lawrence legislator, Nelson claims that he has the most experience in public service and political campaigns. He has worked as both a volunteer and a paid staffer in the campaigns of Sanders and he was elected to be a delegate at the 2016 Democratic convention. He went on to work for Col. Mike Derrick, who ran for the 21st District seat in 2016. He also spent time in the state legislature, working as Special Projects Coordinator for Assemblyman Phil Steck of Colonie. He has run for local office in the town of Stillwater, earning 42 percent of the votes and coming closer to winning than any other Democratic candidate in the predominantly Republican community in the past 10 years.

But make no mistake. Nelson’s “boots on the ground” expertise has neither lessened his passionate resolve nor made him cynical or jaded. He firmly believes he and others like him can make a difference in the lives of their constituents if given the chance.

He has steadfastly refused to accept donations from any PACs and he is fighting for publicly funded elections. He also believes that electoral reform should include “ranked-choice voting,” which Maine instituted in its recent primary elections. Ranked choice allows voters to pick their first, second and third choices, which will eliminate candidates winning office with less than fifty percent of the vote. He also wants to expand Social Security by lifting the cap on contributions, which prevents high income earners from paying fully into the program.

In the area of healthcare, he is firmly in favor of protecting a woman’s constitutional choice to make her own healthcare decisions, which includes choosing a provider. He wants to create a full-service VA hospital in the North Country to better serve the many veterans who live in the 21st District. And he wants to fight to reduce the high costs of medical care and drugs.

When asked what he considers his biggest disadvantage, he said that it is his age. People think he is too young and inexperienced. He countered this argument by pointing out his densely packed political experience, adding that young people have the greatest stake in the decisions that are happening daily. “We are virtually unrepresented, and the representation that we do have,” he adds, referring to Stefanik, “isn’t doing anything to help on issues like student debt.”

Ironically, looking over the see of faces in the audience, most of those in attendance had grey hair.

While Nelson’s performance at the Maple Avenue School forum was rousing and evoked the most applause, despite the admonition from the League of Women Voters to refrain from applause until the debate was finished, the most significant moment in his performance was the response he made when asked if he would support whichever candidate won the primary.

“I have been running against Elise Stefanik for the past four years, and I will tell you that, if I do not become the Democratic candidate, I will full-throatedly support whichever of these candidates wins on June 26.”

Patrick Nelson