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© Copyright 2014 The Chronicle, Glens Falls, New York • Published Feb.

13, 2014

By Gordon Woodworth
Chronicle News Editor “I’m a big-tent conservative candidate,” Elise Stefanik, 29-year-old Harvard graduate and Republican 21st District Congressional hopeful, tells The Chronicle. “...I am part of a new generation of conservatives who believe in small government, a balanced budget and curbing regulations that hurt small businesses.” Even before Ms. Stefanik won the endorsement last Friday of the Republican chairs of the 12 counties included in the vast district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began attacking her. “Congressman Paul Ryan and the Tea Party machine are already rushing to get behind political operative Elise Stefanik’s candidacy,” said a DCCC release. Asked about it, Ms. Stefanik said, “I’m not surprised that the DCCC has painted me as a Tea Party candidate.” She said that Tea Party “issues do deserve to be discussed, but not at the expense of effective government.” Ms. Stefanik launched her bid even before Democrat Bill Owens announced he won’t seek re–election to the seat.

Chronicle photo/Gordon Woodworth

Who is Elise Stefanik?

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ness that is focused on local customers and providing positive customer service.” Ms. Stefanik said she works in the business — in “sales, marketing and management.” “We have under 15 employees, so we are a true small family business,” she said. “Like many small family businesses, I do whatever it takes to help our business. “I spend a lot of time visiting customers in the North Country, which is my region that I handle in sales. But sometimes I also do deliveries, when they don’t fit on the larger trucks, we also have a smaller pickup truck for odds and ends.” Ms. Stefanik said, “Business is good, but we work very hard, and we do a lot with less. Most of our competitors have more employees. We handle about 80% of the market share in upstate New York, but it’s not on auto-pilot. We are one of the few companies out there that still goes out and does sales calls on its customers.” Ms. Stefanik has a dual ethnic heritage. “My dad’s side is Polish, but I look like my mom’s side and my mom is Italian. So I’ll give you our menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner. For Christmas Eve we have pierogies from my dad’s side of the family, and Christmas dinner we do homemade raviolis that my mom has taught me to make since I was a kid.”

Hot buttons: Stefanik on Obamacare, guns, gay marriage, abortion, immigration reform
The Chronicle asked Congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik her views on several of the highest profile issues. On guns and gun rights, she said, “One of my key issue areas is I believe we deserve a representative who is an advocate for our Second Amendment rights. I am a card-carrying member of the NRA, I am a gun owner myself, I enjoy shooting, and I think the SAFE Act, while it is a state issue, is an example of trampling of our constitutional rights.” She said she favors repealing and replacing Obamacare. She said, “I think it’s very important that instead of just being opposed to ideas, we put together our own solutions...One of the ideas I have is allowing healthcare to be purchased across state lines. I think that will lower the costs. Individuals should be given the same tax incentives that small businesses have to write-off their healthcare costs. “We need to pursue tort reform to help drive down the costs that are increasing as a result of defensive medicine that doctors are pursuing. “Additionally, we should allow small businesses to pool together to help lower the costs, especially if they are high-risk type businesses. And I think we can pursue some technological health IT advancements to make sure that individuals have control over their personal health information and are able to shop from doctor to doctor.” On gay marriage? “I think gay marriage is a states issue,” she said. “I think it should be left to the states, and it is legal in New York State. At the federal level, I’m focused on economic issues and issues that will help this country get working again.” Do you support gay marriage?, we persisted. “I think it should be left up to the states,” she repeated. “I think it should be voted on by local communities. “I think the issues that come up at the federal level, the employee non-discrimination act, I would support that. That’s an example of a federal bill where I may differ with the Republican Party and with conservatives.” On abortion? Ms. Stefanik said, “I am pro-life, with three exceptions — rape, incest and life of the mother. “I don’t think taxpayer dollars should be used to fund abortions and although I do respect and understand that this is a heartfelt issue, particularly for women, that is my belief.” On the pending Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, Ms. Stefanik said, “I think Keystone pipeline is a no-brainer. It’s a job creator.” Is she not concerned about environmental risks? “I don’t think there are environmental risks related to the Keystone pipeline,” she replied. Immigration reform? “I think we need to first secure the borders,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I think it’s interesting in the 21st District that unfortunately all of the discussion about immigration reform has to do with the southern border. “I think we have to be very aware, and I think Congressman Owens was quite effective at this, of insuring that our member of Congress is an advocate to keep our northern border open for economic commerce, because it is so important for the region. So I look at immigration reform through a little different lens than most other Republicans across the country, just because that northern border is so key to our economy here.... “I think we are a nation of laws, and we should maintain a rule of law so that individuals who are waiting in line and pursuing citizenship in a legal way, I don’t think we should disincentivize that with citizenship for illegal immigrants. It’s clearly an important issue. We are a nation of immigrants. It’s what this country was built on, but it was built on immigrants who came here legally.”
— Gordon Woodworth

Elise Stefanik
Even with the county chiefs’ backing, she still may face a primary. Matt Doheny, who lost to Rep. Owens in 2012, is reportedly mulling a third run for the job. Also mentioned as having interest are retired U.S. army major Joseph Gilbert, from St. Lawrence County, and Jamie Waller, a former Marine from Hamilton County. No Democratic favorite has yet emerged. The district spans northern New York, from the Canadian border south to the Glens Falls region, from Plattsburgh west to Watertown. All of Warren and Washington Counties and northern Saratoga County are included. The Chronicle caught up with Ms. Stefanik by phone in her car Monday. She said she was traveling from Willsboro to Gloversville to meet with local officials and tour the Glove Theater. “Last week was an exciting week but now all of the Lincoln Day dinners are happening and now that all of the counties have endorsed me, they are setting up day-long meet-and-greets with various people, at the fire departments and county offices,” she said.

Harvard grad, 29, vies for Congress; Republican county chiefs endorse her

White House & political career
Ms. Stefanik graduated from Harvard in 2006. “I majored in government, and I graduated with honors,” she said. Then she immediately landed a job in the White House during President Bush’s second term in office. “I graduated on a Thursday, and was down there on a Monday,” she said. “This is actually a story of luck and being in the right place at the right time, and also being from upstate New York,” she said. “I was originally hired as a staff assistant, which is an entry-level position. “On my first day, there was a new head of domestic policy, who had just been announced, and he was interviewing for the West Wing position to assist him overseeing all of the memos, all of the policy development for domestic policy issues. “And the advice that he had gotten was you can’t hire someone straight out of college. It has to be someone who has worked in the White House. “It was unheard of at the time to start right in the West Wing right out of college. I was his last interview of the day, and it was supposed to be a get-to-know you session.
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Commends Bill Owens for constituent efforts; disagrees on policy
How does Republican congressional candidate Elise Stefanik regard current Democratic Congressman Bill Owens? “I think I’m the only Republican who has put out a positive statement about Congressman Owens commending his service,” she said. “I think that regardless of what side of the aisle you are on, Congresssman Owens did an effective job at working with constituents. He had a very strong constituent services program. I think his telephone town halls, in a district so large, was an effective way to continue hearing directly from voters. “I disagree with him on policy areas, for example, Obamacare, which I think is one of the most important issues this election cycle... “But I do think Congressman Owens wanted to get things done in Washington, and I think he was frustrated with the bickering and the partisanship.”
— Gordon Woodworth

Personal & business background
Ms. Stefanik became a resident of Willsboro in rural Essex County in 2012. Her family home is Feura Bush, Albany County. “My family has had a house in Willsboro since I was three years old,” she explained. “We spent a lot of our summers, we spent a lot of holiday weekends there, and we’ve used it sort of as an additional base for the business because we have a lot of customers up there....We really split our time between Willsboro and Feura Bush, which is outside of Delmar in Albany County.” Ms. Stefanik went to Albany Academy for Girls, “from elementary school up,” graduating in 2002, then going on to Harvard. She said she is the first member of her immediate family to graduate from college. Her family operates Premium Plywood Products, started 22 years ago by her father Ken and still headed by him. “He was an on-the-road salesperson, a manager of a local branch of a plywood distribution company, and he decided to go out on his own when I was seven years old,” Ms. Stefanik said. “It was a huge risk that my parents undertook. They risked every dollar they had, with two young children, to start a busivelopment process. “The way I like to describe it is, have you ever seen the TV show The West Wing? I was Donna. That was my exact role. “I managed all of the presidential memos dealing with policy issues, all of the statements were approved by our office. “We were the last step before any policy issue went to the Oval Office. We were tasked with making sure that everyone who had a stake in an issue had a seat at the table, which you can imagine, on some of more complex issues like TARP or the financial crisis, the speed was faster than typical. “Managing that process was extraordinary.” — Gordon Woodworth

Harvard classmate of Facebook’s Zuckerberg
“I have grown up in a generation where we have seen social networking completely overhaul the economy,” says Harvard graduate and Congressional candidate Elise Stefanik, 29. “I was actually in the same class as Mark Zuckerberg, so I lived Facebook from Day 1 to where it is today. We need to think outside the box in terms of how we can make government smarter and much more effective, and I think technology is a very important piece of that.” Ms. Stefanik said she knew Mr. Zuckerberg. Both were members of Harvard’s Class of 2006. “I’m not going to claim that we were good friends, but I knew him,” she said. Asked if she got in on Facebook’s initial public stock offering, she laughed and said no. “That might be my biggest mistake,” she said. “I do remember — and I’m sure I’ll be telling my future kids this one day — after my sophomore year, I was in the Science Center and was taking one of my science requirements. “I was walking in. Facebook was started my sophomore year. Mark Zuckerberg was sitting outside recruiting potential interns for the summer. “And there were three, four, maybe five people listening to him, and to this day I think to myself, ‘Gosh, I should have stopped and listened to him!’”
— Gordon Woodworth

Worked in the Bush White House; her role was ‘like Donna’ on TV show ‘The West Wing’
Elise Stefanik said she worked in the George W. Bush second-term White House “from right after graduation in 2006 until the last day. I shut off the lights.” She said she first assisted the head of domestic policy, then worked in the Chief of Staff’s office. In that job, “I worked for the deputy chief of staff of policy. We oversaw the economic and domestic policy de-

© Copyright 2014 The Chronicle, Glens Falls, New York • Published Feb. 13, 2014
Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc., P .O. Box 153, Glens Falls, NY 12801 • 518.792.1126 • chronicle@loneoak.com
And it turns out he is from Cazenovia, NY,

Elise Stefanik
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Praises Paul Ryan
In the 2012 Presidential campaign, Elise Stefanik said he “headed up Paul Ryan’s debate preparation” when the Wisconsin Congressman was Mitt Romney’s runningmate for Vice-President. So we asked, what do you think of him? “I really admire Paul Ryan,” Ms. Stefani replied. “There are certain details in his proposals that I don’t necessarily agree with, but what is most compelling about him is he was elected in his 20s, and within a very short period of time, because he had the courage to put forth actual solutions And after the White House stint, what did Ms. Stefanik do for Congressman and Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan in 2012? “I headed up Paul Ryan’s debate preparation,” she replied. “So we actually did

and we started talking about upstate New York. “And the other thing that was interesting was he is an amateur woodworker, so we talked a lot about my family’s business. I told him my story, and I got a promotion the first day. I was moved over to the West Wing. His name is Carl Zinsmeister. “That was 2006, in the middle of the second term, when the Bush administration was definitely trying to reposition themselves and bring in some fresh leadership. He was one of those additional senior staff member that they had hired. He had been a magazine editor for years. “After that year, I was moved down to the chief of staff’s office, where I worked for the deputy chief of staff of policy. We oversaw the economic and domestic policy development process.”

and proposals, he has been able to have an effect on the debate. “And on an issue like the budget, it’s basically a vacuum other than Paul Ryan in terms of solutions and how we can get this country back on track. So I give him so much credit for his courage and sticking by his convictions, and sticking his neck on the line politically to offer solutions.” Does she still keep in touch with him? “Absolutely,” said Ms. Stefanik. “Paul was one of the first people I went to as I was considering running in this race. I’m very proud that Paul has endorsed me and he’s been very encouraging.” — Gordon Woodworth a separate debate preparation style than Governor Romney did. We were definitely functioning independently. “Putting together the mock debates, but also putting together the briefing materials. One of the challenges of working for

someone like Paul is, Paul is a policy wonk. He knows the ins and outs of many issues. “I was with him full-time from the convention until the Vice Presidential debate, traveling and constantly prepping on potential debate topics.”

Morse, Herlihy give to her
Elise Stefanik reported that she raised more than $250,000 for her campaign in 2013. The Federal Election Commission report indicates that most donations came from people outside the 21st District. We asked if that concerns her. “You are only allowed to disclose donations of more than $200,” Ms. Stefanik replied. “Most of my small-dollar donations are from within the district. I have donors from every single county, and there are two in particular. “Philip Morse maxed out to me. You know who that is. Brent Herlihy, who is originally from Glens Falls, donated. So there are donors from the district.” Ms. Stefanik knew Mr. Herlihy as a fellow student at Harvard.