Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 24, 2014

Ex-Bush Aide Elise Stefanik Will Challenge Bill Owens #NY21

Former Bush administration aide Elise Stefanik will announce her bid to challenge Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., on Tuesday, kicking off her quest for one of the GOP’s most elusive House seats in the Empire State.

Stefanik, who ran debate preparations for Rep. Paul D. Ryan during the 2012 campaign, recently returned to upstate New York to work on her family’s plywood business. She introduced her candidacy via an online video shared with CQ Roll Call.

“Growing up in a small business family, I learned the values of hard work and humility,” Stefanik, 29, says in the spot. “I’ve seen firsthand how insiders in Washington have forgotten to fight for average small businesses like ours on Main Street. I want to change that. ”

On paper, the 21st District should be competitive. Last year, Owens won re-election by 2 points by defeating Matt Doheny. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama won the district with just 52 percent, and Republicans argue Owens will be more vulnerable without the robust Democratic turnout that comes with a presidential election in the Empire State.

But the district has proved problematic for the GOP in the past. In 2009, the party lost a bruising special election there when the conservative party’s candidate posed a serious challenge to the Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava. Days before the special election, Scozzafava dropped out and endorsed Owens, who won the seat.

This cycle, there’s at least one other Republican in the race so far aside from Stefanik. Joe Gilbert, the St. Lawrence County Emergency Services director and founder of a local tea party organization, told a local newspaper on Sunday that he’s running.

Stefanik’s candidacy comes as the GOP struggles to appeal to young, female voters across the country. The party has renewed its push to recruit female candidates for 2014 and beyond. Stefanik confirmed she met with the National Republican Congressional Committee in December.

“I hope to be part of the new generation of people stepping up to the plate,” she said in a phone interview last week. “I also think we  need more women, in the Republican Party and in Congress in general.”

While working in the White House, Stefanik served in the domestic policy and chief of staff’s offices during President George W. Bush’s second term. Several of her former Bush colleagues are helping with her candidacy, including former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan.

“Elise would have an immediate impact in the House for the people of New York’s 21st District,” Gillespie wrote in a statement emailed to CQ Roll Call. “Her deep roots in the district combined with her understanding of policy would make her an extremely effective voice in Congress. It’s also good for the country and the congress to have the perspective of a new generation represented.”

The expansive, mostly rural district includes four media markets. Stefanik estimated she will have to raise a minimum of $2 million for the race.

Stefanik has hired IMGE, a digital firm run by Phil Musser and Alex Skatell, for new media and strategy.

  • Fip1

    And I hope she wins. Owens goes along to get along.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.sweeney.108 Jon Sweeney

    Owens is toast and this year there are no lying turn coats like Scozzafava to help the Obama bootlicker out.

    • Devin McMusters

      DeDe was a dummycrat plant from the beginning. A stolen election.

    • http://Yahoo.com/ terry kemp

      The Republican party stuck their noses were it didn’t belong is the reason Scozzafava lost the race! she vote for what the people wanted and didn’t toe to the political line.

  • Deb Mavrick

    “Bush aide”? Good luck with that….

  • HolyFreakingCrap

    Who will benefit more if we elect her, the people in the 21st or her family’s plywood business?

    • Guest

      When businesses make more money they can hire more people. A rising tide lifts all boats

      • HolyFreakingCrap

        Yeah right. Its not a reason you become a congressman.

    • Michael Bergsma

      The people. Your comment is nasty and stupid.

      • Guest

        Fck you, you are stupid.

      • HolyFreakingCrap

        You are stupid if you think congressman dont look out for themselves more then the people they represent.

  • Devin McMusters

    She sounds like an intelligent, energetic young lady who can help us remove some of the BO in Washington.

  • http://Yahoo.com/ terry kemp

    Girl you got my vote,In case you people forgot, Owens voted with Pelosi on the health care vote. Remember ,pass the bill first, before you know whats in it.

  • Surly Jake

    Ex-Bush aide? Might want to use your flashy new media and strategy firm to keep that title out of the headlines. Probably means she’s a neo-con, but she’ll likely be my new Congresswoman unless the R’s royally screw it up for themselves again.

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