Teachout seeks Democratic nod for house seat

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Zephyr Teachout (photo by Alan Carey)

“I’m ready.”

Zephyr Teachout, who outpolled incumbent Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary election in all eleven counties in the 19th Congressional District, has announced her candidacy this week for the Democratic nomination for that district’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Teachout, 44, is a part-time Fordham University professor. She carried Ulster County in that 2014 primary by a wide margin over the governor, 4680 to 2018.  Ulster is the most populous county within the largely rural upstate district. Statewide, Cuomo took 63 percent of the overall primary vote.

Teachout is a relative newcomer, having moved to a rental property in Dover Plains in Dutchess County in March of last year. She became a registered voter in the district in December. She indicated that the “consensus support” of ten of eleven county Democratic county chairs at a meeting of party leaders in Hudson two weeks ago was a factor in her decision to run.

Dutchess County chair Elisa Sumner said she was “thrilled” by Teachout’s announcement. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “Teachout grew up in rural Vermont in a similar district. She understands the needs of this district.”


Shortly after her Monday afternoon announcement, a national group called Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced its support. “Zephyr Teachout is the right person to win this district for Democrats,” said unit founder Stephanie Taylor in a press release. “She’s a political outsider with a long history of fighting for working families against powerful interests.” The Working Families Party is also supporting Teachout.

Teachout, in a New York Times article, said she advised Cuomo’s office of her candidacy shortly before making the announcement. The office declined comment to a reporter. “I really believe that you can stand up to the establishment and still be gracious,” she told The Times, which in a 2014 article spoke to her “biting criticism” of Cuomo’s ethics.

Teachout said she’d fight corruption in Washington if elected.


Others in the race

John Faso, a candidate for the Republican nomination, called Teachout “another parachute candidate.” Faso, a self-declared moderate who has run frequently on the Conservative Party ticket, is a former assemblyman from Kinderhook. He’s opposed for the GOP nomination by Millbrook businessman Andrew Heaney, who moved into the district two years ago.

Apparently anticipating the “carpetbagger” label, Teachout, in a telephone interview, said that reports from the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee that she kept an apartment in Brooklyn were not true. “I live in Dover and we plan to buy a home here,” she said.

The committee also called her “tax-happy.” She calls herself a progressive. Teachout, a Vermont native, said she teaches law classes at Fordham two nights a week and commutes to the city.

Ulster County comptroller Elliott Auerbach, who said he spoke to Teachout over the weekend before she declared her intentions, announced on Monday he was throwing his support to Teachout. County executive Mike Hein, after being endorsed by district committee chairs in December, had earlier also declined to run. Former congressional candidate Julian Schreibman of Stone Ridge and newcomer Will Yanik of Columbia, also mentioned as Democratic candidates, have not been available for comment.

The 19th Congressional District, which stretches from the Hudson River to the Pennsylvania border and into the Adirondacks, is currently represented by Republican Chris Gibson of Kinderhook. Gibson, 51, a retired army officer, declared a year ago that he will be leaving Congress after three terms.