It is with no small measure of relief that we reach the end of the campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 19th Congressional District. For the better part of a year, the seven candidates — Jeff Beals, Dave Clegg, Erin Collier, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn, Gareth Rhodes and Pat Ryan — have criss-crossed the spacious 19th, appeared at more than 40 candidate forums and knocked on literally thousands of doors of potential primary voters, all leading up to Tuesday’s vote.
As far as their stances go, we join the chorus of locals who, after the better part of a year of candidate forums, mailers and news coverage, can’t discern all that much of a difference between them. They stress different things — Ryan gun control, Flynn workers issues and LGBTQ rights, Beals anti-corporatism, and not all of them have hopped on the Medicare For All train. But we expect any of them, if elected, will be progressive voices and solid Democratic votes in the House of Representatives.
It would be easy, and probably more politic, for this paper/website to shrug our shoulders and not endorse anyone. But voters can only fill in the box for one of them, so we think if we’re going to bring up the topic of endorsement at all, we have to pick just one, just like everybody else.
Our pick, then, is Dave Clegg. We think he’s the superior choice both in terms of track record and his chances to successfully unseat the incumbent Republican, John Faso.
To a greater or lesser degree, six of the candidates are running on their potential to serve our community. Dave Clegg is running on his record of serving our community. His work in helping to found Ulster’s Habitat for Humanity and the Darmstadt homeless shelter, as well as his service on the county Human Rights Commission, the board of the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen and as public defender stands head and shoulders above the local achievements of any other candidate.
We’re not knocking corporate lawyers, press aides for governors, people who make intelligence products for the military or CIA analysts turned diplomats. All of those, and agricultural economists and businessmen too, are necessary professions in this world. But Clegg’s resume, in both the law as a public defender and a civil rights litigator, plus his record of starting local organizations that help local people day after day after day, is just the kind of experience we need in D.C. to start to heal our sad and wounded land.
In a time when the need for a Constitutional check against the president’s abuse of power is just about at the level of a national emergency, we think Clegg has the best chance to beat the Republican incumbent. In the last two elections for this seat, the accusation of “carpetbagger” has been a silver bullet with a kryptonite core, lethal to the campaigns of Sean Eldridge and Zephyr Teachout. Clegg and Beals were the only two of the seven to be eligible to vote in this district’s 2016 Congressional election. The mention of the word “carpetbagger” has a tendency to annoy local Dems. However, it touches on a central question: How long does someone have to live here before they can legitimately ask to speak for our community before the nation in the House of Representatives? Their entire lives? That’s too much. Five years seems just barely enough. Anything less seems a dealbreaker.
While he wasn’t born here, Clegg has lived in this community for almost 40 years — comparable to the time Long Island native Faso has been in his community.
We agree with Bryan Stevenson, who famously said “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” Anyone getting into this race, especially the Democratic nominee, has to be prepared for the worst thing they’ve ever done being posted by Russian bots all over the 19th’s Facebook timelines.
But Clegg’s character and conduct is altogether fitting of a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Of the seven, he seems to us to be the least likely to have some kind of campaign-killing “kompromat” in his past. Also, we feel Clegg’s experience as a trial lawyer will serve him well to stand up to Faso in any debate which might actually take place between the two.
In closing, we’d like to commend all seven for their hard work and participation, and for keeping the debate, for the most part, about the issues and not one another. Only one of them is going to come away a winner next week. But the consolation prizes for places two through seven? They get to return to a normal life.
This endorsement was developed by Kingston Times editor Dan Barton, and Woodstock Times editor Brian Hollander, through weeks of conversation among Ulster Publishing editors and reporters.