By Joe Mahoney THE DAILY STAR
---- — Sean Eldridge, a wealthy investor who recently moved to the 19th Congressional District, announced Monday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the House seat now occupied by Rep Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook.
Eldridge, 27, the president of Hudson River Ventures and the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, said in a statement that he will “fight for common sense solutions to grow our economy and create good jobs.”
“Right now the voices of everyday New Yorkers are being drowned out by the special interests and party politics causing gridlock in Washington,” Eldridge said in a video posted on his campaign web site. “We need an independent voice who will stand up to big oil and big banks and fight for middle-class families.”
Gibson, a 49-year-old decorated combat veteran, won his second term in Congress last year, defeating lawyer Julian Schreibman of Stone Ridge. The Republican’s victory in the realigned district came in the same election cycle when President Barack Obama, a Democrat, drew many more votes from the same pool of voters than Republican Mitt Romney.
In his announcement, Eldridge said he has stood with Planned Parenthood as an advocate for abortion rights and women’s health care.
The Gibson camp shrugged off Eldridge’s announcement, which was forecast last month by The Daily Star.
“He’s been raising money from wealthy friends while at the same time touting an economic plan that boils down to loaning his potential constituents money,” said Gibson campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Valle. “One thing is clear: this race will test the hypothesis of whether Congressional seats can be bought. Frankly, if he needed to introduce himself to voters, there was no need to spend more of his money creating a new website and video.”
She also portrayed Eldridge as a carpetbagger whose interest in attaining public office has gotten off to a bumpy start, saying: “He purchased a multimillion dollar home in our district in January, filed to run for Congress in February, and then cleared up his voter registration problems a few months later.”
A native of Canada, Eldridge now lives in Shokan in Ulster County.
Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College in Manhattan and a part-time resident of Harpersfield, said Gibson will be a formidable target for Eldridge, who is making his first foray into electoral politics.
“Gibson has shown himself to be an independent thinker, and he’s less strident and more moderate than your typical Republican,” Muzzio said. He also said there’s no guarantee Eldridge will end up the Democratic nominee, as there’s still time for other Democrats to enter the 2014 contest.
In response to requests from The Daily Star, the Eldridge campaign released statements articulating the candidate’s positions on the Affordable Care Act.
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act would hurt families in our region by ending some if its important provisions, including caps on insurance companies’ profits, the ability of young people to stay on their parents insurance until they’re 26, and ensuring that people with pre-existing contributions cannot be refused insurance,” one of the statements said.
Obama has touted the Affordable Care Act as one of his biggest achievements. Last week, Gibson voted with the House majority in on a measure that would strip funding from the health care initiative, saying the program is deeply flawed and should be delayed.
Eldridge, in another statement responding to a request for his position on the crisis in Syria, said he does not support the use of military force by the U.S. “at this time.”
“Military support should be reserved as a last resort to protect America’s security and interests,” Eldridge said.
Gibson was one of the first Republicans in Washington who called on the Obama administration to refrain from launching military strikes at the Assad government. Gibson has said he is opposed to arming the Syrian rebels with U.S. weaponry and has also called for stronger diplomatic efforts.
Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said he expects local Democrats will work hard to advance the candidacy of Eldridge, who is also supported by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Eldridge was a featured guest of Otsego Democrats in September at local party’s annual dinner in Milford.