Stefanik takes on 21st Congressional District issues

Elise Stefanik, a Republican candidate running in New York’s 21st Congressional District spoke with the Enterprise Thursday on the issues.

Stefanik, 29, from Willsboro, works for Premium Plywood Products Inc., a family business that was founded more tha 20 years ago by her father Ken. The business is a wholesale provider of plywoods and specialty wood products in upstate New York, based near Albany.

“Like many family businesses, I wear many hats,” Stefanik said. “I specifically handle our North Country sales and marketing.”

Stefanik said her father started off in the industry as a forklift operator, but worked his way up through sales and eventually became a manager of a plywood business, and he then started his own business. Stefanik’s mother and brother also work for the business.

Working in Washington D.C.

Her most recent employment in Washington D.C. was after the 2012 elections as policy director for the Republican National Convention platform.

“My job was really to provide so many interest groups and delegates, who represent different states at the convention, they want to have a say in the platform and it was important for them to have a mechanism to share their ideas,” she said.

In 2012, Stefanik was the director of debate preparation for vice presidential candidate and current U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

“It was quite a robust operation,” she said. “We developed a number of mock debates where you have a stand in for the vice president, in this case (vice president) Joe Biden. Paul Ryan completed eight of those mock sessions.”

Prior to that, from 2006 to 2009, she was on the staff of President George W. Bush’s domestic policy council and chief of staff’s office.

“I was privileged to serve in the White House. I was exposed to policymaking at the most senior levels,” Stefanik said of her time at the White House. “I think that experience will serve me well, because we deserve a Rep. who can hit the ground running and advocate on behalf of our constituents and still understand the problems in Washington and the dysfunction.”

One of the criticisms of many of the candidates is that they don’t have strong enough roots in the North Country or that they can’t relate to voters. The Enterprise asked if someone had this criticism of her, what would she do and say.

“I would invite them to a cup of coffee,” she said. “Anyone who has known me throughout my life knows that I don’t care what walk of life you come from. I can relate to just about anyone.

“I’m proud of my achievements and I’ve worked hard for those achievements. I don’t have an entitled bone in my body.”

Biggest issue in the North Country

Stefanik said that jobs and the economy are the biggest issues facing the North Country and are her priority, if elected.

“We need to pursue pro-growth economic policies,” she said. “Tax reform, the tax code is littered with special interest loop holes. It’s way too complex. We need a flatter and fairer tax system.”

Stefanik said another way to spur economic growth for small businesses is to get rid of regulations they face.

“In our business alone and in our industry, there are a number of regulations that have grown over the past 10 and especially 20 years environmental regulations, it makes it harder, and it’s a cost of doing business.”

Foreign policy

Stefanik said she would be hesitant to commit soldiers in foreign interventions.

“I think we do not need to be spending our taxpayer dollars and sacrificing our lives in overseas battles,” she said.

She was also very critical of President Barack Obama’s track record on the issue.

“One of the greatest failures of this administration is this president’s foreign policy,” she said. “His philosophy has been leading from behind. We are seeing that right now as (Russian president Vladimir) Putin overreaches into the Ukraine that’s all as a result of Obama’s failure to exert American influence and human values across the globe.”

Proper role of government

“It should be much much smaller,” Stefanik said. “I think the federal government has ballooned over the past generation and my generation is not going to be able to pay for this government.”

When asked what specifically was too big in the federal government she said there are savings to be found in many places.

“I think we need to do a top down approach and look at every department,” Stefanik said.

Compromising with Democrats

Stefanik said she would be willing to compromise with Democrats if they have ideas that would move the country forward, cut government spending and peruse functional government.

“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, if you have a good idea, it should be put forth,” Stefanik said.

Stefanik said she wanted to repeal the president’s healthcare law, but was able to compromise on the part of the law that allowed young people to be on their parents health insurance until the age of 26.

NSA Spying

Stefanik said she needs to wait for more details, if elected, on the spying scandal before making a full decision, but did say she’s not in favor of domestic spying.

“We have certainly seen an erosion of privacy in this country,” she said. “I am very concerned and I don’t support the NSA spying on U.S. citizens on our shores.”

Stefanik’s view on Owens

Stefanik said she believed Rep. Bill Owens, who is retiring, was a good leader but she disagreed with him on certain issues, like Obamacare and union strength.

“I think he did his absolute best representing the North Country,” she said. “We disagree on certain issues, Obamacare is on the top of my mind. Congressman Owens was one of two key deciding votes in support of Obamacare … I obviously disagree with that decision.”

Stefanik said she shares his frustration with the dysfunctional nature of Washington D.C.

Next generation

Stefanik said she prides herself on being transparent and using technology to promote her ideas and campaign. She plans to take advantage of social media like Twitter and Facebook if elected.

“(Congressman from Michigan) Justin Amash Tweets and Facebooks every single vote,” she said. “That’s one thing I plan on doing… so that every time we are taking a vote we are not doing it under a cloak and hiding behind our record.”