Elise Stefanik thinks Congress could use more women — including her.
A former aide to President George W. Bush and policy director for Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign, the 29-year-old Stefanik declared her candidacy for New York’s 21st District congressional seat Tuesday. Stefanik told The Daily Caller that her post-college Washington experience impressed upon her the need for change in the nation’s capital.
“I’ve learned that Washington is broken and desperately needs new ideas and new leadership,” she said. “I think no matter what side of the aisle you are on, we need people to step up to the plate to shake things up.”
After graduating from Harvard University in 2006, Stefanik went to work for the Bush White House, first for the Domestic Policy Council and then for the chief of staff’s office. Stefanik’s post-White House career included working on Pawlenty’s ill-fated presidential campaign, working as communications director for the hawkish Foreign Policy Initiative and running debate prep for Paul Ryan during his campaign for vice president. After Romney-Ryan failed to take the White House, Stefanik moved back home to upstate New York to work for her family’s plywood business.
If Stefanik wins the Republican primary, where she faces at least one Republican challenger, she has a real shot of winning the seat from incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, according to Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“We have it rated as leans Democratic, which is a step up from it being a toss-up 50-50 race, so I have Owens as kind of a slight-favorite,” he told TheDC. “It’s one of the 35 most competitive House races in the country just based on the kind of fundamentals of it.”
In 2012, Owens won re-election by less than 2 percentage points.
“If the environment is very good for the Republicans next year, this is one of the seats you could imagine the Republicans winning,” Kondik said.
Stefanik defines herself as a “big-tent conservative.” As she tours the district, she says the issues voters express concern for mainly relate to the economy.
“The issues that I’m focusing on the most that I’ve heard from virtually every voter that I met with in the district are creating jobs and promoting economic growth,” she said. “It’s been getting harder and harder for small businesses to make ends meet in the north country in upstate New York. So I’m looking to bring some new ideas to the forefront to change that.”
In the ad accompanying her entry into the race, she made clear that Obamacare is also an issue she intends to run against.
“Obamacare is causing health care costs to increase and quality to decrease, and I think we need to repeal and replace Obamacare with common sense reforms that people have a say in and that lower costs and increases quality and access for everyone,” she said.