About 150 activists braved the drizzle Friday to rage against the policies of Republicans John Faso and Donald Trump mere feet from Faso’s office.
Protestors have been gathering at Rep. Faso’s offices in Kingston, Kinderhook and Delhi since Faso and Trump were elected two years ago, hoisting signs, playing music and leading chants about what they see as the disastrous Republican policy of the week.
Last Friday, the group was cracking and sparking with electricity, an uncontainable mix of outrage and enthusiasm set to the honky-tonk tunes of the Tin Horn Uprising protest band, the activists pledging to make this Faso Friday their last.
Faso has been remote and unresponsive during his freshman term in Congress and has supported policies detrimental to healthcare, the environment and women’s rights, protestors said. Antonio Delgado, the Oxford graduate, former hip-hop artist and lawyer running against Faso as a democrat, was the path to a better district, and a better country, according to the protestors.
Michele Hirsch, of Kingston, held a sign proclaiming “Democracy is in the Balance.”
“We are very quickly turning into a fascist country,” she said.
Hirsch attends the protests as often as she can, though the noontide rallies are often hard to make with her job at Family of Woodstock, a charitable organization, where she often works with students with disabilities, she said.
Involved since the seven-candidate democratic primary, Hirsch was an early fan of Delgado’s, she said.
“Before the primary, I was able to speak with all the people who were running, and he spoke the most passionately and elegantly and most knowledgeably about federal special education law,” she said. “There were a lot of people that didn’t even really understand what it was.”
The crowd of 150 includes many who have been embroiled in the elections for the long-haul: Sajaa and Justin Tracey are here, the creators of “Spotlight 19,” a podcast about Faso and the race to unseat him; Checko Miller is here with his pick-up truck sprouting political placards from its bed, messages he’s changed with every fresh assault on Liberal America; two primary opponents of Delgado’s who now support him, Dave Clegg and Gareth Rhodes mix in the crowd.
Rhodes, who placed second out of the seven candidates in the primary, said the energy of the nominating contest had to be transferred to the midterms.
Twice as many people voted in this year’s democratic primary than 2016’s, according to the state Board of Elections. If these democrats simply voted in the midterms and brought two friends with them, Delgado would win, Rhodes said.
Faso has not represented the district well, and had been “absent,” Rhodes said, comparing him negatively to Republican Chris Gibson, who represented Kingston before Faso, and Democrat Maurice Hinchey, who preceded Gibson.
“There’s a well-trodden path here for both Republicans and Democrats to be effective representatives, and Faso refused to follow that model — he didn’t do town hall meetings (and) did votes that were much more aligned with what [Republican Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan wanted him to do, rather than what this district wanted,” he said.
Both Rhodes and Dave Clegg spoke at the rally, using a megaphone to support the candidate they had been running against a few months prior.
Protestors generally spoke about Delgado’s education and stances on healthcare and women’s rights when asked about why they would vote for him while denouncing Faso for his vote for the American Healthcare Act [AHCA] and “racist” aspects of his campaign.
Amanda Hamilton, of Lee, Massachusetts, held a sign reading “America has never not been racist,” and featuring swastikas interspersed with the Republican elephant.
“I think the GOP has become a white nationalist party…it’s become more racist. They are a party of hate,” she said.
Though not a resident of the 19th District, Hamilton said she was at the rally because it was a swing district, and “we need to show up.”
Hamilton supported Delgado’s positions “across the board,” but said he needed to be balanced about his views on gun control.
“I support common-sense gun control, but this is, in a large part, a rural constituency, and people hunt because it’s their lifestyle, and to put food on their table — I want him to really pay attention to that,” she said.
Gina Van Nosdall, of Cold Spring, also arrived from outside the district as part of the Handmaidens, a loose collection of about 65 women’s-rights advocates who show up to protests dressed as female characters from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, which is set in a patriarchal theocracy where fertile women are forced into reproductive sex slavery.
Faso’s 1987 remark that Roe v. Wade was a “black mark on our country,” particularly incenses Van Nosdall.
Faso was asked about the remark in the final 19th District debate and reaffirmed his pro-life stance.
When asked if there was anything in Faso’s platform she supported, Van Nosdell replied in the negative.
“No — not today. Today’s the wrong day,” she said. “Women are mad — we are tired…of being told as young women or young girls in school, that you can do anything, that you are equal, and you’re not.”
Van Nosdell hoped to be focused on women’s equal pay and viewed it as a step backwards people had to rally for abortion rights, protests she deemed necessary since Brett Kavanaugh’s ascent to Supreme Court Justice.
Not one of the five protestors asked if they support a single position of Faso’s replied in the affirmative.
Laurie Machung, of Rosendale, said she has always been of a more liberal mindset, and called Delgado “a great, well-rounded, well-educated candidate.”
Delgado went to public schools in Schenectady before attending Colgate College, Oxford University and Harvard Law.
Faso’s vote for the AHCA, which would have replaced the Affordable Care Act, and the “blatantly racist antics” of his run made her a die-hard Delgado fan, Machung said.
Newspapers, clergy and a radio station have denounced the nature of anti-Delgado ads, which feature out-of-context lyrics from the former rapper’s sole album. Delgado has addressed the lyrics before, and Faso has shot back, saying he can’t legally coordinate with the Super PACs running many of the ads and therefore is blameless, while simultaneously saying Delgado’s lyrics are offensive.
An environmental scientist, Machung said Faso’s support of the overturn of the Waters of the United States rule and his vote against the Stream Protection Rule were a major issue for her, and Faso’s membership in the Climate Solutions Caucus was unsubstantial in the face of these votes.
The latest 19th District poll, released Tuesday, has Delgado leading Faso by five points, 49-44.
The election is Nov. 6
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