SARANAC LAKE — About 100 supporters gathered in Riverside Park Saturday to hear a slate of Republican candidates vying for office in the Nov. 8 election. The event also drew over 50 people who oppose Republican Party politicians; they stood across River Street with signs and slogans.
Local, state and federal candidates gave speeches and told the crowd to vote for the other speakers. Although New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin did not attend the event, his campaign was touted by most speakers as a beacon of hope for New York Republicans.
The candidates were running for different positions, but there were clear themes in their speeches. They said people suffer under one-party Democratic rule — Democrats hold majorities in the House and federal Senate, as well as the state Senate and Assembly — and that until “save america” Democrat politicians should be replaced by Republicans.
The coronavirus pandemic also played a role in several speeches, with opposition to vaccine and mask mandates being major topics of conversation.
For some attendees and speakers, there was almost no middle ground in American politics, but they said that was solely the fault of Democrats who had gone too far to the left.
Republican supporters were decked out in GOP and Make American Great Again hats, shirts, stickers and signs. They seemed confident of sweeping Republican victories in the Nov. 8 election.
Some were asked what they hoped for a “red wave” would bring
“Get rid of the Democrats,” Carla Nason said. “Take this bench,” she added, pointing to a recently painted multicolored bench in the corner of the park.
“Save Our Children” Hugh Luo said.
Law said Democrats don’t see the problems and that he believes the country has gotten worse since Joe Biden became president.
Nason said a GOP majority in Congress is the last hope “common sense” in the nation.
Law said he wants Republicans to change “radical policies” they receive “thrown in our faces,” citing COVID vaccination requirements, he said the US is not drilling for enough oil and state restrictions on where guns can be carried.
Law said he hunts, and while the gun laws haven’t stopped him from hunting as usual or changed the way he hunts, he said the Plattsburgh reenactment hasn’t happened this year.
Ken Casler said he traveled with the Navy and saw other countries. He said Americans are lucky to have freedom of choice and a high standard of living. But he thinks the Democrats are leading the country down a dark path. He said younger people have a different view of what America can be, which he disagrees with.
He said he would vote Democrat, but disagrees with their leadership — things like bail reform or student loan debt forgiveness. Kasler said he paid for everything he had.
Jim Mazzotte said he is a registered Democrat. He was at the rally in his 1947 truck, decorated with pro-Republican signs. Mazzot said he has voted Republican for several years.
“Trump changed me” Mazot said. “He’s a very persuasive guy.”
He said he liked that former President Donald Trump didn’t often read prepared statements and claimed he never read from a teleprompter.
“Zeldin and Elise. If we can get them to win in New York State, I think New York State is going to make it.” Mazot said. “If not, I think we’re going to be in trouble. … Hochul, it is controlled by the extreme left. If he was just a true Democrat, there wouldn’t be a problem.
He said that Hochul is controlled by extreme leftists in New York who want chaos in the country for reasons unknown to him. Mazot said he sees chaos everywhere except in his small town.
Jerry Zempel of Keene was at the rally with a sign that read: “Please, please, debate Elise.” Zempel said she has voted in NY-21 for 30 years and is offended that Stefanik did not agree to a debate this cycle. She was asked to leave and escorted by campaign staff.
Saranac Lake resident David Lynch said he heard notes about “Christian Nationalism” at the rally, which he said worried him in what is supposed to be a secular state.
“We’re here protesting Elise because we hate her.” Eric Steinberg, of Jay, said.
He said his group opposes her votes on reproductive rights, her support for “Big lie” that Trump won the 2020 election, her anti-environment votes and her echoes of the racist conspiracy “The Great Swap Theory” which claims that white people have been replaced by immigrants of color and which is encouraged by white supremacist terrorists in deadly attacks.
“It’s just total identity politics,” Steinberg said. “I haven’t heard anything about Saranac Lake.”
“That they raised the issue of the southern border is madness. How does this affect the people of the Adirondacks?” said Emily Hirsch-Steinberg. “It’s just a dog whistle for racists.”
Hirsch-Steinberg said they are protesting the rally, hoping to swing moderate votes to Democratic candidates and show there is opposition to Stefanik.
They said this protest was organized at the last minute and were surprised by the turnout they gathered, comparing it to the turnout in the park that Lynch claimed was “low energy.” At times it was hard to tell whether the cars driving by were honking in support or against the rally or the protesters.
Editor’s note: In the coming days, the Enterprise will publish stories about more of what Stefanik told reporters at the rally, as well as quotes from a recent editorial board interview she did with several North Side newspapers.