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A letter from NY-21 Dem. candidate Paula Collins

"I wish I had a punchline for you. But this is no joke.

This is the reality of the Congressional race in NY-21."

"We are now in full swing of the campaign. We have an organization. We have fundraising up and running. I’m making the rounds to various Democratic committee teams. Canvassing and post card outreach is in progress. And summer events are opening up.

I wanted to share with you the essence of the message I am carrying to various groups. I hope you will find it compelling.

A Retired Lt. Col., a salesman, a mother of four, a weed lawyer, an Ultra Maga, and a Kangaroo all set out on a journey together. 

I wish I had a punch line for you. This is no joke. This is the reality of the Congressional race in NY21. 

I’m Paula Collins. I am a cannabis tax attorney. 

That means that since the MRTA passed in 2021 I have been traveling around the state, talking to applicants and business owners in our state’s newest industry. Along the way, I learned a lot about the North Country. 

When I found out that this is the district where Elise Stefanik is, I asked a friend, “Who is running against her this year?” I knew I needed to do whatever was necessary to support that person. He said, “That’s just it Paula. We really don’t have a candidate.” And I knew I had to get busy and get into action. For me, this is not a campaign. This is a calling. 

You see, I am the candidate on the ballot running against Republican Incumbent Elise Stefanik. But let’s be honest: the real candidate in this race, up and down the ballot, is our democracy. I’m humbled to be a place holder for the larger issues that are at play. 

Right now, we have a Representative who has gained national attention by aligning herself very closely with the former President. Along the way, she seems to have forgotten about the needs of her constituents. Things like access to health care. Securing new industries to replace some of our Adirondack tourism that needs to transition in light of climate change. Energy sources, and making sure that green energy solutions are affordable and, in the long run, healthy for our communities. 

While our current representative hosts inquisitions of the presidents of elite universities, our SUNY schools are facing a $1 billion deficit over the next 10 years. 

While our current representative is busy with “Gotcha” politics and calling anyone who questions the Israeli Prime Minister’s actions an “anti-semite”, the rhetoric from the presumptive nominee of the MAGA party increasingly refers to Hitler and authoritarianism. 

For the voters this year, I am nothing, and I am everything. 

In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether you love me or hate me. I hope you like me, but most of you really don’t know me any better than you know the kangaroo – who, by the way, is running as an independent in this race.

On the other hand, to you I am everything. For I am the one person on the ballot who is positioned to draw the line and say, “From THIS district, the 21st Congressional District, the MAGA mania stops here.” You need me. And I need you.

Together, we need not set aside the needs and concerns of our district in order to blindly do what Trump says, as happened the vote on the most sweeping immigration reform we had seen since the 1980s, or on the vote to give more aid to Ukraine.

We need not set aside the needs and concerns of our district in favor of Trump’s wealthy corporate friends and their trillion-dollar tax breaks while we go through yet another year without reliable and universal broadband. 

From this district, we can choose to support the party that gave us the best jobs report we have had in years, limits on prescription drug prices, and an eternal quest to protect our social security. 

I’m sure you have many questions for me. Fundraising? – yes it’s coming in. This week we have worked hard, and the message is now getting out to donors from around the country.

Organization? Yes – it’s me, a campaign manager, a communications director, a volunteer coordinator, two strategy guys and a team of 6 digital and text guys.

Does that matter? 

Let me put it this way: I likened this campaign to a journey. But be very clear: we will not pass this way again. In two years, we will either be in the middle of Biden’s second administration, or we will be in the middle of Trump’s second administration. 

This is not the Castelli campaign of two years ago. This is not the Cobb campaign of four years ago. This is not the Aaron Woolf campaign. It’s been a long time, and he was much beloved, but this isn’t the Bill Owens campaign.

This is a campaign like no other. We need a new approach, and new strategies.

Biden has outraised and out-organized Trump and pollsters and pols still think it will be a close race. But nobody votes for a candidate just because they out-raised their opponent.

This is an election year in which it will all come down to one person, telling another, talking to their neighbors, their co-workers, their crazy cousins, and their grandparents who voted for George Bush, about the real candidate who is on the ballot, and that is our democracy and the very future of our country.

And don’t just preach. Ask them what’s important to them. Ask them if they rely on their social security to live, or could they survive with a 20% cutback — because the Republicans have promised that’s what they will do.

Ask them if they could benefit from a cap on the price of prescription drugs, as the Democrats have managed to do for some drugs, with plans to cap many more drugs as soon as possible.

Ask them if they need to have more doctors and clinics and hospitals in their towns — closer than the 50-60 mile drive they currently have.

Ask them if they need to see more job opportunities come to the North Country, or are the OK with watching the young people leave for jobs in the cities?

Ask them if they have the option to work from home like so many people in the country do, or does their lack of reliable home WiFi prevent them from having that choice?

And speaking of choice, ask them if they are OK taking away choice from a younger sister, or a daughter, or any young woman whose pregnancy is no longer viable, whose life is in danger, or who realizes she simply does not have the financial resources to raise a child.

Ask them if they are comfortable electing someone to Congress who supported the Insurrectionists that beat and killed police officers during the January 6th riots. (Sidebar: and she accuses me of not supporting the police!)

Donald Trump denies that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Donald Trump has openly aligned himself with Putin and other authoritarian rulers. Donald Trump has said he will try to find a way to not leave office if he is elected.

And Elise Stefanik? She has aligned herself so closely with Trump that the two are indistinguishable. She stokes the fires of unrest by berating elite university presidents in congressional hearings — all while ignoring the projected 10 year, $1 billion budget deficit looming over our North Country SUNY schools. She voted against increased border security in the recent immigration bill. She voted against aid to Ukraine. And if Trump signaled to her, she would cut our Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age. You could tell her yourself about all of your concerns, but when is the last time you saw her in the district?

No — this is not the same campaign we have seen before. We cannot run the same campaign we ran 10 years ago. We cannot even run the same campaign we ran 2 years ago. 

This campaign is, and must be, very different. Most of my focus is not with meeting with Democrats. I certainly need to let Democrats know I am on the ballot. But my target person-whom-I-really-need-to-talk-to is the so-called “Blank”voter. The person who is neither a registered Democrat nor are they a registered Republican.

But I need your help. For starters, if someone shared this with you, I hope you will forward it to someone else. If you have a gathering in your town, whether it’s a group of friends or a summer event, please let me know. I’d like to attend.

And please — have those conversations and ask those questions that I mentioned above. Work through that slightly uncomfortable feeling of discussing politics when you know you disagree with someone. Heck — if we think we are uncomfortable now discussing politics, just imagine how uncomfortable we will feel if Trump (and Stefanik) win in November.

Democracy is on the ballot. We can all get a little uncomfortable to defend it, can’t we?

I hope that I have your support. And I hope I have your vote in November."

For more, visit and subscribe to Paula Collins' Substack at

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