US Congressman Elise Stefanik is back on the campaign trail ahead of what could be the most important election yet for the 38-year-old Republican.
In just a few short years, Stefanik has experienced a meteoric rise to power in the Capitol, aided by the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
Last year, a congressional colleague elected the No. 3 House Republican as her House GOP meeting chairman. If Republicans win control of the House in this fall’s midterm elections, Stefanik’s influence in the majority-controlled House will grow even further.
Her rapid rise and steadfast support for Trump has earned Stefanik new fans and critics. Among her critics are some of her colleagues who joined Congress in 2015, claiming they no longer recognize her.
Stefanik’s Early Years in Congress
Stefanik won her first seat in New York’s 21st congressional district in 2014, becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress at the time.
A Harvard graduate, he worked in George W. Bush’s White House and helped prepare Rep. Paul Ryan for the 2012 Vice Presidential debate.
However, she ran in 2014 as a fresh voice. For example, she avoided an anti-tax pledge signed by many Republicans.
“I will be the independent voice that represents this district,” she said. spectrum news First debate of the year.
Once on Capitol Hill, she blazed her own trail, repeatedly ranking among the most bipartisan lawmakers and co-chairing the moderate Tuesday group, according to the Ruger Center.
“Very bright, very personable,” said David Lowther, a Republican congressman from North Carolina. “I expected that perhaps she would be chairman of the conference or some other leadership post if she wanted to.”
Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who entered Congress the same year as Stefanik and worked with her on the House Armed Services Committee, said she was a friend.
The two worked together in 2018 on a law requiring greater transparency for foreign government-owned media.
“I had a real partner on the other side of the aisle who I could sit and have a conversation with. People too,” Moulton said of Stephanik.
When asked when that started to change, Moulton replied, “With Donald Trump.”
Stephanik and Trump
In 2016, Stefanik distanced himself from then-Trump candidate and bowed out Spectrum News” Questions about which candidate she endorsed for president even days before the New York primary.
“I am 100% focused on doing my job on behalf of this district. I believe our next president needs to be a strong commander-in-chief,” she said. . spectrum news April 2016.
Of course, Trump would be the Republican nominee and Stefanik said she would vote for him.
Still, she has repeatedly criticized Trump, lashed out at his attacks on the Gold Star’s parents, and called his comments about groping women on the “Access Hollywood” tape “absolutely wrong.” , even dismissed his idea of building a wall along the southern border.
An analysis by FiveThirtyEight.com found that only 77.7% of Stefanik voted for Trump after taking office.
But Trump’s first impeachment was a turning point, and her distance was eventually replaced by a hug.
As a member of the Democratic-led committee investigating Trump in 2019, Stefanik repeatedly defended him.
During the impeachment proceedings, she told reporters, “Today, there is nothing in that room. Even earlier this week, there is nothing that reaches the level of impeachable crime.”
By the following year, she had earned a major speaking seat at Trump’s re-nomination conference.
And in January 2021, she was one of the Republicans in the House who rejected Joe Biden’s electoral vote from Pennsylvania hours after the attack on the US Capitol.
Stephanick’s strong endorsement of Trump helped propel her to a leadership role, replacing Trump critic Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the House Republican meeting.
“She knows better”
Democratic colleagues who joined Congress in 2015 with Stefanik are stunned and saddened to see how, in their view, the House of Representatives has changed.
“I don’t recognize Elise Stefanik in 2022,” said Long Island Rep. Kathleen Rice, who said she attended Stefanik’s wedding shower.
“She became Donald Trump’s mouthpiece. I’ve never seen such an evolution,” she continued.
Moulton said he “knew” Stefanik better.
“Good for her. Good to move up the ranks, but at what cost? Her values, the republic, the constitution, and still on that list, but very important to me: Our friendship,” he said.
Asked about such criticism from a colleague across the aisle, Stefanik countered, dismissing Rice as someone retiring from Congress and labeling Moulton a “failed presidential candidate.”
“People in my school district don’t care what these two individuals (who don’t know) are going to say. I don’t work for those individuals. voters,” she said in an interview.
And it’s precisely for those voters that she can serve better in leadership posts, she says, a role that gives her greater leverage to bring about results.
On whether he chose his ambition over his values, Stefanik said, “I chose my values, I chose my voters.”
“My American voters are smart. They understand the problem. They see how hard I work for this district. I see the results,” she said.