Aaron Woolf’s Letter in Support of Emily Martz for NY-21:

Many months ago when it became clear that there would be multiple candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in our district, I heard party leaders openly fret that a hotly contested primary would divide the electorate and prevent the emergence of a candidate who could mount a strong challenge to Elise Stefanik this November.

Instead, as we approach our primary this coming Tuesday, North Country Democrats have a field of five experienced candidates, some of whom have already been able to invest more than twice the time I had to run an entire campaign in 2014.  Collectively they have built more enthusiasm, raised more money and gotten more attention than any Democratic challengers here ever before.  They’ve retraced every corner of these 15,000-plus square miles, listened to citizens in unconventional settings, and been present to respond to rapidly growing concerns about the direction of our country.  It’s been a new kind of political boot camp built by new kinds of candidates.

Fittingly, none are Washington-picked insiders running on poll-tested platforms. And in numerous forums and community gatherings, they have generated reams of positive press and reached voters for whom party politics has long felt like a series of manipulations and disappointments.  They are innovative, thoughtful and, yes, quirky candidates, who share one attribute above all –  authenticity –  perhaps the most lacking leadership quality in our incumbent representative.

Aspects of each of them would make a formidable composite candidate but primary day means narrowing the field to one. My choice is Emily Martz.

Emily is compassionate and smart, genuine to the core and a tireless organizer of people and ideas –  most importantly she has built a unique expertise around economic development, the kind of firsthand knowledge our communities need most.

Her rural upbringing in a modest, religious household taught her tolerance and humility, and her success in rigorous academic and corporate worlds gave her the grit to achieve in the face of enormous egos and challenges.  She holds a doctorate in economic history and she plays the fiddle. Our first in-depth policy conversation was through the steam of an evaporator boiling maple sap two springs ago.

When I helped Emily and others set up the NY-21 Grassroots Action Summit at Paul Smiths College back in April, 2017, I noted an interesting quality in her:  She listens to those she disagrees with and she challenges those she thinks are on her side. This impressed me.

I believe that the best way to stand up to the perilous politics of our day is not to turn up the rhetorical volume,  but to listen and to build broad coalitions beyond the usual collaborators as I have seen Emily so effectively do. This is the only way to create a model for governance that resists corruption, thinks long term, and invests in the kinds of infrastructures in which economic creativity can truly thrive.

This morning I will go watch a friend’s graduation at Keene Central School and I will remember once again the work Emily has done to help build new and enduring economies in the North Country, with jobs that might someday hire these dispersing graduates.

On Tuesday morning I will head to the voting booth in Elizabethtown and vote for Emily Martz in the Democratic primary for Congress.  And on Tuesday night, I hope Emily is the one who will emerge victorious.

But if she isn’t, she will perhaps be sharing the same election night stage with the candidate who is. At least two other candidates with her will be together for the results in the same venue –  an unprecedented show of solidarity which Emily spearheaded.  True to her character, she’s not just in it for herself.

We’ve never had a primary like this in the NY-21, but the energy and solidarity developed here as a result bodes well for the future of Democratic politics in North Country.

Aaron Woolf is a documentary filmmaker and journalist, the owner of the Deer’s Head Inn in Elizabethtown NY, and was the 2014 Democratic Nominee for Congress in the NY-21.