COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said Friday he is convinced that prospective congressional candidate Sean Eldridge will announce a challenge against Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, in September.
Abbate said he reached that conclusion after having dinner with Eldridge at the Otesaga Resort Hotel this week.
He said the decks appear to be clear for Eldridge, a 27-year-old investor, to jump into the race as the only Democratic contestant for the seat. The scenario, he noted, stands in contrast to the distraction that the party’s hopeful in 2012, Julian Schreibman of Stone Ridge, faced, who had to contend with primary challenger Joel Tyner.
Gibson, a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran serving his second term in Congress, ended up defeating Schreibman by more than six percentage points. The congressional district had just been reshaped as a result of New York losing two congressional seats due to slow population growth.
Eldridge is untested as a candidate. He has helped to promote legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, and he and his husband, wealthy Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have forged close ties with a number of influential Democratic public officials, including President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Abbate contended that Gibson is vulnerable given Obama’s strong showing in the 19th Congressional District. He said he also believes Eldridge can score points with voters if he can paint the incumbent congressman as being in lockstep with the House Republican leadership on issues that are important to residents of the district.
“We had a very interesting discussion, and I find he is very excited that he can make a real change in the 19th District,” Abbate said.
Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle said the fact her boss cruised past Schreibman in 2012 after being targeted by a series of negative television ads — in the same cycle that Obama won the district — shows that the congressman “has a record that matches our district and has the positions that match our district.”
Valle also pointed out that Gibson has been ranked as the third most independent House Republican in the Congress.
She said the Gibson campaign is braced for what she predicted will be another onslaught of “distortions” by Democrats.
The race could be an expensive one due to the fact that Eldridge has the potential to raise large sums of campaign cash and because the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is expected to work hard to protect Gibson’s seat.
Abbate said Eldridge is scheduled to be the featured guest when the Otsego Democrats hold their annual Jedidiah Peck Annual Dinner on Sept. 15 at the Country Inn & Suites on state Route 28 in Milford.