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Local News

February 8, 2013

Activist considers challenge to Gibson

COOPERSTOWN — Just three months after Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, won re-election by withstanding Democratic attack ads, the retired Army officer already has a potential challenger: a wealthy activist involved in the national push to legalize same-sex marriage.

Sean Eldridge, 26, of the Ulster County hamlet of Shokan, has opened a campaign committee by way of a filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

The next election is 21 months away.

Eldridge, a Democrat who married Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes last year and runs an investment company, “is seriously considering the race,” spokesman Mike Morey said Thursday.

Eldridge and Hughes have both been prominent political supporters of President Barack Obama. In 2011, Eldridge started Hudson River Ventures, which describes itself as a company that “works to empower entrepreneurs and build thriving businesses throughout the Hudson Valley.

The net worth of Eldridge and Hughes has been estimated at $500 million.

Asked about the possible candidacy of Eldridge, Gibson, who opened a regional office Thursday in the village of Cooperstown, said: “I’m here to serve. We just had an election and we have to get to work.”

He said he was not focused on politics but is instead trying to help bring about a federal budget agreement and promote “pro-growth” economic policies.

“I need to focus on what people sent me to Washington to do,” Gibson said.

Eldridge, a native of Toledo, Ohio, attended Columbia Law School, but left in 2009 to promote legislation allowing gay marriage after the state Senate rejected a bill that year that would have authorized it in New York. The legislation passed in 2011.

In addition to promoting stronger civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, Eldridge last year started Protect Our Democracy, a group that advocates for campaign finance reform.

At the grand opening of Gibson’s new office at 25 Chestnut St., Anthony Casale, a former assemblyman who is now a strategist for the state GOP, suggested that Eldridge will turn off voters by making a political splash right on the heels of last November’s elections.

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