gibson-eldridge

The race for New York's 19th Congressional District is heating up, with Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, and Sean Eldridge, D-Shokan, both painting themselves Tuesday as the best candidate to advocate for farmers in the region.

Gibson made a Tuesday morning campaign appearance in Walton, where local farmers Robert Bishop, who heads the local Farm Bureau, and Ray Christensen, announced they were forming an agriculture coalition to support the congressman's re-election campaign.

In an interview later in the day, Gibson called Eldridge out of step with upstate farmers and noted the Democrat told a newspaper editorial board recently he would have voted against the 2014 Farm Bill compromise.

"If you're going to be for jobs in rural America, you've got to be for the Farm Bill," said Gibson, a 50-year-old U.S. Army combat veteran.

Eldridge, in response, said he supports some provisions of the Farm Bill, but disagrees with cuts to the federal food stamp program tucked into the legislation.

"I've been working every day to support our farmers," said Eldridge, 28.

He said he disagrees with the incumbent on a number of significant issues, noting he opposes hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, while Gibson supports fracking. Eldridge also said he supports Planned Parenthood, a women's health care organization that advocates for abortion rights and relies on taxpayer dollars for much of its funding.

The exchange of jobs was a preview of potential fireworks to come when Gibson and Eldridge square off in a series of four debates announced Tuesday. None will take place in Otsego or Delaware counties, all of which sit inside the 19th District.

On Oct. 3, the two will meet in front of a panel of Poughkeepsie Journal editors. On Oct. 6, they will debate in a forum arranged by the Ulster Chamber of Commerce at Lake Katrine Middle School.

On Oct. 16, they will meet again in a live televised debate from the WMHT public television studio in North Greenbush. Finally, on Oct. 22, they will go at it again in a debate hosted by Time Warner Cable News. All of the debates are expected to be live-streamed on the internet.

Gibson, in Tuesday's interview, argued that Eldridge's differences with the Farm Bill stem from what he said is the Democrat's unfamiliarity with the region, and contended is using his vast personal wealth "to buy a seat in Congress."

"It's very clear that the guy (if elected) would be part of the problem, not the solution," said Gibson, who said while the Farm Bill "isn't perfect," it was the best legislation that could be crafted via lengthy compromise.

Gibson also said that while Eldridge has been critical of the gas industry, he profits from Wall Street investments that include companies that are involved in fracking.

"It's clear his actions don't support what he's saying," the congressman said.

Eldridge explained that the investments in question are similar to mutual funds in the pension plans of many government workers and retirees.

Commenting on his wealth, Eldridge, who is married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, said, "My husband and I have been very blessed" and are now living "the American Dream."

He added that it is this wealth that allows him to be independent of special interests, and noted he accepts no campaign funding from corporate political action committees, drawing a contrast with Gibson on that front.

However, Gibson said Eldridge does accept donations from several wealthy corporate chief executive officers.

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