Zephyr Teachout Announces Run for Congress in New York

Teachout announced her candidacy for the seat held by outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson (above). (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former New York gubernatorial candidate and Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout announced her candidacy Monday for New York's 19th Congressional District.  

The Democrat enjoys progressive support, but she may still be dogged by "carpetbagging" attacks in this rural Hudson Valley district.  

Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who occupies the seat, is not running for re-election . Teachout served as CEO of Mayday PAC, which supports candidates who want to end super PACs. Teachout won  34 percent of the vote in her 2014 primary challenge against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Teachout said she resigned from the Mayday board.  

"The next several months are going to be really spending a lot of time in the corners of the district and really hearing stories," Teachout said. "Eighty percent of the job is representing the district," as opposed to partisan politics, she added.

Teachout emerged as the consensus candidate among Democratic county chairs in the district at their Jan. 16 meeting, according to some reports, but there has been no official county endorsement of her candidacy and none of the other Democratic candidates have yet pulled out of the race.

" I think it's because they want to win," she said. " They are all focused on winning this and having it be a blue district." Teachout had the support and backing of the Working Families Party and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Adam Green, co-founder of PCCC noted that Teachout won the majority of all of the counties that are in the district during her gubernatorial campaign.  

"It's a golden opportunity not just for Democrats but a strong populist outsider to win this district," Green said, saying his organization will be devoting resources to Teachout's campaign, including sending out an email about her Tuesday, and that the organization looked forward to being "all in," helping mobilize volunteers.

Some national and regional Democrats have expressed concern to Roll Call about Teachout's candidacy, fearing that she's too liberal for the rural New York District and will be tarred as a carpetbagger. They're haunted by the 2014 loss of Sean Eldridge, the wealthy husband of Facebook CEO Chris Hughes, who never recovered from the perception that he was out of touch with the district.
"You can have a lot of name recognition and ability to raise money but if you don’t connect with the voters, it’s maybe for naught. We’ve had that happen here," said Karen Feldman, a Columbia County Democratic activist and consultant who's working with Livingston Town Councilman Will Yandik, one of several other Democrats interested in the nomination. "Nobody’s perfect in this race; they all have strong points and weak points," she said. "But I think the question for anyone who runs of either party is who can connect with the voters."
The carpetbagger accusation has already taken root with Republicans.
"Regardless of which New York City-based candidate parachutes into the district for their own self-serving reasons, none can change Washington's status quo or correct the failed policies of the Obama and Cuomo administrations," said Dain Pascocello, a campaign spokesman for Republican John Faso, who along with Andrew Heaney is vying for the GOP nomination. "Professor Teachout is a radical who takes her cues from the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City," he added in a Monday statement.
Contact Garcia at EricGarcia@rollcall.com and Pathe at SimonePathe@rollcall.com and follow them on Twitter @EricMGarcia and @SFPathe.