Youngest Congresswoman Makes Constituent Service Issue

By John Celock

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress is making her constituent service record the focus of a new ad in her bid for a second term.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has debuted a new ad highlighting her record in responding to letters and calls from constituents since she took office in 2015. Stefanik, who represents New York’s North Country, is locked in a competitive race for a second term with Democrat Mike Derrick, a retired Army officer.

“I’m doing what I can to get Washington to work for you,” Stefanik said in the ad.

In the ad, Stefanik says that she and her staff have responded to 39,000 letters and 4,000 phone calls, while also settling 2,500 constituent cases. With Social Security and veterans benefits issues being the top constituent cases directed to congressional offices, Stefanik says that she has gotten $450,000 in Social Security benefits and $1 million in veterans benefits for residents in her district. Stefanik has also said that she has talked to 300,000 constituents in telephone town halls.

Constituent casework centers at the heart of many congressional reelection campaigns, particularly in competitive races. In New York, former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato (R) made constituent service the centerpiece of his three terms representing the Empire State.

Other younger members of Congress have made constituent issues the center of their campaigns, either highlighting statistics like Stefanik or highlighting travel in the district and not staying in Washington full time.

Stefanik was first elected in 2014 at the age of 30 becoming the youngest woman in American history to be elected to Congress. Previously the title had been held by former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.), who was 31 when she was elected to a Brooklyn seat in 1972.

Derrick, a West Point alum and North Country native, has made his background a centerpiece to his campaign. He has been highlighting economic, security and veterans issues in the race and said that he has assembled a platform based on listening to voters across the district.