By Zander Frost & Mark Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer & Editor
Democratic Congressional candidate Brigid “Bridie” Farrell came to The Chronicle office on Thursday, Jan. 20.
She arrived solo, invited us all to go without masks and sat for an open-ended, recorded conversation that went on for 90 minutes. Ms. Farrell’s campaign had reached out offering the opportunity.
Ms. Farrell, 40, is vying with Matt Castelli, Matthew Putorti and Ezra Watson for the Democratic nomination to run this fall against 21st District Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
Mr. Castelli is backed by most county Democratic leaders and by former Congressman Bill Owens, but Ms. Farrell isn’t fazed.
Will there be a Democratic primary come June?
“Unless Matt drops — the two Matts and Ezra — drop out,” Ms. Farrell replies.
Ms. Farrell said she currently lives in North River with her her fiancé.
Why is she running for Congress? “I personally love fighting for other people and working for other people. Not to sound combative, but I do enjoy that.
“The whole Trump administration, the way it went through those four years running up to the last election. And then with the delayed transfer of power, and how rocky and shaky all of that was to me was super motivating to get up and do something.”
“…I don’t know if this is too partisan for the newspaper, but it’s like evil number three is in our backyard. And we can do something about that. And so while there are other members of Congress that I want gone, I can’t move someplace without a twang and have a chance of winning, but I can go back to where I’m from…
“I’ve never really found small goals, and I’m not afraid of it. I also know that we need to stand up against people that are challenging, whether it’s from things like health care and the Affordable Care Act all the way to the democracy, right, like we need to have the guts to stand up and go against that. And I have the guts.
Asked about “evil number three,” Ms. Farrell confirms she’s referring to Rep. Stefanik.
Asked what she will tell people in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Rep. Stefanik’s reelection in 2020, Ms. Farrell contends, “They voted for a different person. She changed…she has subscribed 100% to the corrupt system of Washington and has embraced the swamp.”
Ms. Farrell went to Saratoga Springs High School. She said she took courses at BOCES and Adirondack Community College, combining math, science and computer science courses with speed skating training in Lake Placid.
She said she “set three American records” and in “2005, I was third in the country, I believe. And I had had one knee surgery to that point. But that was the beginning of the end of my ankle, it was the same year as Curt Schilling, Boston Red Sox pitcher with a bloody sock.
“So then I tried out for this 2006 Olympic team, and I realized that it wasn’t happening….
“And so I applied to Cornell to go to one of the three state schools.
Mark: Which one?
Bridie: I went to human ecology.
Mark: And what was your degree in?
Bridie: Policy analysis and management with a concentration in health care economics…I loved it. It was applied economics…..And so you think about, like the cost of it, right? Should you have seat belts on school buses or not?”
Ms. Farrell worked for New York Life before attempting a skating comeback.
She said she was approached by a curious reporter who saw her skate, and their conversations led to a revelation.
“I told him my whole story of being sexually abused when I was 15 by my 33-year-old teammate, Andy Gabel, who had moved to Saratoga to train with our coach.”
Mr. Gabel is a four-time Olympian and silver medalist. He has also been accused by a second former skater.
He has said, “I never forced myself on any individual…Any relationship I had was consensual.” But he also said, “Looking back on it now, I understand that my conduct nearly 20 years ago and longer was still inappropriate.”
Ms. Farrell said the experience launched her on a path of advocacy, pursuing the Child Victims Act to extend the statute of limitations.
“My statute of limitation had expired when I was 23. So I should have gone to the police and or filed a lawsuit against the abuser and any institution that facilitated it along the way. But I didn’t even know I was a victim of crime until I was 26. So that wasn’t possible…
“And after seven years, the bill passed. It extended the statute of limitations for criminal from age 23 to 29. And from civil from age 23 to 50.”
She said her lawsuit against Mr. Gabel is “running its course through court.”
The legislative effort to enact the Child Victims Act, in New York and other states, is also how Ms. Farrell said she developed her relationship with Bryson Gillette, the national firm handling communications for her campaign.
She said, “So Bill Burton was Obama’s first press secretary. And he started Bryson-Gillette, a comms firm. And he helped us with some of the PSA stuff on the child sexual abuse.”
Mark: What are the causes and issues that you are looking at for the North Country, as you’re running?
Bridie: “What I’m hearing from so many people is that it starts with jobs, right? Jobs and diversifying our economy. We can’t rely solely on tourism, for a variety of reasons, so diversifying the economy, but what with that is included housing, and both low income but affordable housing, childcare, and then not to beat a dead drum, but broadband And people only talk about broadband, but let’s back up and let’s just have cellular service.”
“So I think those things in the north country will make a big difference. And then both my studying the rural access hospitals and school and my umpteen surgeries of just demystifying and untangling the healthcare problem and industry and I don’t care what you call it, but everyone should be able to have treatment.”
“You ask how what was I making living? There [then] I didn’t go to the doctor’s, I couldn’t afford it. I skipped medication because I couldn’t afford it. And so how can that be? Right? And it shouldn’t be that way.
“And so I don’t care what one calls it, but we need to make it so that every American can get basic frickin’ health care. And then even once I was back on my feet a bit more, still the deductible on the copay was so much that I wouldn’t go and get it. So that’s a huge problem, especially in rural areas, I think.
Mark: What about opioids, what do we do about that?
Bridie: “Oh, that’s a serious problem. Substance abuse addiction is a real problem throughout America, and especially in rural America. And we need to have a safety ramp, an off ramp for people that find themselves addicted to a substance. And these 30 day treatment programs aren’t going to work. So it needs to be a long-term solution.
Some topics touched on in interview.
Mark: Should you have to show ID to vote?
Bridie: “I don’t think we should be putting up hurdles and hurdles and hurdles making it harder for people to vote. Again go back to Maricopa [County, Arizona], there it’s proven that there’s not voter fraud. There aren’t people showing up as someone else. We don’t need it.”
Mark: Should the filibuster be removed [in the Senate]?
Bridie: “It will be gone by the time I get there. Here’s hoping. So I think that the filibuster has been changed many times over the…last, what, six years or so. And I think that, if it makes sense to update it, we should.
“And I think that the filibuster is standing the way in progress of millions of Americans. I’m in favor of changing it.”
Mark: What do you think about Ukraine? You could be on the Foreign Relations Committee. What do you think should we should do?
Bridie: “Yeah, maybe this isn’t the answer you’re supposed to have at a moment like this. I don’t know. There’s so much information that’s not known to the public…I’m sure there’s so much information behind the scenes that’s not known. But I don’t think that states should, other nations should fear just being invaded by others, like that is not okay.”
Mark: How about Taiwan?
Bridie: “Again, I think there’s probably a huge amount of information unknown to general Americans. But I think Taiwan has and should be its own entity.”
Mark: Do you think we should boycott the Olympics?
Bridie: “I don’t think we should boycott the Olympics.”
Chronicle questions Bridie about Covid
Covid was discussed for a while in The Chronicle’s Jan. 20 conversation with Bridie Farrell, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
Mark Frost: What is your position on [Covid] vaccine mandates?
Bridie: “I believe in science, Let the record reflect I believe in science fully. We’ve had vaccination mandates. I mean, I went to kindergarten in 1988, and we had them. So I don’t think it’s a new revolutionary idea or concept. I think public health is a real thing. And we should focus on that.
“I also think caring about our neighbor is more important than just caring about ourselves.”
Zander: Should someone lose their job if they don’t get the vaccine?
Bridie: “…I think that there can and should be rules and regs to allow people to walk in and work at some place. I mean, we have rules at bars like no shoes, no shirt, no service, same thing at a place of employment, that, yeah, you have to care enough about your neighbor. And so I think it is okay that people are required to have vaccines to be functioning in society.”
Mark: So are you saying anybody who doesn’t get vaccinated doesn’t care about their neighbors?
Bridie: “I’m saying that — Jesus, you’re fun — I’m saying that maybe they’re not looking at it from that perspective.”
Zander: Should kids be masked in schools?
Bridie: “I think that we need to stop and end the pandemic, and if kids wearing masks is part of it, I think that’s okay. Like how did we get through the Spanish flu? They went to school outside here in the North Country, right? Like I get that it’s hard, I get that it’s uncomfortable. But these are small sacrifices…how many people died yesterday? 1,700?
Mark: Do you think that there are other impacts on kids from having to wear masks that are not good?
Bridie: “I, one, have not studied that, I don’t know. But I’m sure.”
Mark: I mean, serious impacts in terms of both educational development, depression…
Bridie: “I don’t know the science on it.”
Mark: How about the fact that they don’t go to school at all, that it’s virtual and the hardship that poses for people? Is that a factor to consider in this or not?
Bridie: “It is, it is a factor to consider. And that if people aren’t going out to bars and restaurants, maybe we have this thing under control, and we could open the schools.”
Zander: Should we have had a stricter lockdown?
Bridie: “I don’t know. I think people should subscribe to it…I don’t want to use the word obey, but this idea of just accepting like, ‘well, this is just the new normal.’ Why are we dropping the bar to that? And if it’s such a problem for kids, then why aren’t the adults making the sacrifice today to get rid of this thing? And get out in front of it?”
Mark: Do you think it could have been stopped completely?
Bridie: “Again, I don’t know. But the science that was put out there was if we can stop this thing from spreading, that’s a good thing. And we didn’t do that as a nation.”
Mark: Was that even possible? We’ll never know. Do you think it’s possible now?
Bridie: “I don’t know. I have no idea with the mutations and with the vaccines that are out there, and like how that all works. But the bottom line of how I feel about so many things is: Sure, it’s hard or uncomfortable or what that finish line is is unknown. But there’s a bigger purpose as to why we all get up in the morning. And it should be to give a damn about your neighbor.”
Mark: Speaking of the pandemic, do you think that there’s immunity…if you had COVID?
Bridie: “I’m not a scientist? I don’t know.”
Bridie Farrell: It’s pronounced ‘Bride-dee’ & some other details, on her family & education
Bridie Farrell, seeking the 21st District Democratic Congressional nomination to run against Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik, grew up in Saratoga. She pronounced her name as BRIDE-DEE.
“So Brigid is my given name. Brigid Hogan Farrell. And Bridie is the nickname so there’s two patron saints of Ireland. Patrick and Brigid. I’m Brigid. Coach used to say not Brigid Farrell, but frigid barrel.
“I’m one of six kids and we are all very different and very strong personalities,” she said. She pursued amateur speed-skating at a national level.
Her father, now retired, was a physician. “He started out in Schoharie in rural medicine. And then had his own practice in Saratoga for ever and ever….My mom still teaches piano lessons, and plays piano and organ at a bunch of churches.”
Ms. Farrell went to Saratoga Springs High School, “I went to ACC, I went to BOCES as well….I went to ACC so that I could train in Saratoga still. And we trained between Saratoga and Lake Placid and took computer science courses. So like math and programming.” She said she became a Cisco Certified networking associate and and quipped, “You guys need anything fixed?”
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