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Northern NY

Fight for the House: Elise Stefanik Uses Energy, Ambition in Race for Congress

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Fight for the House: Elise Stefanik Uses Energy, Ambition in Race for Congress
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Elise Stefanik has spent nearly all of her adult life as a Washington-insider, but now, at 30 years old, she is playing the role of outsider, as she tries to win a hotly-contested race to represent the North Country in Congress. Washington Bureau reporter Michael Scotto has the story in part five of his series "Fight for the House.

As Elise Stefanik travels from a restaurant on Main Street to a place overflowing with reliable voters, the first things voters notice are her energy -- and her ambition.

"I'm up early every morning. This district is so big," she said.

The 30-year-old former aide to President George W. Bush and the National Republican Party is running as a beltway outsider, armed with an arsenal of talking points aimed at tapping into voter frustration over gridlock on Capitol Hill.

"People want a new generation of leaders and a breath of fresh air," said Stefanik.

That line is one Stefanik uses any chance she gets as she tries to win the swing district seat being vacated by Democrat Bill Owens.

And in a sign that she's looking to appeal to independents and Democrats, she says she supports the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that has been blocked her own party.

I support equal pay for women, for example. I think I have a unique perspective to talk about those issues. That is something that Republicans have struggled with that I'm working hard to change the tone," she said.

It's still unclear, though, how much of a change agent she'd actually be - mainly because she avoids, when she can, having to weigh in on some politically touchy votes. Here is she on her party's vote to sue the President.

"I support a change of leadership. I'm really focused on winning this election and not rehashing some of the votes that are happening with Congress right now," Stefanik said.

One big thing that is working to Stefanik's advantage is that the Republican Party is not divided like it was in 2009, when a GOP civil war broke out, handing the election to Democrats.

Help from Karl Rove helped her capture the Republican nomination. Stefanik's opponent in that primary race now supports her campaign. If she wins, she'll be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Whether she also makes waves as a force for bipartisanship remains to be seen.

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