SARATOGA SPRINGS — A Saratoga oncologist, David Mastrianni, announced his candidacy for the 21st Congressional District in an interview Monday night.
“Let’s get people motivated and start talking about real issues,” Mastrianni said.
He joins a crowded field of Democrats seeking to run against the Republican incumbent, Elise Stefanik.
After watching his college-age children’s disappointment when their chosen candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, did not get the nomination to run for president in 2016, he decided to run for political office.
“I watched them have the wind kicked out of their sails,” Mastrianni said. “The issue is, can we draw the young people back in?”
Mastrianni, senior vice president of the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, joins nine other candidates hoping to unseat Stefanik in November.
In addition to Mastrianni, the following Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination: Tanya Boone, Granville; Don Boyajian, Cambridge; Tedra Cobb, Canton; Emily Martz, Saranac Lake; Ronald Kim, Queensbury; Patrick Nelson, Stillwater; Katie Wilson, Keene; and Sara Idleman, Greenwich. Republican Russell Finley of Lisbon is also seeking to unseat Stefanik in a Republican primary.
“There are so many qualified candidates,” Mastrianni said. “I’m heartened there are so many impassioned candidates.”
As a lifelong resident of Saratoga, Mastrianni said his life experiences in the Adirondacks and the North Country help him to understand that the needs and issues in this area are much different from those in more urban settings.
“It’s hard for someone sitting in Washington, D.C., to understand the challenges facing the people of this district,” he said, referring to health care, jobs, infrastructure and the difficulty of getting internet connectivity to rural places.
“It’s hard for them to realize that many people in the district do not have access to broadband,” he said. “For small businesses to succeed and young people to remain in our region, we need broadband. We cannot wait.”
Regarding health care, Mastrianni said small and rural regions like the 21st Congressional District have different health problems, like smoking, and delivering care is more difficult because of long distances, winter weather and a lack of health care providers.
“When you call 911, your neighbor comes,” he said.
According to Mastrianni, rising costs could be lowered if Medicare had the legal clout to negotiate prices for drugs, and that would lead to increased assistance for local hospitals that care for the people in the region.
“Congress prevents Medicare from controlling drug costs. When the FDA approves new drugs, the price is set by the manufacturer. The pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever they wish and we pay,” he said. “A reasonable competitive bidding process for drugs and supplies will not strangle the pharmaceutical industry.”
Additionally, Mastrianni said it’s important to listen to young people and give them reasons to stay here. “What can we offer a motivated young person to get them to stay?”
For 15 years Mastrianni, as an oncologist, traveled from Saratoga to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake to see patients.
“I’ve heard the stories from the farmers, they want their kids to come back home,” he said. “I’ve spent my life in this area and I’d like for my children to have the opportunity to be in the area.”
To get the conversation started, Mastrianni met with a group of about 10 young people last week.
“The people they perceive as their parents’ generation, they want them to behave a little bit better,” he said. “They said, ‘We can be angry, we can disagree, but have a bit of dignity in the process.’”
At this point, the campaign has enough funding to give the “run a good go,” he said, but he can’t talk about details yet.
The next step for Mastrianni’s campaign?
“We are getting ready for March and a petition campaign is being organized. We need people to collect names for petitions,” he said.