Trump defender's fame rockets; so does her opponent's fundraising

  • World
  • Tuesday, 19 Nov 2019

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Washington, U.S., November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump declared "a star is born" after Republican Representative Elise Stefanik strongly defended him during last week's impeachment hearings in Congress. But someone else also got a boost from Stefanik's new fame: her Democratic election opponent.

Tedra Cobb, a former county legislator who is hoping to win Stefanik's House of Representatives seat next year, said on Twitter on Sunday evening that she raised $1 million in two days after Stefanik's high-profile performance in the hearings.

Stefanik, 35, a three-term congresswoman, was one of the sharpest questioners of witness Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and other diplomats who testified last week. Stefanik also tangled repeatedly with the committee's Democratic chairman, Representative Adam Schiff.

The hearings raised Stefanik's national profile. "A new Republican Star is born. Great going @EliseStefanik!" Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

But the proceedings also motivated Stefanik's opponents to take to social media to boost Cobb.

On Friday morning, Cobb's campaign account had 6,200 followers on Twitter. By Monday she had 248,500, and she launched repeated fundraising appeals over the weekend.

Stefanik's campaign spokesman Lenny Alcivar declined to disclose how much money the congresswoman raised over the weekend, but told Reuters she had seen a boost "commensurate" to Cobb's. In any case, she started way ahead, Alcivar said.

In mid-October, Stefanik's campaign reported $1.3 million in cash on hand, against a little over $500,000 reported by Cobb.

Stefanik "is overwhelmed by the unbelievable support from the district and across the country as she focuses on the truth in the impeachment hearings," Alcivar said.

The Stefanik campaign posted a series of Tweets criticizing Schiff, blasting "radical liberals & never-Trumpers" and denouncing "disgusting attacks against me in an attempt to silence me."

Stefanik defeated Cobb by 14 points to retain her House seat last year, but it was her closest race since she was first elected to Congress in 2014 at the age of 30. At the time she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and she remains the youngest of just 13 Republican women in the House.

Her upstate New York district backed Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012 before voting for Trump in 2016.

Until emerging last week as a vociferous defender of Trump, Stefanik had been known as a moderate. She called Trump's decision to withdraw from the international Paris agreement on climate change a "mistake" and criticized his 2017 travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Giles Elgood and Sonya Hepinstall)

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