With so much media attention given to the hotly contested Democratic nomination to fill the retiring Nita Lowey’s congressional seat in NY-17, one could be forgiven for overlooking the sole Republican (as of press time) seeking to win the district: Josh Eisen. The Harrison resident owns and invests in small businesses (mostly in HR, legal, and education), and he is so driven to win NY-17 that he’s even putting up $500,000 of his own money to finance his campaign.
The reason the Democrats command most of the spotlight is because the district is a stronghold for them. In fact, according to the state Board of Elections, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 registration advantage. While this doesn’t account for the more than 110,000 voters without a political party affiliation, Lowey firmly held the seat for more than 30 years and won the 2018 election with 88% of the vote.
Even so, with almost a dozen Democrats vying for the seat, being the sole conservative obviously has its advantages. Namely, while his political opponents look to stand out in a very crowded field, Eisen faces no competition on the right.
He feels this unique situation favors him in other ways, too. In a conversation with River Journal, he said, “I think it’s a huge advantage, because I don’t think our district is as left-wing as the Democrats seeking this nomination. They are all in favor of Medicare for all … The bedrock of the Democratic Party across New York is unions. There’s not a union in the world that wants Medicare for all. People make big sacrifices to be in unions so they can get great healthcare …Anybody who is employed and has health insurance from their employer doesn’t want to give it up. In our district, over 66% of the people are against Medicare for all, and that’s just one example of how the party is out of touch.”
He called the overly left-wing politics of his rivals a personal motivator, including the views of the woman he looks to replace. “I decided to run actually before Nita Lowey announced her retirement,” he said. “I felt Nita Lowey, after 30-plus years, just wasn’t getting it done anymore. Beyond that, she’s really taken a marked shift to the left.”
He continued, “I think there’s a lot that’s going on in the Democratic Party that’s scary. I got a PhD from Columbia, which is in the belly of the left-wing beast, and I can tell you they have little use for separation of church and state; they have little use for organized religion or freedom of worship in a public space.”
While Eisen bemoans left-wing politics, saying, “their values are not American values,” and “they want to be like France” by preventing people from wearing religious clothing like turbans and yarmulkes freely in public, he also looks to distinguish himself from his Democratic counterparts with his business experience. “I’m going to be doing a lot of different things to help businesses in the district,” he said. “Part of being a leader is creating an environment where business is important, and that’s certainly something I’ll be doing … Helping people who are downtrodden is nice, but helping people create jobs, helping people get jobs, helping the district create better-paying jobs—that’s an example of what I’ll do.”
Eisen has called himself a “progressive Republican,” though he stresses he uses the term in its original sense, as in teaching progress and not with the connotation of being liberal. He said he’d welcome an endorsement from Donald Trump, though he disagreed with the president’s tax reform policies and feels district residents pay too much in taxes.
While he worries about politics veering too far to the left, he also spoke of the need to find middle ground: “When I was a little boy, there were two impeachments in two centuries. Now my son is a young boy, and he’s seen two impeachments in the last four presidents. It’s just sad. It’s become so partisan—you can point the fingers on both sides.”
This isn’t the way to make progress, he said. “Petty squabbling and big ideas don’t go together.”