It was an announcement many have expected for months. In a nearly three-minute video tweeted out Sunday night, Sean Eldridge announced his candidacy for New York’s 19th congressional seat against a popular Republican incumbent, and provided a glimpse of the campaign ahead.
The 27-year-old activist, investor and husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, filed paperwork establishing his congressional campaign in February, and has been rapidly laying the groundwork. But while the Democratic candidate’s first campaign ad released last night lampooned “Wall Street and Big Oil” while touting vague progressive principles like strengthening the economy and building the middle class, notably absent was mention of two keys aspects of Eldridge’s life: his advocacy for marriage equality or his marriage to Hughes.
“Right now the voices of everyday New Yorkers are being drowned out by the special interests and party politics causing gridlock in Washington,” Eldridge says while standing in a scenic field in the Hudson Valley. “We need an independent voice who will fight for us. And that’s why I’m running for Congress.”
Eldridge’s attempt to unseat popular incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson in 2014 is expected to be a tight race. And while the district is politically divided with 52 percent of voters in the 19th District going for Obama in 2012, Eldridge’s campaign launch appears to signal a focus that will shy from his advocacy work or the historic nature of his candidacy.
“I love the Hudson Valley. It’s where I’m building my family, my home, and my business,” Eldridge declares.
Although Eldridge’s campaign website notes he “helped lead the successful campaign for marriage equality in New York State in 2011,” Freedom to Marry, along with Hughes, who is worth an estimated $935 million and bought The New Republic magazine last year, go unmentioned. Note of the facts that Eldridge is married at all, let alone gay, are no where to be found.
Also absent is any indication of the couple’s connections to Democratic political elites. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both attended the couple’s wedding last summer, and they were guests at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s birthday celebration in December.
As The New York Times noted in a less than glowing portrait of the couple in July, Eldridge and Hughes relocated to their current $2 million home in New York’s 19th Congressional District in January after the $5 million home they had purchased two years prior proved to be in a district Eldridge likely could not win.
Eldridge’s ad – and what is starkly missing from it – indicates his campaign knows full well it has an image problem to combat, and one which Eldridge’s Republican opponent has already jumped on.
In a statement to Politico, Stephanie Valle, a Gibson spokesperson, portrayed Eldridge as a wealthy elite who saw only a political opportunity in New York’s 19th District.
“One thing is clear — this race will test the hypothesis of whether congressional seats can be bought,” Valle said.