ALBANY, N.Y. — Shortly after the impeachment hearing began on Friday, Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, made her mark. She accused the Democratic committee chairman, Adam Schiff, of trying to silence her and other members of her party, “simply because we are Republicans.”
Later, Ms. Stefanik took on a prominent role among Republicans in questioning the day’s witness, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch.
For Ms. Stefanik, 35, once the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, the moment in the spotlight was noticed by members of her party, most notably President Trump, who called her a “new Republican star” on Twitter.
But her performance was also a galvanizing moment for Democrats, who swarmed Ms. Stefanik’s Democratic challenger, Tedra Cobb, with social media attention and donations: Ms. Cobb’s campaign announced a weekend fund-raising haul of more than $1 million.
Among the wave of donors was George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer who is married to President Trump’s White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, and is now a prominent critic of Mr. Trump. Mr. Conway posted a screenshot of his $2,800 contribution on Twitter, and was among other left-leaning social media luminaries, including Chrissy Teigen, George Takei, Mark Hamill and Zach Braff, who encouraged their followers to follow suit.
That swell of financial help was mirrored in an exponential increase in social interest: Ms. Cobb and Ms. Stefanik each gained more than 200,000 new followers on Twitter since Friday, according to Social Blade, a social media data firm.
The sudden attention given to the race in New York’s 21st Congressional District demonstrates how the nation’s partisan divide can invigorate a little-noticed upstate outpost — covering a massive chunk of Adirondack forests and towns known as the North Country — and turn it into a major electoral battleground.
The district is considered a challenge for Democrats: Despite a creeping increase in registered Democratic voters in recent years, Republicans still outnumber Democrats by nearly 50,000. The last Democrat to hold the seat was Bill Owens, who won a 2009 special election and retired in 2014.
Ms. Stefanik, who graduated from Harvard in 2006, ran to fill Mr. Owens’s seat, after working as an aide to President George W. Bush and helping the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, prepare for his debates.
Her sudden prominence comes less than a year after she clashed with Republican leaders over the party’s direction. Last December, after Republicans suffered big losses in the 2018 elections, Ms. Stefanik stepped down from her post as head of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and circulated a letter arguing that Republicans’ lack of diversity — including having few female candidates — was hurting the party’s electoral chances.
“Neither our Republican caucus, nor our party as a whole, can afford further erosion among key demographics,” Ms. Stefanik wrote, in collaboration with three other members of Congress, adding that Republicans were “falling short in races that were otherwise winnable,” including in suburban districts.
Mr. Owens, a lawyer in Plattsburgh, N.Y., said that the district was changing somewhat in recent years but remained a rural, largely Republican, area — a place popular with hunters who have guns “and don’t misuse them.” He said Ms. Stefanik had initially been successful in presenting a moderate, bipartisan image, but felt that the Trump era had forced her to the right.
“She now appears very partisan,” Mr. Owens said. “And that’s not where she had been.”
As the sole Republican woman on the House Intelligence Committee, Ms. Stefanik’s questioning of Ms. Yovanovitch was both complimentary — with the congresswoman thanking the ambassador for her “tremendous public service” — and contentious, with Ms. Stefanik pressing the witness on her work on Ukrainian corruption during the Obama administration.
While Ms. Stefanik’s youth and gender make her an outlier among Republicans in the impeachment hearings, she rejected any suggestion that her enhanced role in the hearings was politically calculated.
“My quest for transparency has nothing to do with me being a woman or a millennial,” Ms. Stefanik said on Twitter.
Ms. Stefanik’s clash with Mr. Schiff was derided as a stunt by many Democratic critics, as well as Ms. Cobb. Others noted that the resolution setting up ground rules for the hearings passed by the House supported Mr. Schiff’s actions.
Still, Democrats welcomed the attention that Ms. Stefanik brought to her re-election effort, hoping that it enhances the chances of Ms. Cobb, a former St. Lawrence County legislator who lost to Ms. Stefanik in 2018 by nearly 14 percentage points.
“Congresswoman Stefanik went all in on defending President Trump’s reckless agenda,” said Cole Leiter, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “And put her total allegiance to the political party she serves in Washington on full display.”
Ms. Cobb is running a campaign as a “North Country insider, Washington D.C. outsider,” whose campaign website outlines her positions on improving the local economy, fighting opioid abuse, working on gun control and “fair and sensible immigration policies,” a factor in a district which shares a border with Canada.
She has expressed support for the impeachment inquiry, but seems to be trying to woo moderate voters as well, saying “the tenor of our politics too often divides us.”
“I’m old enough to remember when we could expect our leaders to take the high road,” Ms. Cobb said on Twitter on Monday.
Ms. Stefanik’s campaign seemed unconcerned by the influx of cash for Ms. Cobb, but it nonetheless sought to use it to solicit its own donations: Since last week, Ms. Stefanik has urged her supporters on Twitter to “help me fight back against the Far-Left’s attacks.”
Her campaign would not divulge how much money it had received over the weekend, but she had raised some $450,000 in the third quarter of 2019, and had $1.3 million on hand, according to an October filing.
“Our campaign has never been in a stronger position as we are today,” said Lenny Alcivar, a spokesman for the congresswoman. “We absolutely look forward to running against the No. 1 pro-impeachment candidate that the North Country knows well.”
Mark E. Frost, the publisher and editor of the Glens Falls Chronicle, a free weekly, said he didn’t believe that the impeachment hearings had “changed many minds in northern New York, at least among the people I talk to and hear from.”
But while he said Ms. Stefanik “remains on solid footing with most voters” in the district, the current political climate made the 2020 race hard to handicap.
“By next year or next week, who knows?” Mr. Frost said. “Political earthquakes hit faster and bigger all the time. Maybe Stefanik’s role in the impeachment hearing has or will set another one in motion.”
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