NORTH RIVER — Brigid “Bridie” Farrell, the former U.S. national team speedskater who advocated for passage of the Child Victims Act in New York and across the country, said she wants to offer bipartisan, real-world solutions if she makes it to Congress.
Ms. Farrell, a 39-year-old Democrat from North River, announced her campaign for Congress in New York’s 21st Congressional District on Wednesday.
In an interview Thursday, Ms. Farrell said her work on the Child Victims Act, which passed in New York in 2019, taught her a lot about legislative responsibilities.
“I learned that bipartisan legislation is absolutely possible, and at the end of the day we might be called Republicans and Democrats, but we’re just people,” she said. “We’re humans, we’re talking about human lives and issues.”
She said that attitude was what allowed her to get versions of the Child Victims Act passed in New Jersey, Arizona and an increasing number of other states.
The bill in New York raised the statute of limitations age for the victims of childhood sexual abuse from 23 to 55, and opened a one-year window to allow people who were assaulted before 2019 to pursue civil cases against the people and institutions that hurt them. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo extended the act for a second time on May 27, 2020, giving survivors until Aug. 13 of this year to file claims.
Ms. Farrell took up the charge to pass the act after speaking up about her own abuse at the hands of an older teammate and mentor, and finding there was little interest in holding him accountable, within the speed-skating world or legally.
“I stood up to pass that bill, not because of me going after my abuser, but truthfully, I met a little girl when I made my comeback to speed-skating, and I did not want what I went through to ever happen to her,” she said. “I knew the only way we were going to do that was to change the law.”
Ultimately, Ms. Farrell said more than 6,000 people in New York state alone have come forward to pursue action against their abusers and the institutions that protected them under the Child Victims Act.
After Ms. Farrell entered the race Wednesday, Rep. Elise M. Stefanik’s campaign quickly responded with a statement on Twitter. Rep. Stefanik’s senior adviser Alex DeGrasse said Ms. Farrell is a “Far-Left New York City Democrat,” pointing out how she only recently registered to vote at her North River address.
Prior to living in North River, Ms. Farrell lived in Lexington, Greene County, southwest of Albany — she last voted there as well.
Ms. Farrell said the Stefanik campaign is using the same messaging it used against another Democrat in the race, Matthew F. Putorti.
When Mr. Putorti, a lawyer for New York City-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, announced his campaign in June, the Stefanik campaign branded him a “far-left socialist” and pointed out he had only registered to vote in the district two weeks before announcing his candidacy.
“They should hire more staff, it’s just copy paste,” Ms. Farrell said. “(Stefanik) is just putting us into one category and not talking about the issues.”
Ms. Farrell said she was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, and left the area when she began skating with the U.S. national speedskating team in her teens.
“I loved living in Colorado, Michigan, racing for our country,” she said. “I came back to go to school here, I had a corporate job in the state.”
Ms. Farrell is a 2008 graduate of Cornell University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in policy analysis and management, a program that combines the social sciences, data analysis and public policy education.
Ms. Farrell was registered to vote from a Brooklyn address from 2008 to 2018, when she moved back upstate to Saratoga Springs.
According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Farrell worked in the financial services, business and life insurance industries in New York City between 2011 and 2016, before launching her nonprofit dedicated to ending child sex abuse, America Loves Kids.
She moved to Columbia County in 2018 briefly, before moving to Greene County, and then registered in North River in early July.
Ms. Farrell said making a big deal about where she lived is not productive. She said she is a born-and-bred native and current resident of the district, and the law states she can run as long as she is at least 25 years old and a resident of the state she is running in.
She said she wants to focus on the issues that impact voters in her campaign for Congress.
Ms. Farrell said she does not define herself as a progressive, centrist or conservative.
“I think we need to get away from these labels,” she said. “We in the north country, we have people come around the table, the campfire, whatever it is, and talk. Let’s get away from labeling.”
But to other outlets, including WWNY-TV, also known as 7 News, she has described herself as a “conservative Democrat.”
On the issues, Ms. Farrell said she is focused on three — improving access to health care, supporting public schooling and universal broadband internet access. She said the three are tied together intrinsically.
“America has the best health care in the world, but you’re not shopping for what service you want in the back of an ambulance,” she said. “We need to have things out front, transparent for consumers to be able to make decisions going in.”
She said her own experience needing multiple surgeries showed her how even people with insurance can be hit with huge medical bills. She said she would like to see it made easier for small businesses to secure affordable health insurance for their employees.
She said the pandemic proved telehealth medicine can be a way to connect people with proper care at an affordable rate, but lack of internet access can make that impossible to use for many people.
“In the north country, in 2021, people still don’t have broadband,” she said. “There are so many ways these things intersect.”
For education, Ms. Farrell said it is important that K-12 schools and public colleges have proper funding, but the government should also focus some attention on trade schools and BOCES-like programs.
Ms. Farrell said she herself went through a BOCES technical education program in high school, and technical education programs like that need more respect.
As she campaigns, Ms. Farrell said she hopes to hear from voters of all creeds, because she is working to represent them, not just her own party. Since she announced her campaign Wednesday, Ms. Farrell said she has heard from people she knows and strangers, Republicans, Democrats and non-aligned voters, all who have said they are hopeful she can be the one to represent them in Washington.
“It’s been an overwhelming response,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”
Ms. Farrell is competing against two other candidates for the Democratic nomination, Matthew F. Putorti and Ezra Watson. The three will be on the Democratic primary ballot next June.