A day after one Democrat said he isn't running for Congress in 2016, another has announced he's seeking the party's nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik in the 21st Congressional District race.
Retired Army Col. Mike Derrick, a Peru, N.Y. native, declared his candidacy Wednesday. He said he plans to focus on a range of issues affecting the middle class, including agriculture, education, jobs and income equality.
"The North Country where I grew up was a place where families looked out for each other, kids got a great education and we all believed that, with hard work, a bright future was possible," Derrick said. "That's my vision for our future and that's what I'll fight for in Congress."
Derrick attended Peru Junior High School and Mount Assumption Institute in Plattsburgh before receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1985.
He spent 28 years in the U.S. Army on active duty and reserve forces. He has served throughout the world, including patrolling the Korean Demilitarized Zone and leading a mechanized infantry company with the 1st Armored Division on the German border and in Operation Desert Storm.
Derrick was based at Ft. Shafter in Hawaii, where he led two units that supported Army Reserve forces across the Pacific. He also spent time at Fort Carson in Colorado, where he commanded two training battalions tasked with preparing soldiers for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the end of his Army career, he led a 22-nation missile defense wargame for the U.S. Strategic Command located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
He retired as a colonel in 2013. After his retirement, he served as an adviser with the State Department focusing on issues related to international missile defense cooperation.
"After spending nearly 30 years serving our country in the military, I’m excited to be home again," he said. "I’m running for Congress to make sure that my hometown of Peru and all of the communities in New York’s 21st District have the opportunity to thrive and grow.
"Unfortunately, with the paralysis and stagnation in Congress right now, that’s not happening. Politicians are more concerned with their own political interests than the interests of the people they represent. I’m going to change that."
In addition to his long Army career, Derrick holds two graduate degrees from Indiana University. He was an associate professor of history at West Point and also had a stint teaching at the Army's Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Derrick has been married to his wife Kathy for 28 years. She is a fellow West Point graduate and also had a long career in the Army. They have four children.
Derrick's announcement comes after Aaron Woolf, who ran unsuccessfully for the 21st District seat in 2014, announced he would not run again in 2016.
Chris Pack, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, linked Derrick's views to positions held by President Barack Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"While Derrick is busy defending the failed policies of Obama and Pelosi, Elise Stefanik will continue focusing on protecting Fort Drum, strengthening our national defense and growing the North Country economy," Pack said.
Stefanik, R-Willsboro, will be a formidable opponent. She will have incumbency on her side and is considered a rising star in the Republican Party.
In the first quarter of 2015 — her first fundraising quarter as a member of Congress — Stefanik reported raising more than $306,000.
Democrats hope to pick up some House seats in 2016, a presidential election year, after losses in 2014. But winning the 21st District race will be a challenge.