Plattsburgh, NY — A pair of Democrats are battling for the nomination to take on Republican U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik in New York’s 21st Congressional District in November.

With the Clinton County Fair as the background, Democrat Matt Castelli was campaigning in Plattsburgh on Wednesday ahead of the August 23 primary.

“Our campaign is going really well,” he said. “We’re encouraged by all of the excitement behind our campaign because we offer the real opportunity to defeat Elise Stefanik in this race. We’re the only ones who I think have the opportunity to do just that.”

Castelli says for him to win in the 21st District, it is going to take more than just Democratic support.

“I think it takes building a coalition, not just to have the strong support from Democrats, which I’m encouraged to have, but also make sure we’re speaking to, and bringing on board independents and even Republicans because again my mantra throughout this entire campaign has been country before party,” he said. 

His opponent, Matt Putorti, is also reaching across the aisle.

“We’ve knocked on thousands of doors,” said Putorti. “I’ve been surprised by the number of Republicans that have come up to me as I’ve been on the campaign trail and said I just want you to know I’m supporting you, or I can’t vote for Elise Stefanik anymore.”

Ina statement, a spokesperson for Stefanik, the number three ranking Republican in the U.S. House, called the Democratic primary “a race to the far-left with two radical candidates. For the first time, the Democrat candidates are refusing to debate to hide their radical views, such as their support for a gun ban, from the voters.”

Putorti took issue with that.

“We called for debates very early on in this race,” he said “I think it’s really important for voters to hear from candidates. I have said, and our campaign has said yes to every opportunity that’s been presented to us to debate or to have a forum.” 

In a response to Stefanik’s statement, Castelli said that he is willing to debate, but has been told by outlets who traditionally hold debates that they are unable to do so.

On gun control, Purtoti is on the record as saying he would support a federal ban on assault-style weapons. Castelli would not go that far, saying it’s unlikely to get through Congress, but said he supports expanding background checks and enacting a federal “red flag law.”

The last day to register to vote in the primary is Friday.

-This story has been updated to clarify the Democratic candidates positions on gun control.