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Column: Who is Sarah Klee Hood and why are Voters so Excited About Her?

By Ron Klopfanstein | Columnist 

 “The status quo is not working,” Sarah Klee Hood says. “We need change and we need energy.”

Klee Hood is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s newly reconfigured 22nd District which now includes both Syracuse and Utica, and the surrounding areas. She has several examples of just how acutely the status quo has not worked for the people in New York State’s 22nd Congressional District, but most concern her two daughters and their future. 

“I want my kids to be able to live in Central New York and prosper,” Klee Hood emphasizes. “I want the next generation’s future to be full of opportunity. I grew up camping on Lake Delta, I want them to be able to do that too.” 

In order to make that happen she believes that climate change must be addressed.

As director of a clean technology incubator she is uniquely knowledgeable about the dangers posed by climate change. With her M.B.A. from Syracuse University, Klee Hood is also able to appreciate the opportunities for Central New York businesses to harness the advances in green technology to not only address the crisis but also create jobs. One of the businesses she has worked with has even been featured on the television show Shark Tank.

Before working in the private sector, she served in the United States Air Force. She says her experience serving in the military showed her how “affordable healthcare, child care, education, and job opportunities can [change] the trajectory of lives.”

But it was also during her military service that she experienced discrimination herself. When she told her commanding officer that she was pregnant he responded by giving her discharge papers. She declined them, but again after returning from maternity leave, he told her she didn’t understand “her place” in her family.

“It got prickly,” Klee Hood says. “I didn’t understand at the time how blatantly discriminatory it was. It opened my mind to the fact that people might try to overpower you with their biases.”

Those biases have cast a darkly portentous cloud over the country because of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision robbed women of their fifty-year right to control their own reproduction. In response to the decision several “red states” moved quickly to strip women of their right to abortion even in cases or rape, incest, and for sexual assault victims as young as ten years old. The push to codify the civil rights protections that had been protected by the (now overturned) Roe v. Wade decision is something Klee Hood would champion if she is elected to Congress.

“I do not want my daughters to have to fight the same fight my mother and grandmother had to fight,” she explains.

Teresa Ven Etten describes herself as a “health care voter,” and for her “health care is a human right and abortion is health care.”

Teresa is a Sarah Klee Hood supporter because she considers reproductive freedom a fundamental right of American citizens that guarantees equality between the sexes. 

Sarah Klee Hood
Sarah Klee Hood meeting with voters in Utica, NY on Saturday, August, 6, 2022. (Photo: Jen DeWeerth).

The Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision also threatens to have the terrifying cascade effect of eliminating the rights of Americans to marry same-sex partners or even people of a different race. At a recent candidates forum organized by the organization Indivisible Mohawk Valley Indivisible, Klee Hood enthusiastically said that she would “say gay,” [in opposition to Florida’s draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law that makes it a crime to be an openly gay teacher or support LGBT public school students.] She is also the only candidate for Congress (from either party) who attended this June’s Pride event in Utica. 

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act which would protect American’s fundamental right to marriage regardless of the gender (or race) of their spouse. The bill was supported by the entire Congressional delegation from New York State with the exception of our District’s Congresswoman, Claudia Tenney who has a track record of voting against civil rights bills of any sort, but particularly those that would protect the rights of LGBT Americans. The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate. If elected, Klee Hood promised to support the bill if it needs to be voted on again in the Congress.

That is important to voter Jim Hale from Westmoreland [disclosure: Hale is this reporter’s husband] who decided to support Klee Hood after hearing her speak at the Indivisible Mohawk Valley event.

“Marriage Equality is a fundamental civil right,” Hale says. “Because it makes us equal, not ‘better than,’ and definitely not ‘less than.’ Equal, that’s all we ever wanted. It’s what we deserve, it’s what all Americans deserve.”

He is convinced that Sarah Klee Hood will fight for that human right and for everyone she represents.

“We need someone who will represent everyone,” Hale says. “That includes minorities.”

On her website SarahKleeHoodNY.com, the candidate writes that she is running “because…our community needs a champion.” She calls upon her background growing up in the Madison County town of Bridgeport “on a road where she was related to 75% of her neighbors” as the daughter of a nurse and an electrician. Watching her parents fight for their rights to fair wages and safe working conditions through their union taught her that the system could work “if you worked hard and put your best foot forward” and if you worked together. She remembers her parents putting her school clothes on lay-away at Hills Department Store. She comes from a family characterized by hardwork and determination.

“I want my kids to be able to live in Central New York and prosper,” Klee Hood emphasizes. “I want the next generation’s future to be full of opportunity. 

Sarah Klee Hood is someone who sees problems as opportunities. She became involved in politics by running for, and winning, a seat on the Dewitt Town Board because her road didn’t have proper sidewalks. After talking to people in her neighborhood she learned that the lack of sidewalks didn’t just affect families with small children, it made it much more difficult for older people and people with disabilities to maintain their independence.

While campaigning door-to-door she began talking to people who were concerned about issues like health care and childcare. 

“We need to elect folks who understand those barriers,” people told her and encouraged her to run for a higher office where she could ensure that the federal government served the people.

Klee Hood describes these as “wallet and pocketbook issues” underscoring their importance to people’s daily lives. 

“Most folks in Congress haven’t grown up like most Americans,” she points out. “I looked at my background. I don’t come from generational wealth. I don’t have a lot of money or connections. But, I listen to people.”

The amount of money candidates have going into the primary has become an even greater issue in the past few weeks as some have begun to express uneasiness with the financial backing that’s been provided to front runner Francis Canole from a political action committee backed by a cryptocurrency billionaire.

One of the people who has taken note of his support is Roger Misso. Misso’s Twitter bio (@RogerMissoCNY) describes himself as a “Dad. Vet. Do-er.” He was a candidate for Congress himself until military service called him away. 

He recently tweeted a “shout out to my friend and sister in service @SarahKleeHoodNY, who has had the odds stacked against her from the start in #NY22 but keeps going. So many talk about women + reproductive rights, climate action, and campaign finance reform. So few act, and some wonder ‘why?’”

Misso goes on to suggest an answer to that very question.

“Could it be that because when candidates like Sarah come along who champion these issues, somehow it isn’t their ‘turn?’ They never seem to have enough ‘fund raising?’ Where else have we heard that in the past 246 years? Oh yeah, every other time a woman has dared to stand up.”

The issue of fundraising has churned up information that Sarah’s most prominent opponent in the Democratic primary, Francis Conole, is backed by a startling amount of, what’s been described as, “dark money” from a Political Action Committee (PAC) called “Protect Our Future” under the guise of  “pandemic prevention.” This PAC receives the vast majority of its funding from Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire founder of FTX, which is a crypto currency exchange.

This comes at a time when local, state, and federal governments are imposing restrictions on the industry primarily in response to the massive amounts of electricity used in the “mining” of the crypto currency and the impact the generation of that electricity will have on the environment. Increasingly this electricity is being generated in decommissioned power plants. Which, once back in operation, create power (and pollution) for the exclusive use of operating thousands of computers for the sole purpose of sifting online data to “mine” the hidden bits of code that are then “validated” and stored digitally in crypto exchanges such as the one owned by Sam Bankman-Fried. 

“This outside spending raises questions on whether Mr. Conole, if elected to Congress, would undertake efforts to protect our environment,” Klee Hool told Robert Harding in an article he wrote for the Auburn Citizen. Of particular concern to her is the region’s lakes which suffer from air pollution fallout caused by electrical plants burning fossil fuels.

Klee Hood (@SarahKleeHoodNY)  tweeted that “addressing climate change is a top voter concern. We need our elected officials to be accountable to the concerns of voters, and this outside spending raises questions on whether Mr. Conole, if elected to Congress, would undertake efforts to protect the environment from the harmful effects of crypto mining on our region’s lakes.” 

In the April 21, 2021 issue of the New Yorker magazine, Elizabeth Kolbert writes that “a single bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of power that the average American household consumes in a month…a million times more carbon emission than [for example] a Visa transaction.” That massive amount of electricity multiplied exponentially equals energy measured in terawatt hours, with each “terawatt” equaling one trillion watts per hour: a unit of measure most commonly used to calculate the electricity usage of entire countries.

Protecting the environment and giving voice to everyone, particularly those who do not have the wealth to buy an audience with current office holder Claudia Tenney, are generally winning issues for Democrats. This year, however, there is particular concern about the issues most germane to women and minorities, two groups whose rights are under assault from Trump appointed Supreme Court justices. Sarah Klee Hood’s supporters echo her statement that she is the “only candidate who knows the ‘positions’ because she’s lived the ‘positions.’”

“Sarah is a beacon of hope for mothers and women alike,” according to NY-22 voter, Monica Lewis. “She understands our issues and we can relate to her. Having a candidate who puts an emphasis on childcare and healthcare is paramount. Life can be hard for low income families and taking care of the women and children first is what will help everyone flourish.”

Klee Hood’s emphasis on what she calls “the needs of everyday Americans” has won her many supporters throughout the district like Monica Lewis.

“I have high hopes that Sarah will stand up for us and rights,” Lewis says. “She is truly for the working class.”

The Democratic primary is on Tuesday, August 23rd. Early voting is August 13th through August 21st. To find voting location and times, go to: voterlookup.elections.ny.gov. Follow Ron Klopfanstein at Twitter.com/RonKlopfanstein and Instagram.com/RonKlopfanstein, and like him at Facebook.com/ReadRonKlopfanstein.

Correction: According to a reader from Utica, NY22 Congressional candidate Chol Majok also attended Utica’s Pride celebration on June 25th.

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