After Tracy Mitrano lost by a little over 8 percentage points to Representative Tom Reed (R-Corning) in 2018, she wanted to find out why. 

Specifically, she was curious to discover why Chautauqua County, the county with the second-highest number of registered Democrats in this sprawling Southern Tier district, didn’t support her. 

“It was the worst county, in terms of my election and I needed to figure out what the hell was going on there,” she told Spectrum News.

So, Mitrano rented a place and stayed in that part of the district for about three months.

“I figured, it wasn’t like I could go for a long weekend or anything. I needed to go to the fish fries on Fridays; get a beer at 5 o’clock on Saturday; go to a game on Sunday,” she said.

Her temporary stay took place in 2019.

“It was in 2019, pre-COVID,” said Mitrano. “Thank God I didn’t wait.”

This part of the 23rd Congressional district has been economically devastated by losses in both manufacturing and agriculture. It’s the area that then-candidate for governor, Eliot Spitzer, referred to as Appalachia in 2006. At the time, West Virginia was creating more jobs than Upstate New York. 

What Mitrano said she learned by living there was that the Republican Party had been “brilliantly effective” at “scapegoating” all the problems this part of the district faces.

“It’s always the Democrats’ fault. It’s always Cuomo’s fault. It’s always high taxes. Anyone who’s on social services is a taker,” she explained. “Everyone’s an illegal. Even in Dunkirk, where they have a large Puerto Rican population, they call them illegals. There’s a level of scapegoating that is very intense.”

Mitrano says the misinformation that voters believe extends to Second Amendment issues as well as abortion.

Mitrano spoke with Capital Tonight’s Susan Arbetter.