Cait Corrigan addresses a crowd during a protest against mandatory COVID shots...

Cait Corrigan addresses a crowd during a protest against mandatory COVID shots at Stony Brook University in July 2021. Credit: Howard Simmons

As hundreds of activists protesting vaccine mandates gathered in Albany Wednesday in the lead-up to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State speech, one made a particular splash.

Cait Corrigan, a 24-year-old registered Republican who lives in Patchogue, announced her plans to run for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in a statement that didn’t mention the word vaccine once, instead referencing her desire to "defend medical freedom."

Referring to GOP incumbent Rep. Andrew Garbarino as "GarbaRINO," a riff on the pejorative "Republican In Name Only" label, Corrigan called herself a "fearless conservative who fights for freedom."

"A government that restricts the people is no longer a government of the people, for the people and by the people," Corrigan said in her statement. "Such a government is no longer a republic. It is a Communist regime."

It’s been that kind of week for Garbarino, who was elected in 2020. Besides fending off a fight from the right in his own party, Democrats, in their first pass at redistricting New York’s congressional seats, placed his home in another district.

Corrigan, who started a group called Students Against Mandates, has trumpeted her own fight for a religious exemption to allow her not to take the COVID-19 vaccine at Earlham College in Indiana, where she was studying for a master’s degree in "Peace & Social Transformation." She has since produced multiple seminars and workshops on how to get a religious exemption.