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Profile: Dan Maffei working to get back to Congress

Ellen Abbott
WRVO file photo

WRVO News is interviewing and profiling candidates in the region who are running in contended races.  Ellen Abbot took a closer look at Democrat Dan Maffei, who is trying to win back the seat in Congress he lost two years ago by the slimmest of margins to Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buekle.

The 44-year-old from Dewitt is a hybrid candidate of sorts, a challenger yet with a record to defend.

Maffei says the biggest reason he wants to go back to Washington is to help the middle class.

"That squeezing of the middle class has created major strife in our economy, particularly in central New York. If we don't have policies that allow the middle class to success, and thrive and send their kids to school and make sure they have decent health care and all those things, then central New York will be in trouble," said Maffei.

Beyond that though, he says he's running to get Buerkle, who won on a wave of tea party enthusiasm two yeas ago, out of office.  "Even I would not have predicted that Anne Marie Buerkle would have this radical a record," said Maffei. "And the kinds of things she's done in office, supporting the Ryan budget -- the Ryan budget would devastate central New York for so many different reasons."

Maffei says he would bring a middle-of-the-road world view to Congress. "The real essence of representation is figuring out where the district is as the whole and trying to follow those, which makes me generally a moderate, but someone who is progressive in many ways, but also pro-business," said Maffei.

And he believes this philosophy can end the gridlock in Washington. "My hope is that after President Obama is re-elected, hopefully the Congress, if not Democratic, will be much closer in terms of numbers," said Maffei. "And that will embolden moderates from both sides, Republicans and Democrats to really take control from the current party leaderships that I do think are too far to the left on one side and too far to the right on the other."

So when it comes to the budget deficit., he proposes a two-pronged approach that would raise taxes on the very wealthy, those making over a million dollars.

"Those people who can afford to pay more without hurting the economy, millionaires and billionaires, actually anyone making over a million dollars, should got back to the Clinton-era rates.  They were doing quite well under the Clinton-era rates so they'll still thrive, and that'll give us additional revenue," said Maffei.

He also believes  there is room for budget cutting, citing the daily printing of the Congressional Record, and subsidies to oil companies as a waste of money. He says the combination of these cuts and increases in revenue will balance the budget.

One congressional vote Maffei has to defend in this race, is his vote for the Affordable Care Act.  He admits that some changes in the law need to be made.  "I'm on record as wanting to repeal the device tax.  And there are things you can do to make sure budgetary everything is okay in there," said Maffei.  "But there's other things we can do. We need to  look for more ways to reduce costs.  I think you could do more with electronic medical records, for instance."

Maffei says ultimately he would support health care reform that Americans would be comfortable with.  

When it comes to foreign affairs, Maffei says the priority would be to have a mobile force that can defend the country wherever there is a hotspot, and that would mean good intelligence. And he believes there should be more congressional oversight when it comes to the use of unmanned drones. "We don't want to go after civilian targets. We don't want to do assassination.  That's not what we're about.  So to the extent of those accusations, we need to get to the bottom of them, and Congress needs to step up and oversee this," said Maffei.

And how should the United States deal with radical Muslim groups?  "You can't just be in one country or two countries or three countries, and say well, for the moment we've cleared the terrorists out of this country and we're okay," said Maffei. "Because terror cells can pop up everywhere, that's what makes it so insidious.  So we must always stay vigilant and have a military that can detect as soon as possible when these cells become belligerent," said Maffei.

On the issue of climate change, Maffei says the country can't stand pat on the issue, and government should be involved.  "We need to try to get to a clean energy economy and makes the appropriate investments in research and tax incentives to get there," said Maffei.

The Dewitt Democrat introduced the issue of Buerkle's support of abortion into the race, adding he doesn't regret a commercial that accuses her of changing the definition of rape in the context of abortion.  Maffei says he believes the district should know her stand on the issue.   

"Ann Marie Buerkle stays quiet about these issues when she's in the district. And yet when she's in Washington, she appears at press conferences, she gives statements on the floor, she co-sponsors bills, she talks about it in committee, all these different ways how she is opposed to abortion even in the case of rape or incest, and her work to get rid of it," said Maffei.  "That's not why the voters of New York sent her there."

And he contends that what he calls his opponent's radical agenda, is what defines this race. "I do think it's very, very important not just to elect Dan Maffei but to stop Ann Marie Buerkle." 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.