Reed and Plumb differ on how they define bipartisanship
One of New York state’s most sprawling congressional districts is the 23rd. It includes Jamestown to the west, Ithaca to the east, and even goes north of Geneva into the Finger Lakes area.
Incumbent Republican Tom Reed is running for re-election there against Democrat John Plumb.
There hasn’t been any reliable polling done in the race. Republicans do have a voter registration advantage of more than 20,000 people. Even so, almost a 100,000 people are not registered with any party.
And, Donald Trump is at the top of the GOP ticket. Reed initially backed Jeb Bush for president, but then endorsed Trump -- one of the earliest members of Congress to do so.
“To me, Donald Trump represents the biggest chance for change in Washington, D.C., to breaking up and disrupting the status quo,” Reed said at a debate last week in Chautauqua County.
Although Reed has stood by that endorsement, he condemned Trump’s lewd comments about women in that leaked recording from 2005.
For Joaquin Cuevas of Corning, though, Reed’s support of Trump is a deal breaker.
“Supporting somebody like Donald Trump would just create an environment of hostility for immigrants like myself,” Cuevas said. “We are part of this town. We pay our taxes...We have dreams.”
But other voters in the district support Trump. Teresa Haar lives about a half hour north of Corning.
“I think he’s a good man,” Haar said about Reed. “He’s a good family man. I think he’s helped with the area. [He’s] got my vote.”
Jim Twombly, political science professor at Elmira College, said constituent service may lead Reed to victory.
“He’s been able to build up that level of trust with his constituents so that he’s freer to be less moderate maybe than some other upstate Republicans.”
Reed also points to his work across the aisle on an advanced manufacturing law. He said he was “working hand in hand with the Obama administration and Vice President Biden to get it enacted.
The law’s connected to the new photonics center coming to the Rochester area.
But according to John Plumb, that bipartisan work pales when looking at Reed’s full record. At the debate, Plumb said Reed’s many votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act are examples of what’s wrong with Congress.
“My opponent has voted 63 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no plan to replace it or fix it,” Plumb said. “That is making [the ACA] worse every single time. It’s wasting our time...And the fact is, if we had improved this thing 63 times, we would really be somewhere right now.”
Plumb said partisanship is the biggest problem in the country. The Buffalo News endorsed Plumb, echoing his criticism that Reed, quote “revels in Congress’ dysfunction, then complains about it.”
The paper also praised Plumb’s resume. Plumb’s been an officer in the Navy for over 20 years and is a former staffer at the National Security Council.
As for policy, Plumb wants a harder push for renewable energy and supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who’ve come to the U.S. illegally.
“I like the idea of serving in the military as a pathway to citizenship, just like the Roman Empire did thousands of years ago,” Plumb said last week.
Legal status -- not citizenship -- is something Reed suggested as a compromise. For Reed, securing the border is a priority.
Jim Twombly said even though Plumb can’t be called an “Ithaca liberal” like past candidates in the 23rd District, he’s skeptical of his chances.
“This year’s politics across the board has been, let’s just say, out of the ordinary. And where a Democrat might close the gap in this district and perhaps even win, it’s just not there for some reason.”
Incumbents across the state look pretty good for victory tomorrow. This extraordinary political year might end up pretty ordinary.