Will two Republican congressmen — Tom Reed an Chris Collins — representing the region keep their seats after the 2018 election?
How happy — or not — are voters with their congressmen in the Finger Lakes region? The heavily Republican districts 23 and 27 are seeing plenty of action by Democrats eager to nominate strong candidates to defeat Tom Reed and Chris Collins this year. What’s happening in Washington with a GOP majority Congress and President Donald Trump — with issues from immigration to healthcare, environment and taxes — has people fired up.
Addressing a tame crowd at a town hall meeting this week in Middlesex, Reed, the Republican from Corning representing the 23rd District, said “Ninety-nine percent of the people I work with in Washington are good people.” That drew laughs from the group at the fire hall in the Yates County hamlet.
Since the 2016 presidential election, protesters have converged regularly outside Reed’s office in Geneva over Trump policies and executive orders Reed largely supports. The refugee bans, treatment of undocumented immigrants, rollback of environmental regulations and the newly-passed tax overhaul are all hot-button issues.
At the town hall, when confronted about the pulling back of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Reed said, “I do support the EPA, adding “the EPA has gone overboard.”
On immigration, he said children who were brought to the country illegally should be offered a path to citizenship — but not their parents. “There needs to be a penalty for the parents who brought them here,” he said.
The 23rd — which includes the eastern part of Ontario County (Geneva, Hopewell, Phelps, etc.) as well as Yates, Seneca, Schuyler, Tompkins Tioga, Steuben and other southern tier counties — has seven Democrats hoping to gain the nomination to defeat Reed, who was first elected to Congress in 2010.
The most recent to announce is Linda Andrei, a retired cardiologist in Tompkins County. Others include Max Della Pia, Rick Gallant, Ian Golden, Tracy Mitrano, Eddie Sundquist and Charles Whalen. A previous candidate, Karl Warrington, a medical social worker and pastor, recently dropped out of the race and endorsed Mitrano.
Candidates must file with the New York State Board of Elections by April 12 for the primary election set for June 26. The general election is Nov. 6.
In a straw poll held recently in Geneva, Mitrano took the top votes after candidates addressed a crowd of about 700 people, with 400 casting ballots. Each candidate shared their platform and updated their campaign activity before audience members were asked to vote their top-pick candidates most likely to defeat Reed.
In her closing remarks Mitrano said, “We have a Washington insider who votes to advance the lives of his supporters and not his constituents.” She said that Reed does not intimidate her and “I will not let him intimidate us,” she said. “We will expose his deceptive tactics. We will speak integrity to his disrespect, honesty to his lies, and courage to his fears. And we will unseat him on Nov 6.″
The massive $1.5 trillion tax bill Reed and Collins supported, approved in December, slashes tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans, while containing smaller benefits for other taxpayers. The plan, championed largely by Republicans, drops the 35 percent tax rate on corporations to 21 percent. The legislation represented the first major legislative achievement for the GOP after nearly a full year in control of Congress and the White House. It’s the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The debt is expected to soar by at least $1 trillion more than it would without the tax measure, according to projections.
In the 27th District, Collins acknowledged in November he was getting pressure from donors to support the tax bill. When questioned by a reporter, Collins said, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”
According to Collins, the tax overhaul, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “will provide tax relief to families across Western New York and spark business investment, hiring, and wage growth. Based upon census data, the average family in the 27th Congressional District will pay $1,875 less in taxes allowing them to keep more than $150 each month.”
The 27th District includes several western New York counties, including Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties and portions of Monroe, Erie, Niagara and the western part of Ontario County, including Canandaigua, Farmington and Victor.
In the 23rd district, Reed said the average taxpayer will see a $1,600 tax reduction. Reed said at this week’s town hall employers are already reacting to the tax change, raising wages and bonuses.
Collins, in a recent tweet, stated “as a result of the #TaxCutsandJobsAct being signed into law, @verizon has announced employees will receive 50 shares of restricted Verizon stock and they will increase their philanthropic work. Companies are taking action and changing the lives of everyday employees.”
The first House member to endorse Trump for president, Collins provides plenty of fodder for opponents, including an ethics probe. In October, the House Ethics Committee extended its review of Collins, whose stock market trades prompted an advocacy group to request an investigation for possible violation of insider trading or conflict of interest. Advocacy groups said Collins sponsored legislation that could potentially benefit the company. Collins denied any wrongdoing.
The Turn 27 Blue Coalition fielding Democratic candidates to oppose Collins is behind forums to weight candidates and garner voter input.