NY-23: Bill Owens Won’t Raise Your Taxes

One of the popular lines that the Republicans come out with every time they campaign against Democrats is the old “they are going to raise your taxes” schtick. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Quite frankly, it’s getting old. Lately, it hardly ever works (as evidenced by their losses in 2006 and 2008).

So when they claimed in a recent ad targeting NY-23 Democratic candidate Bill Owens that he was for raising taxes, it caught FactCheck.org’s attention.

Here is the ad:

Factcheck.org set the record straight regarding this claim:

The announcer misleads, however, when he says: “Now, Bill Owens wants to help Nancy Pelosi raise your income taxes.”

As support, the NRCC cites Owens’ Web site, where he says that he supports “allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.” The NRCC also cites a brief from the National Center for Policy Analysis, a group whose stated goal “is to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control.” The paper describes the effect on small businesses if they faced three simultaneous tax hikes.

We know of no one who has called for enacting all three of the proposals laid out in the paper, but we needn’t venture further into that tangle. Suffice to say that the only tax increase Owens has said he supports is the one above, allowing the expiration of the tax cuts for the “wealthy,” which is scheduled to happen in 2010. (Under Bush, the top marginal tax rate was cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.)

What’s “wealthy”? Owens’ Web site doesn’t specify. During his presidential campaign, though, Barack Obama used a threshold of individuals making $200,000 or more, and households making at least $250,000. Under those limits, how many constituents of the NY-23 would be affected by Owens’ proposal?

Not a whole lot. According to the most recent Census data, 2,728 households in the district had a total income of more than $200,000 in 2007. That’s just 1.1 percent of all the district’s households. Average household income was $52,801.

We’re not minimizing the fact that those relatively few households might be unhappy about the prospect of seeing their income taxes go up. We’re just saying it would affect, well, relatively few. Which is a lot less than the ad would have you believe.

Amazing what lengths the Republicans will go just to make this claim.  

NY-23: Bill Owens: For Or Against The Public Option?

Yesterday, I provided some details on the Democratic candidate in New York’s 23rd congressional district race, Bill Owens.

In the comments reacting to the post, the big question surrounds Owens and his position on the public option. Obviously, the public option is a huge issue among progressives and the netroots. It is also a question that, in Owens’ case, does not have a clear cut response.

On August 11, Owens was profiled for PolitickerNY. He was called the “DCCC-approved non-Democrat” and was asked a few different questions. It was then that this was said about his position on health care:

Owens took a decidedly moderate line on health care restructuring, saying he does not support a public option available to anyone–the crux of the restructuring put forward by President Obama. He said some health plans in Congress not longer include the idea of a public option. This stance is gaining some traction in the Senate.

“It changes every day, the various iterations,” Owens told me. “The bill that I would vote for would have a couple of elements to it. It would cover the uninsured, it would eliminate the ability to exclude for a pre-existing condition, and also that focuses on cost-reduction.”

At the time, Owens was just picked to be the Democratic candidate and little was known about him.

(As an aside, I would like to add this from the other finalists for the nomination:

“I’m with the president; I think there should be a public option,” John Sullivan, the former mayor of Oswego, told me before Owens was selected. “I’m not a Blue Dog Democrat, let me put it that way. At least in terms of health care.”

Brian McGrath, a Manhattan attorney who grew up in the district, was more cautious, saying that he supported the idea, but that “you have to look at the public option and how it has to be structured.”

The reason I bring this up is that it has been said that Owens was the only one of the finalists to oppose a public option. On the surface, that is true. But McGrath saying that you have look at it and how it is structured certainly got my attention just as Owens and his position did.)

After President Barack Obama gave his health care address to Congress, all three candidates in NY-23 provided updates on where they stand when it comes to health care reform. Owens gave a different perspective on health care than in the past.

Owens, who told me the night he was nominated that he did not support a public option, said that it was, as a component of an insurance exchange, something he “would look very carefully at; they seem reasonable as principles.”

“My view is that there are a couple of principles that have to be adhered to in coming to a resolution of the health care issue,” Owens told me. “I’m not in favor of a litmus test because I think that’s one of the big problems in Washington today. I think we need to be able to analyze the bills and make a rational decision about it in line with the principals in the bill.

“As long as they meet the four criteria that I laid out, those are things that I would consider,” he said. “Again, I don’t want to apply a litmus test, I don’t want to apply a label. I want to be able to analyze the information and the bill and come to a conclusion.”

(His four criteria are that any bill not add to the deficit or “place burdens on small businesses,” bring down insurance costs, provide access to coverage for those without insurance, and ensure those with pre-existing conditions are insured. Owens has said this before, but it’s not on his web site, which provides no information about his biography or positions.)

(Emphasis mine.)

His response to the question about the public option (which, this time, he was actually quoted on) was, just to repeat, something he “would look very carefully at; they seem reasonable as principles.”

Owens’ approach to health care reform includes a lot of key elements. He believes in controlling costs for the middle-class and supports providing access to affordable health care coverage to every American.

This is the full list of what he supports:

·        Supports: Controlling health care costs for the middle class.

·        Supports: Providing access to affordable health insurance for every American.

·        Supports: Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to anybody based on previous existing conditions and bans caps on lifetime coverage.

·       Supports:  Giving small business and individuals access to the lowest rates available to federal employees and large corporations.

·        Supports: Allowing anybody to keep their existing coverage.

·        Supports: Using profits from repayment of TARP funds, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, increased efficiency in our health care system (like putting all health care records on-line and requiring insurance companies to accept payment on-line), and cutting special interest tax loopholes (like tax benefits for companies that offshore jobs) to help pay for health care reform.

·        Supports: Allowing states to use savings from elimination of uncompensated care costs (Over $100 billion annually) to reduce taxes. In New York this would help prevent property tax increases.

There are three things Owens is opposed to: Cuts to Medicare, taxing health care benefits and increasing the taxes on the middle class.

Back to the public option. It is necessary for Owens to be clear about his position. He first said he opposed it, then a month later, seemed to leave the door open for it.

So for those saying he opposes it, I would hold off on those charges.

NY-23: Bill Owens On (Some Of) The Issues

Cross posted at Daily Kos

The other day, I shattered the ugly belief that the Republican candidate in the 23rd congressional district, Dede Scozzafava, was the most liberal. That post was a direct response to Markos’ post Thursday, which also included a critique of Democratic candidate Bill Owens.

One of the arguments made by Markos is that Owens is a “conservaDem” and that he would be just another member of the Blue Dog Coalition should he win in November. Owens, who was an independent but has changed his party affiliation to become a Democrat, was picked over two Democrats to run.  

Because of that, there is a high level of uncertainty about Owens. Progressives are skeptical (and rightfully so) because they see the Blue Dogs throughout the country and don’t want to see Owens end up just another Blue Dog. I also think that some of this skepticism is related to the district Owens is running in. He isn’t the first Democrat running in an upstate New York district whose views have been questioned and who has been considered a prospective Blue Dog. It apparently comes with the territory, whether it’s fair or not.

Here are two of Owens’ television ads which give you an idea of his approach. His emphasis is jobs and creating jobs in the North Country.

This is what we know about Owens based on the issues page available on his campaign website:

– His area of expertise is jobs. He has a seven-point plan for creating jobs. The plan includes: An emphasis on green energy, recruiting Canadian investment (if you’re familiar with NY-23, you know that it borders Canada), keeping Fort Drum strong, job training for veterans and graduates, investing in local infrastructure, higher education and agriculture.

– When it comes to health care reform, he supports all of the following: Controlling health care costs for the middle class; providing affordable health insurance to every American; preventing health insurance companies from using preexisting conditions and caps on lifetime coverage; giving small businesses and individuals access to lowest rates available to large corporations and government employees; allowing anybody to keep their existing coverage.

This part of his health care reform platform is very interesting:

Using profits from repayment of TARP funds, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, increased efficiency in our health care system (like putting all health care records on-line and requiring insurance companies to accept payment on-line), and cutting special interest tax loopholes (like tax benefits for companies that offshore jobs) to help pay for health care reform.

He also proposes the following: Allowing states to use savings from elimination of uncompensated care costs (Over $100 billion annually) to reduce taxes. In New York this would help prevent property tax increases.

Owens opposes Medicare benefit cuts, taxing health care benefits and increasing taxes on the middle class.

In addition to all of that, we also know the following:

– Owens supports the Employee Free Choice Act in its current form.

On top of asking about EFCA, the Watertown Daily Times also asked the candidates where they stand on a handful of other issues. Here’s where Owens stands on those issues:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Owens said he would have voted for the ARRA if he was in the House at the time. Scozzafava also said she would have supported it, but then gave critiques of the stimulus that showed she has some problems with the package, which tells me that maybe she would not have voted for it. (Let me just add that it is easy to say now you would vote for it, as a Democrat or Republican, given the ARRA’s positive impact.)

This is what Owens said about the stimulus:

Mr. Owens said he’d like to see more of the funds redirected toward job creation or assisting farmers.

“What you want to do with the stimulus dollars is set up a infrastructure base so that people going forward can independently make their decisions and hopefully be successful in their businesses,” he said.

Taxation of health benefits: Owens said in the article that he would have to look at it before giving a clear position. That article was written at the end of August. His website, which was recently updated, tells us that he is opposed to taxing health benefits.

Cash for Clunkers: Owens said he supports the CARS program (commonly known as Cash for Clunkers) and that he believes “It helped put labor back to work. And it did a lot of important things to get the economy moving in the right direction.”

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Owens said he wasn’t familiar with this legislation (hard to imagine, given its profile) but he did say that “Everyone should be paid fair wages for their work, irrespective of any other factor that may come into play.” While Owens should know the legislation, that position is better than the position of his two conservative opponents. Scozzafava (a woman, I remind you) said she was oppose the legislation. Conservative Doug Hoffman also said he would oppose the bill.

Davis-Bacon: If you aren’t familiar with this (the Watertown Daily-Times apparently thought this was a good question to ask), Davis-Bacon is described as the following:

“The law, which has been in effect since the Great Depression, requires construction workers to be paid prevailing wages on public works projects.”

Owens said he would support Davis-Bacon staying in place.

Some of the other positions I have been able to find on Owens is that he supports taking tax breaks away from companies who send jobs out of New York to other locations.

Bill Owens thinks that companies receiving tax breaks from the government must live up to their end of the promise. That’s why he supports holding big businesses accountable by taking away tax breaks from companies that outsource jobs away from Upstate New York.

He also supports agriculture and rural development and this statement on his website gives us a glimpse into what his approach will be when it comes to agriculture:

That’s why Owens will fight to help local farmers and ranchers by using subsidies and import limits to make sure they get fair prices for their goods. And Owens supports Senator Chuck Schumer’s call for an investigation into why dairy farmers are getting paid lower and lower prices for their milk, while the price of milk remains high in stores. Bill will go to Congress and work for farm policy that works for producers as well as consumers to make our local economy work better for everyone.

New York has been hit hard by the dairy price crisis. One of the factors that plays into that are imports that are brought in from outside of New York (and in certain cases, outside of the country) and compete with local producers. Dairy farmers aren’t getting enough to cover the cost of producing milk and that has caused many problems for these farmers. It is key for Owens to address this issue. As an upstate representative, he will be talking about it a lot.

Social issues: There is very limited information out there, but this is what we know about Owens and two big issues: Choice and marriage equality.

On marriage equality, Owens said this to PolitickerNY:

On the wedge issue of same-sex marriage, Owens is to the right of his Republican opponent Scozzafava. He does not support full marriage–he opposes any federal action on the “states rights issue”–telling me, “I fully support equal rights for everybody, and certainly civil unions are in that mix. For religious reasons, I have difficulty with the use of the word marriage in that process.”

That same PolitickerNY piece said that “Both Scozzafava and Owens are pro-choice; Conservative Doug Hoffman is against same-sex marriage and is pro-life.”

To what degree Owens is pro-choice (there are other reproductive rights issues, obviously, that he should be asked about) remains to be seen.

Here’s the moment of truth: What ideology does Owens belong to? I have a hard time calling him a “conservaDem” or prospective Blue Dog. But I also have a hard time calling “progressive” or “liberal.” This is a man who has been an independent. And in the media accounts about this race, the word “moderate” has been tossed around. I tend to agree with the perception here: Owens is a moderate. We do need to know more (while I know this post is helpful, we need more information on him) but this is a start. The only thing people seem to know about Owens is that he isn’t a Democrat. That leads to immediate skepticism about what he will do, if elected.

Owens has made one thing clear: He will support the President. He’s the only candidate saying that and that’s something we need to focus on.

I hopefully outlined all the reasons why you shouldn’t support Dede Scozzafava. I should also add that she is opposed to cap and trade legislation (even though her predecessor, John McHugh, supported the climate change bill) and that she supports the Bush tax cuts. Owens does not support the Bush tax cuts and has put an emphasis on keeping taxes low for the middle class.

To close, I don’t believe Owens will be a Blue Dog should he be elected. But I also know that we need to know more about Owens. There has been a lack of access and information. Everything I have put here (with the exception of a few points) are items I had to look up on my own. There has been no clarification from the campaign on certain positions and that is something we need. We are working on getting that information, but for now, I hope this will suffice.

NY-23: Scozzafava’s Record At A Glance

Last night, Markos wrote that Republican Dede Scozzafava was “the most liberal candidate” in the 23rd congressional district race.

This doesn’t surprise. A lot of people, including people here in New York, have made the same argument. Part of it has to do with a lack of research on Scozzafava. The other half of it is a lack of information on the Democratic candidate Bill Owens, who conservatives call “liberal” and some progressives like Markos have called a “Blue Dog.”

After reading Markos’ post multiple times, it seems he uses the following as important points for his “liberal” labeling of Scozzafava.  

– She has been endorsed in the past by the very progressive Working Families Party.

– She is pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, which puts her at odds with the conservatives in the Republican Party.

– She voted to raise taxes when budgets required it.

First, those three points. The Working Families Party does endorse Republicans and allow them to run on their line. It happens, but they are more likely to back a Democratic candidate. Living in New York, my state senator is George Maziarz. He has been endorsed by the Working Families Party in the past because of his connections to people within the WFP.

For Scozzafava, being backed by the WFP can be contributed to a few things. She ran unopposed in 2008 and was not on the Working Families line when she ran for re-election in 2006. She also was not on the line in the 2002 general election. The only times since redistricting in 2002 that she appeared on the WFP line was in 2004 and 2008. In both elections, she ran unopposed. Therefore, the WFP endorsements were more by default than anything. It’s not as if she had to fight for those endorsements with another candidate.

The pro-choice and pro-marriage equality positions are very good and is a breath of fresh air for a Republican. But just as we don’t like it when Republicans try to define us based on social issues, we should not be guilty of the same when it comes to determining whether someone is progressive or not. Is she progressive on these issues? No doubt. But don’t judge a book by its cover.

The last point of Markos: She voted to raise taxes when budgets required it. In New York, that can be seen as a good and/or bad thing. There are good taxes and fees, bad taxes and fees and others that are somewhere in between. Any good progressive in New York will tell you that not all taxes are good and that not all taxes are bad. There is a middle ground. The problem in New York is that we have had too many regressive taxes and not enough progressive taxation. So giving Scozzafava credit for being liberal on this is misguided for the reasons I have shown.

But aside from Markos’ points, I also wanted to address some of the past votes Scozzafava has cast in the Assembly .

– An important issue for progressives in New York has been Rockefeller Drug Law Reform. A bill (A.6085) was passed in the Assembly and a deal was reached with both houses to reform the broken drug laws that led to extreme sentences for some of the most minor offenses. The roll call vote shows that Scozzafava voted against these reforms.

– Earlier this year, the Assembly passed a comprehensive gun package to combat gun violence and put laws in place to provide for better tracking of guns and provide for more accountability. The package includes 13 bills that were passed in the Assembly. Of those 13 bills, Scozzafava voted for only one. That bill was A.7733 and its purpose is to “Authorizes courts to revoke firearms license and seize the weapons of certain individuals.” Essentially, if the person is a threat to the public, courts could take away the firearms license and weapons of that person.

It is safe to say that Scozzafava is pro-gun and clearly anti-gun control of any kind. (I would give her credit for the single “Yea” vote, but it was a unanimous vote in the Assembly. Every Republican voted for it.)

Also, keep in mind that the package came after the shootings in Binghamton, which was a national news story and led to immediate action in the Assembly.

– Scozzafava’s record on the environment is mixed, at best. She voted against the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, but voted for the Green Jobs bill that was unanimously passed in the Assembly. The Assembly passed a package of environmental bills earlier this year. Of the 14 bills included in the package, Scozzafava voted for six of the bills and against eight of them. These were bills that were supported by progressives and the Democratic conference in the Assembly.

– Scozzafava voted against the Farmworkers Bill of Rights that passed the Assembly. This was seen as a pro-labor and pro-worker bill to support farm laborers who face unpleasant conditions in some instances.

– Voted against a bill that would provide additional compensation for police officers in New York City that use a foreign language in the course of their duties. She also voted against legislation that would give the attorney general jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute police misconduct.

– Voted against regulating the use of “no-knock” warrants and monitoring the use of all search warrants.

– Cast a vote against the 2010 Campaign Finance Reform Act, which would provide “for optional partial public financing of certain election campaigns in this state.” (Here is more on this legislation she voted against.)

– Voted against a bill that would require restaurants (with 15 or more outlets in the U.S.) to post the caloric information of menu items. Also voted against a bill banning trans fats in restaurants.

– Voted against legislation that would strengthen New York’s laws against unfair debt collection practices. Also voted against “legislation requiring debt collection firms to provide consumers a written “Debtor’s Bill of Rights” along with their initial debt collection communication.”

– Voted against expanding foreclosure protections. This bill included protections for tenants in property that is being foreclosed.

– Among the many areas, one area that Scozzafava seems to have a consistent record of voting “no” in is housing. This year, the Assembly has passed 20 pieces of legislation related to housing. Of those 20 bills, Scozzafava voted against several of them. The bills she voted against include: A rent increase cap, rent increases linked to inflation rate, Section 8 housing being included in rent regulation, landlord rental unit recovery, affordable housing preservation, excessive rent increase shield and expansion of the Loft Law.

The reality is this: When people say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, you should take their advice. The “cover” on Scozzafava was that she was this progressive Republican because she was backed by the WFP, supported a woman’s right to choose and has been a supporter of marriage equality. But the “book” tells the whole story (as it usually does). Scozzafava has a few positions that are more liberal (on abortion and marriage equality) but most of her positions are, at best, moderate-to-conservative. More often than not, however, she is a conservative.

One more thing: This statement on Scozzafava’s website came after President Barack Obama’s health care address a couple of weeks ago. One of the ideas she pushes? Tort reform. Not exactly the progressive approach to solving the health care crisis, but it’s one of the first (if not THE first) things brought up by Scozzafava.

The conclusion I draw from looking over numerous pieces of legislation is that Scozzafava on most issues is nothing more than your average Assembly Republican. Most of the votes that she did support the Democratic (or progressive) positions came when the whole Assembly voted unanimously for a bill. Scozzafava’s conservative positions are not reflected in the mainstream media, where she is labeled a “liberal” because of her stances on two social issues that, while important, should never define any candidate and should never be the sole indicator of a candidate’s ideology.

I see Scozzafava as someone who is far from the Glenn Becks of the world. But that doesn’t mean she is not conservative. The modern-day conservative is a different breed, but a lot of what Scozzafava stands for resembles an old school conservative. At best, she’s a moderate with conservative leanings. At worst, she’s a conservative Republican whose liberal stances on two social issues have given her an inaccurate label.

Would she be a Susan Collins-type, as Markos suggested? Probably not. Her record has shown that she hasn’t really been willing to buck the GOP party line on big issues (unless the whole GOP goes along with it). There are worse Republicans than Scozzafava, but she isn’t someone I would depend on to cross party lines and vote on a Democratic (and/or progressive) issue.

NY-Sen: Meet Jon Cooper: Still Pondering Run Against Gillibrand

Jon Cooper said it was an eye-opening moment for him. He was watching the press conference announcing Governor David Paterson’s selection of Kirsten Gillibrand to serve as New York’s junior U.S. senator. His spouse Rob inquired out loud if that was former Senator Alfonse D’Amato standing on the platform with her.

Last week, I spoke with Cooper about his possible candidacy, his career and why he is interested in running for a seat that was once held by Hillary Clinton, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert F. Kennedy.

At first, Cooper dismissed the notion that a former Republican U.S. senator from New York – the same man Senator Chuck Schumer beat in 1998 – would be at a ceremony for Republicans. But, much to his dismay, there D’Amato stood mere feet away from Gillibrand as she was introduced as New York’s newest senator.

Cooper makes it clear that he has ideas. He isn’t just going to run an anti-Gillibrand campaign, but he can’t help but point out her record. He mentions her past ties to Big Tobacco, the 100 percent rating she received from the National Rifle Association and her evolution on numerous issues that could be perceived as politically convenient.

“Her past position (on gun control) was of concern,” he said. “There are some people are distrustful of her evolution on this and other issues and are concerned about what they see as flip-flopping and see this as insincere or they question her character. I’m not saying I do. But there are those who do.”

For Cooper, however, it is different. He is not yet a declared candidate but he is touting his own record and why, if he were to run, he should be considered a serious contender to Gillibrand.

“I have, many times over the years, took stances that might not have been politically popular with my constituents but I believed it was the right thing to do,” he said.

As an openly gay and happily married man, Cooper is the father of five children he and his spouse Rob have adopted. He has served 10 years on the Suffolk County Legislature and currently is the majority leader for the legislature’s Democrats. He lists two key pieces of legislation as highlights of his career. He wrote the first law banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in the country. Since then, a number of states (including New York) have adopted such laws. In addition to that, Cooper also authored legislation that banned the sale of ephedra. That effort led to the federal government imposing a ban on the dietary supplement.

Jobs and the economy is an area that Cooper knows all too well. Cooper is running the family business, Spectronics Corporation, in Westbury. He said that while he is on the corporate side of things, he also is very much pro-labor and supports workers.

In the 2008 presidential primaries, Cooper backed an underdog named Barack Obama. Cooper was the first elected official from New York to endorse Obama and went on to be the Long Island chair of the Obama campaign. He said that, at the time, people asked him if he realized the political risk he was taking. Cooper said he had supported Hillary Clinton in the past but once he met Obama, he was sold. It was through the Obama campaign that Cooper met many grassroots organizers, some of whom are now aiding him in his exploratory efforts and organizing meet and greets throughout the state for people to meet him. Cooper was in upstate New York this weekend meeting voters in Buffalo and Rochester and will be back in upstate New York again, especially if he decides to run.

Cooper knows that he has a long way to go. He realizes that Gillibrand has millions in her bankroll. He realizes that she has received nearly every county chair’s endorsement to date. But one thing he references to is that Obama was counted out too. No one thought Hillary Clinton could be beaten. But with the greatest grassroots campaign ever, Obama pulled it out in the primary and won the general election.

A vast majority of Obama organizers and activists that Cooper worked with in 2008 are urging him to run and are supporting him. Democratic clubs have urged him to run. Progressives are supporting him. And while he says he isn’t comparing himself to Obama, the comparisons are glaring.

“The party establishment, for the most part, quite understandably is falling in line behind our Democratic incumbent senator regardless of how she got to that office,” he said. “But she’s the incumbent Democrat now and I expect most of the political establishment to back her. But a lot of the grassroots leaders that had been early supporters of Obama seem to be lining up behind me or at the very least, urging me to run so that we will have a choice, which is what this is all about: Offering Democrats in New York State a choice.”

While Cooper doesn’t have a full slate of issues on his platform yet (understandable at this stage), his platform stresses the importance of economic development, pushes for progressive values and support of the environment and the fight for health care, consumer protection, gun safety and middle class tax cuts.

So when will we know whether or not Cooper is running? He says by the end of the year he will have a decision. He is testing the waters right now to see just how much support he has and what the response is statewide. I spoke with him over the weekend and he seemed to be very pleased and excited by the response in Buffalo and Rochester. So we’ll see just how far he is willing to go and if he is going to make an upset bid for the U.S. Senate.

NY-26: What Happened In The 26th Congressional District?

I was at the Primary Night watch party for Jon Powers on Tuesday. Every TV crew from Buffalo and Rochester showed up. One of the crews was setting up a microphone and we had to get out of the way. Only a few minutes later, the same crew came back to get their mic.

Within minutes, the TV crews were gone.

In the two days since Alice Kryzan topped the polls for a primary win over Powers and Jack Davis, I’ve been looking for some sort of metaphor that would best describe this situation.

How about the tortoise and two hares?

I live in NY-26 and supported Jon Powers ever since I met him and interviewed him on July 8, 2007. Powers had the momentum going. He was picking up endorsement after endorsement. The first four county Democratic committees to endorse Powers were all four of the rural counties in the district: Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming. Then Niagara endorsed and Monroe followed. Erie became the last to endorse Powers, giving Powers every county Democratic committee in the district.

So how did he lose? How could he have the support from virtually everyone – local Democrats, DCCC, “grassrooters” in the district, the netroots and others – and lose?

The answer below the fold.

On June 1, The Buffalo News came out with an article (it is archived now, so no link is available) that featured a talking point that would be used against Powers from that moment on. Rick Snowden, the owner of a prominent local strip club called Rick’s Tally Ho, had given money to Powers’ campaign. Snowden gave Powers $2,300 spread across four contributions. The Davis campaign was the one who initiated this smear and used the Davis campaign’s “Women for Davis” chairperson to say that Snowden’s “sweat money” had no place in Democratic politics.

However, Snowden has given to other Democrats, namely Rep. Brian Higgins from NY-27 and a certain junior senator from New York named Hillary Clinton. Clinton also received money from Snowden during her presidential run this year.

That smear of Powers was weak though. People in Western New York know Rick Snowden. He might be a strip club owner, but he has given to many charitable causes and helped many organizations out with a donation and support.

Then came the smear that was started by Davis, being held in the back pockets of the Republicans and utilized by Kryzan in a campaign ad. That smear was that Powers stole money from the organization he started, War Kids Relief. The truth was that he made only $15,000 from WKR, not $77,000 as the Davis campaign alleged and he did not steal the money as both the Davis and Kryzan campaigns stated in their television ads. Overall, he raised $135,000 for WKR, meaning that $120,000 went for the kids, not Powers.

The WKR smear was the worst. What Davis did and Kryzan jumped on the bandwagon (along with some conservative bloggers and all seven county Republican chairs) amounted to a character assassination of Powers. The Snowden thing was meant to appeal to one segment of the voting population: Women. Whether that worked or not is up in the air. But there is no question that the WKR attacks, which were repeated throughout the last month of the campaign, hurt Powers immensely. The initial article in The Buffalo News that hit Powers with this smear calling Powers and WKR “more hype than help” did some considerable damage to Powers. A lesson learned from this is that something like this, whether true or false, can have a damaging impact on a campaign. Especially when that smear happened just over a month before Primary Day.

Davis and his campaign made it their job over the last three months to keep cutting Powers off at the knees. Kryzan didn’t go nearly as far as Davis did, but she still engaged in the same WKR smear.

Powers hit Davis on the issue of bribery, which involved payments to the wives of the Erie and Monroe County Independence Party chairs. Davis eventually apologized for the payments. Powers did dedicate a TV ad to the bribery claim. Whether or not that had an impact on Davis’ failures remains to be seen. Davis wasn’t too well received in this primary to begin with and the final numbers prove that.

Now, Kryzan’s strategy worked for her. An article in the Buffalo News by Jerry Zremski tells us that Kryzan focused mostly on Erie, Monroe and Niagara counties (all three of which she won) and now must focus her attention on winning over voters in the four rural counties – all of which went for Powers.

There is another article today about Kryzan’s now famous “take it somewhere else” ad. I’m not going to drool all over this like some bloggers and reporters have. I don’t think the ad was what did it for Kryzan. She focused on the main counties (all three of the counties she won account for a majority of the Democrats in the district) and won. She also benefited from the tremendous attacks levied against Powers. A lot of people, including those in the media and other on-lookers, have said that Powers and Davis engaged in back-and-forths and negative campaigning. Davis all but admitted on Tuesday night that he ran a strictly negative campaign. Powers, on the other hand, did not engage in such tactics all the time as some would make you believe. Powers went after Davis for his Big Oil and energy investments – something that was factual in nature. In hindsight, perhaps they should have ignored Davis. But I think a millionaire in the race would have made any candidate worry. And that’s what happened in this case.

In no way do I want to diminish Kryzan’s win. But this was a case of a tortoise and two hares. Powers and Davis were moving at great speeds to go after one another. Meanwhile, Kryzan was quiet. Too quiet. She sat back on the sidelines and people really didn’t acknowledge her. I contend that it still didn’t help her (she has a lot to do in the predominantly Republican counties and still plenty to do in the other parts of the district) but it at least kept her out of the mudslinging. The dirty work was already done for her. In her only TV ad that hit both candidates, she used the WKR thing against Powers and the bribery issue against Davis. By that time those issues were already out in the open.

Kryzan made for a great primary election candidate. However, it will be interesting to see what kind of general election candidate she turns into. Powers certainly had progressive bona fides, but he also could appeal to moderates and Republicans. In Kryzan’s case, she will need to do the same.

What does this mean for this race? I think the race rating most have given NY-26 (leans Republican) should stand. The downside to Kryzan staying out of the limelight for as long as she did was that most voters (58 percent of Democrats who voted for Davis or Powers) along with moderates and Republicans don’t know about her. On the surface, she has a lot of upside. She is a progressive Democrat on the issues we do know. She still needs to show that she is a versatile candidate who attract the moderates and conservatives. If she doesn’t, she loses. This is how this district works.

Here are a few final points:

On Powers: I don’t see Powers actively campaigning on the Working Families Party line. I think he will let this go and then run again down the road. The future is bright for him. Sometimes we have to take our lumps and learn. Powers will do that and move forward and be better for it. He will be back. That I can assure you.

On Davis: This was the end of his political “career”, if you can call it that. He spent $1.5 million and in the last three months of the campaign smeared Powers only to come in a distant third. He might say “stay tuned” but the only thing we are staying tuned in for is the end of his political running. In three runs, he failed all three times. This time he failed badly. He is done. If he runs again, he will be laughed at endlessly.

On Kryzan: The primary was a good start. But she has a long road to go. Chris Lee has carried out a Jon Powers-style campaign thus far. Lee will be very formidable for Kryzan. She needs to appeal to rural voters, moderate and conservative voters and the other Democrats who voted for Powers and Davis. This isn’t optional for her. It’s mandatory.  

NY-26: Let’s Put Jon Powers Over The Top

I met Jon Powers last July when he visited Orleans County for the first time. In the past, Orleans County had not been a focus for our Democratic congressional challengers against Tom Reynolds. But Powers wanted to come out to Orleans County. He wanted to see the whole district. After all, if he was going to win he would need all of us.

It was after sitting down with Jon for an interview that I realized what a great candidate he was, especially for someone who was only in the race for a month and was, by all accounts, a political novice. But over the last 13 months of knowing Jon, I know that he has grown as a person and as a candidate. He has listened to citizens in all seven counties of the district, whether they are Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, farmers, teachers or any other compare/contrast you could make. When Jon talks, you have his undivided attention.

Jon Powers needs your help today. Powers is out with his first television ad that has aired during the Democratic National Convention numerous times and local television stations also. If you haven’t seen the ad, here it is:

Almost 10 days, the Powers campaign started a fundraising drive to raise $10,000 in 10 days to help fund the ad and keep it on television. There is an Introducing Jon Powers ActBlue page to allow donors to give and keep this ad on the air.

The goal of $10,000 is in sight. As of this writing, the total given is at $8,707. That means within the next eight and a half hours, we need to raise $1,293. I think we can do this.

You don’t need to give hundreds of dollars to help this cause. Think about it: If 100 of us gave $10, that would be $1,000 right there. Now, 100 people is a lot to ask for. But what if some of those gave $25? Or $50? Or what if they really came out strong and gave $100 or more? We can do this and we can do it by midnight tonight.

So watch the ad above or visit the “Introducing Jon Powers” ActBlue page to watch the ad and give your secure contribution today. Being a resident in this district, I know that we have two television markets to appeal to (Buffalo and Rochester) and getting in both markets is of the utmost importance. This is a great way to get Jon more name recognition and to raise awareness about his campaign.

Please contribute to Jon today.  

NY-26: The weekly update on Jon Powers for Congress

NY-26 Democratic candidate Jon Powers is gaining more and more momentum. In fact, his campaign is at an excellent point right now. On Thursday, Powers was endorsed by the Wyoming County Democratic Committee. This was the fourth county Democratic committee to endorse Powers in his run to unseat Tom Reynolds.

The announcement regarding the endorsement came attached with a list of those who have already endorsed Powers.

Here is that list:

Wyoming County Democrats have answered the call for a change in leadership in New York’s 26th Congressional District.  Last night, by an overwhelming majority, the Wyoming Democratic Committee endorsed Jon Powers’ campaign for Congress.  Powers is running against embattled representative Tom Reynolds.  “I am thrilled to have the support of Wyoming County Democrats.  My family has deep roots here, my father was born and raised in Pearl Creek, and it means a lot to me to have their endorsement,” said Jon Powers, former captain in the U.S. Army, Iraq war veteran and Democratic candidate for Congress.

Wyoming is the 4th Democratic Committee to endorse Powers’ candidacy and shows that Jon’s message of leading by example and putting problem-solving ahead of party politics is resonating with the voters.  Powers now holds the endorsement of the majority of the counties in his district.

Powers’ Endorsements:

·         Genesee County Democratic Committee

·         Livingston County Democratic Committee

·         Orleans County Democratic Committee

·         Wyoming County Democratic Committee

·         Town of Clarence Democratic Committee

·         SEIU 1199

·         AFSCME Local 264

·         VoteVets

·         VetPAC

·         General Wesley Clark

·         Senator Bob Kerrey

·         Senator John Kerry

It’s amazing the support Powers is getting. He also makes the occasional contribution to the blogosphere. Also on Thursday, Powers wrote a post on The Albany Project entitled, “Iraq’s Junior Mujhadeen.” Jon also posted the piece on Daily Kos, Huffington Post and Rochester Turning. Much of Jon’s work on the issues of children becoming extremists in Iraq can be linked to a group he founded, War Kids Relief. (Note: I spoke with Jon about War Kids and he said that the website is under some maintenance right now. But for future reference, the website can be found here.)

Jon’s campaign is riding high. I reported last week that Jon had raised over $139,000 during the fourth quarter and had over $261,000 cash on hand. He’s received huge support in the past and will continue to do so from some top-notch people.

One thing is for certain: Jon Powers is for real. The four county Democratic committees that have endorsed Jon thus far (Livingston County, Orleans County, Genesee County and the aforementioned Wyoming County) all are rural counties in the 26th congressional district. They are predominantly Republican and if Jon is going to win this race, he’ll need the rural Democrats behind him. We plan to do just that, just like we have since Jon declared in June 2007.

On the web:

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NY-26: Powers raises $139,000 in 4th Quarter; Raised over $369,000 in 2007

NY-26 Democratic candidate Jon Powers issued a press release today outlining his fundraising figures from the 4th quarter of 2007 and his overall totals to date.

From an e-mailed press release:

Jon Powers, Iraq war veteran, former U.S. Army Captain and Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s 26th congressional district announced today that his campaign raised over $369,000 in 2007, with $139,000 raised in the 4th quarter.  This brings his cash on hand to a healthy $261,000 heading into the election year.

“Traveling across western New York and listening to so many families and small business owners having to make great sacrifices to make ends meet each month, you can’t help but notice the deep insecurities that come with feeling left behind by leadership that puts special interests before working families,” Powers said.  “To see them rally to our campaign with their ideas, time, and hard-earned paychecks is such an honor.”

The campaign’s 4th quarter filing will reflect $139,323 from over 500 individual donors.

Online fundraising has gone exceptionally well, indicating the buzz surrounding Jon’s campaign is continuing.  68% of Jon’s total donations were received online, putting his campaign among the national leaders when it comes to online fundraising.

The campaigns’ grassroots efforts are being well received: 61% of donations were $50 and under, with 87% of contributions coming from individuals.

This building momentum speaks to Powers’ support in the district and shows that people are ready for a leader who will fight to change course in Iraq, fight for better paying jobs at home, and a brand of leadership that puts hardworking middle class families first instead of special interest groups.  This quarter,  Jon Powers has also received endorsements from Livingston, Genesee, and Orleans counties Democratic committees.

“If we’re going to see change in Washington that impacts the working families here at home, we need to change the people we send to Washington,” Powers said.  “I’m running for Congress to be a voice for families in western New York, finally putting their kitchen table concerns ahead of the special interests.”

That’s right. Powers raised $139,323 in the fourth quarter, for a total of over $369,000 raised in 2007. He also has over $261,000 cash on hand.  

Pretty impressive. I know the Powers campaign has been working very hard and Jon has worked very hard to raise money and to reach out to possible donors and current donors as well.

Jon has the momentum. In nine months, we hope to have Jon elected into Congress in New York’s 26th congressional district.

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NY-26: A great week for the Powers campaign

NY-26 Democratic candidate Jon Powers had a great week in his race for Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds’ House seat.

It all started with a fundraiser in Buffalo. Rep. Steve Israel from New York’s 2nd District attended the fundraiser to show his strong support for Powers.

Israel touted Jon’s military record, as well as his message of leadership by example. Following Israel, Powers spoke about the concerns of Western New Yorkers. Powers said that WNYers’ first concern is jobs. The second concern is jobs and probably the third is jobs as well. The jobs issue is an important one for people in the 26th district.  

But the week was far from over for Jon. Wednesday night, just hours after Rep. Israel’s support, Jon received the Livingston County Democratic Committee’s endorsement. At their committee meeting, the Livingston County Dems heard from not only Jon, but Alice Kryzan as well. After listening to both candidates message, the Livingston County Dems overwhelmingly endorsed Jon in his run to unseat Reynolds.

It was the third county Democratic endorsement Jon has received. Previously, the Orleans County Dems endorsed Jon and the Genesee County Democratic Committee was the first to endorse Jon. He’s also received endorsements from Sen. Bob Kerrey and Gen. Wesley Clark.

Speaking of Orleans County, Jon came to Orleans County for a house party on Sunday. (Note: I’m from Orleans County.) That was a great event and just from the feeling I got from everyone (about 35-40 people) in the room, he will have a lot of support in the rural areas of this district, including Orleans County.

Then last night, Jon capped off the last week by receiving the Town of Clarence Democratic Committee endorsement. Again, he went head-to-head with Kryzan and Clarence took Jon. Jon is from Clarence, so he had the home-field advantage and a clear message.

Jon is a great all-around candidate. I will write often about the news from his campaign. It should be a great 9 1/2 months.


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