Unlike John R "Randy" Kuhl Jr, Eric Massa hasn't had to vote on any of the hot button issues. None of them are listed on issues web page, which has in-depth discussions of his positions on national security, the economy, health care and immigration. Other than stem cells, which the Massa campaign is clearly going to make a centerpiece issue of the election, the hot buttons also aren't much in evidence on the Massa campaign's blog pages.
Even though, like Kuhl, Massa's positions on the hot buttons aren't plastered all over his web page, he does have clear positions on all of these issues. All I had to do was ask.
Let's start with what might be his most interesting position: gun control. Massa's position, as relayed by spokesman Mike Williams, is:
Eric is not in favor of any additional federal gun control legislation at this time. [emphasis in original] On the other hand, Eric recognizes that there are times when interpretation is necessary. He is philosophically unconvinced that average citizens have a right to bear assault weapons. He is a major proponent of gun safety, responsible gun ownership, and enforcement of existing regulations.
This position is essentially consistent with Kuhl's and probably also with the majority of voters in the 29th. It also shows that Massa is smart about running in this district. Gun control just isn't on the radar. The schools and towns in the 29th aren't full of gun violence, but the countryside is full of hunters during hunting season.
On abortion, according to Mike, Massa's stance is:
Eric believes that abortion is a private medical matter, and that a woman's right to choose is primary. He also believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, and he is in favor of social and political measures targeted towards reducing abortion.
Eric is pro-choice and in favor of funding stem cell research.
I'd characterize this position as a carefully phrased, middle-of-the-road Democratic take on abortion. Hillary's "safe, legal and rare" formulation is good shorthand for the more prolix agnonizing over moral conflicts that used to characterize candidate statements about this volatile issue. There's nothing radical here, and much left unsaid. For example, public funding of abortion is not mentioned.
Will single-issue right-to-life voters vote against Massa? Yes. Will voters who are right-to-life but not single-issue voters reject Massa solely because of his abortion stand? I dunno, but I don't see how Massa could phrase his position any better to get their vote. That's about the best a pro-choice politician can hope for with this highly polarized issue.
Finally, on gay rights, since Massa has recenty retired from a long military career, I asked about gays in the military and the gay marriage amendment:
Eric says: I know from personal experience in the military that the current policy, "don't ask, don't tell," doesn't work. I fully support civil unions and equal legal rights for all Americans. Although civil unions do not provide all of the answers for the issues facing same sex couples, I believe they are a good start, and I support them.
I do not support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage; that is a wedge issue and a political ploy designed to distract voters from the massive failures of the Bush administration and Congress; it would also be the first amendment in our country's history to explicitly restrict rights.
This position is interesting for two reasons. First, Massa's experience in the military puts him in a good position to judge a policy that I'm guessing Randy Kuhl supports. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy has arguably hurt rather than helped national security, so this is a civil rights and a national security issue. Second, the civil union compromise position is another middle-of-the-road position. "Marriage" is a touchy word, and Massa's smart to keep it out of the positive part of his position. Kuhl's vote for the amendment to ban gay marriage is probably one step too far even for some of those who oppose gay marriage, and Massa's position allows him to decry the anti-libertarian nature Kuhl's stance without explictly supporting gay marriage.
Of course, Massa will be opposed by those who have an anti-homosexual agenda, but my guess is that voters who are single-issue on gay rights are going to be turned off by a number of other Massa positions.
Overall, Massa's approach to the hot buttons is measured and center-right (gun control) or center-left (abortion and gay marriage). They are the positions of someone trying to capture the center-right, middle and left of a district where almost one quarter of the voters are registered Independent or have no party affiliation.
(Thanks to Mike Williams for promptly answering my questions on Massa's positions. I'm sure he had better things to do.)