It's a Shame About Randy

2008 was a brutal year for Republican incumbents. The economic crisis, a war that most Americans believe was unnecessary, and the most unpopular President in modern history were major obstacles. These factors alone could cause a loss for an average Member of Congress.

Randy Kuhl was in some ways above-average, because he had a 20+ year relationship with constituents in the Southern Tier. Randy is a household name there, yet his loss in some Southern Tier counties lost him the election. My view is that Randy lost because he lost that connection.

In 2006, Randy made and kept a promise to visit every town in the district. In 2008, Randy moved away from that promise. Because of a few raucous town hall meetings, Randy chose to turn what were open forums into appointment-only meetings.

Not only did Kuhl essentially curtail town-hall meetings, he compounded the problem by pretending that the new, appointment-only charades were equivalent to the old, open meetings. This just isn't true, and it reflects an unfortunate habit of Kuhl's: trying to have it both ways.

The worst aspect of Kuhl ducking town-hall meetings was how weak it made Randy look. If a few noisy radicals in Monroe County cause him to back away from a lifetime commitment to constituent interaction, voters start to wonder if Randy can stand up for them in the far tougher environs of Washington, DC.

Kuhl's refusal to debate Massa in an open forum fed into both the alienation from his constituents and the appearance of weakness. It's especially damaging that Kuhl refused to participate in the Leader/WETM debate, which was sponsored by two widely-respected Southern Tier media organizations.

Kuhl's whole handling of the debate controversy turned what could have been a negative for Massa into a positive for him. Whenever Massa brought up the issue, Kuhl attacked him for begin an eternal candidate, and for being a carpetbagger. Those attacks might have had some traction, but Massa also proved that he was tough enough to challenge the most powerful man in the Southern Tier. Kuhl could have made the whole thing go away by agreeing early on to a reasonable set of debates. Instead, Massa was able to drag it out, and look like a fighter for doing so.

The debate conversation was typical of the whole Kuhl/Massa conversation in the last two years. Massa would dare, and Kuhl would ask "How dare you?" In a time of economic uncertainty, voters prefer the candidate who appears tough and daring, not defensive.

Kuhl was very proud of his minority whip appointment in 2007, and it's clear that hanging out with the Republican leadership had a distinct impact on his rhetoric and campaign strategy. It's pretty easy to trace one of Kuhl's biggest blunders, ending town hall meetings, back to the bad advice he got from his new Republican buddies. In early 2007, at one of the raucous Monroe County town hall meetings, Kuhl noted that many of his friends in Congress criticized him for having a meeting in every town in the district. My thought at the time was that Randy needed some new friends -- that anyone who mistook one of his Randy's strengths for a weakness didn't understand Randy or the 29th.

I didn't hear his remarks at his "victory party" Tuesday night, but I'm told that San Francisco liberalism and Nancy Pelosi were heavily featured. Randy stuck to those talking points to the bitter end, and while they may have motivated the core of the base, the focus on Pelosi is another symptom of how Randy's new friends didn't help him much. Like every Republican, Randy was running against "change", a word emblazoned on Eric Massa's yard signs and embedded in the Obama campaign. Hating Nancy Pelosi is not a strategy for countering a change message.

It really is a shame about Randy. He's a decent guy with a long record of service. I think the 2006 Randy Kuhl might just have won this election. The 2008 Kuhl was just a little too close to DC, and bit too far from the Southern Tier, to pull it off.


If my mom were still alive, she would tell you that Eric is full of "piss and vinegar' and Randy is not.

Yes, and right now we need some "piss and vinegar".

Yes, we sure do!!!

Oh, I was suppose to comment on the article, not the comments.

No, I don't think it is a shame, at least not since I have known of him. I have only known of him for the past maybe 10 years. Did not live in his district when he was a state assemblyman or senator. I only would hear of him when traveling and listening to am radio. I was a outsider looking in. Seems like he was often in trouble back then. He came across as a playboy. I remember WHAM's Lonsberry screaming about the local southern tier judges who swept it under the carpet. I don't know Kuhl's record in Albany, but am sure he had other problems there, too, that will remain under the carpet. If he has straighten up his act, my hat is off to him. Randy has been on the public dole for over 28 years. He collects a very generous pension and health benefits from NYS. During the same time, his constituency has been calling for term limits. When I see Randy Kuhl, I see a political hack who was trying to preserve his "full time" political job. He wanted to perpetuate himself and he got to big for his britches. It became about him and not his constituency. I can't call that a shame in the sense the article was written.

I only know Randy as a Member of Congress. In the public events I saw, he was a pretty decent debater and dealt well with the public. I don't know much about his personal life, though I'd guess that he's gotten his act together since whatever he went through in the 90's.

I think it's a shame whenever someone does something that's against their better instincts on bad advice. That's what I mean here. In the same sense, it's a shame about John McCain, though in the case of McCain and Kuhl, I supported the other candidate and am glad the Democrat was elected.

Hm. Randy used to be my Assemblyman and Senator, although he was never my Congressional Rep. It is true that he would come by the Town Hall real regular, and I always had the impression that he did excellent constituent services although I never much used them. But, Randy always seemed like a narcissistic snob. So, I'm not sure that "losing touch" with the people was such a big deal, as I think a lot of the people (at least those of us who are uppity enough to think we shouldn't be looked down on) didn't think he was very "in touch" even when he was in the room.

I still feel the same way I always did about Randy Kuhl: you can say a few good things about him ("nice hair," "he's tall," "calm when speaking in front of others"), but he is basically an empty suit who thinks he deserves to be in politics because he grew up in the right country club. Said it himself, didn't he? That bit about the "luxury" of what his parents taught him about how to act toward others?

I am a Democrat. I voted for President-Elect Obama and am quite happy that Obama won. But I also voted to reelect Rep. Randy Kuhl. I have met Randy and have followed his public service career. I truly believe that Randy is a first-rate guy and -- even more important -- he has been a great representative of our interests in the US Congress. I have lived in the 29th for a while. And I belive that Randy has served us well first in the NYS Senate and, more recently, in the US House of Representatives.

Again, I am a Democrat. And I think its great that the era of "Republicans running Washington" is over. But Randy can be viewed by more than the "R-NY" that follows his name. He is more than a run-of-the-mill Republican.

Randy has represented our interests in the State and US legislatures for most of his adult life. And for that I am appreciative. I know that there is an agreement between him and Massa to recount the ballots. I hope that, once the absentee and provisional ballots are counted, Randy prevails.

Good luck, Randy!
A friend (D-NY)