Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Evening News: Farm Plan, District Story

WENY has a story on Eric Massa's new farm plan [pdf], which was announced today.

In that story, Randy Kuhl's chief of staff says this:

“[Randy] is sitting on the House Ag Committee, he's not just a wannabe…Kuhl fought for New York farmers and against the Bush Administration's farm bill….Kuhl knows the issues better than anyone in this race, hands down.”

I'll point out the obvious: if Massa is elected and he wants to be on the Ag Committee, he'll be on the Ag Committee. The Democratic majority in the House will be very interested in retaining this seat, and Massa will have his pick of committees.

The Capitol newspaper has a nice 29th race profile story online.

Speculation and Facts

The current price tag for the Wall Street bailout is between $500 billion and $1 trillion.

Here are two graphs of wage growth in the 90's and in the Bush years:

Here's a graph of cash flow from home equity lines of credit (HELOC). This is the cash that wasn't used for home renovation:

Those graphs are from a report from the Center for American Progress. The CAP is a progressive think-tank, but both of those graphs are from government data. And most reports I've read agree that the rising housing market allowed homeowners to refinance, take out HELOCs, and spend the cash. That party is over.

More Rangel News

Joe Spector of Gannett has has another blog post on Charlie Rangel. This one includes a "advertisement" by the NRCC, and an accounting of New York Congressional candidates who took Rangel money or got money from Rangel fundraisers.

The ad is over one minute long, so it won't air on TV. It's strictly to drive press coverage.

I view money as the necessary evil of politics, so I'm not easily shocked about who Massa or Kuhl solicit for funds. A competitive race requires far more money than is available from donors in the 29th district, so the usual suspects for each party will be throwing money at this race. Some of them have unsavory backgrounds. So it always has been, so it probably ever will be.

Since I have a pretty jaded view of the role of money in politics, I'm probably the wrong person to evaluate the NRCC and Kuhl campaign strategy of flogging the Rangel story. That said, I don't see a win here for Kuhl. Most of what Rangel has done is venial, not cardinal. Kuhl has taken donations from a cast of characters at least as corrupt that Charlie, probably more (e.g., Tom Delay). Unless Charlie has pocketed a significant haul, I don't think this issue will linger until election day.

Factual Observations of Potential Interest and Relevance

Oil is under $100/barrel. Congress did nothing to cause this to happen.

When you have a war and cut taxes, those actions cause a deficit:

(Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities)

Drilling News

Reader Elmer sends today's front page [pdf] (and jump [pdf]) coverage of reaction to last night's vote on an oil drilling bill. Randy Kuhl opposed the bill, Eric Massa supported it.

Though it passed the House last night, it looks like that bill won't become law. Instead, the Senate is taking up a similar bill which probably won't make it through the legislative process before the election. But it looks like we're slowly approaching a compromise where the repeal of oil company tax breaks and an increase in funding for alternative energy is traded for more offshore drilling.

For a couple of different takes on the House and Senate bills that goes beyond newspaper coverage, here are a couple of blog posts: The specialist blog Oil Drum has a nice round-up of coverage and information. The non-partisan Red, Green and Blue has more on the Senate compromise.

In other news, the Leader's top story today is the court review of ballots in the Steuben County Sheriff election.

Mystery Solved?

Since the issue of term limits died off around the same time as Kurt Cobain, I wondered what was behind its resurgence in Randy Kuhl's Fix Washington program.

Today's Messenger-Post offers a clue. One of the supporters of the measure, Peter Haidt, is also the host of a weekly talk-radio program. He encouraged his listeners to log on and voice their opinions.

There's nothing wrong with doing that, but it does appear to explain why that old chestnut appeared again.

Update: Meghan Tisinger from Randy Kuhl's office writes to point out that there were two phases to Fix Washington. The first was 8 weeks to submit their ideas. The second was 8 weeks to vote on the five selected ideas.

That doesn't preclude a little lobbying from Mr. Haidt during both phases, which is not a problem, as far as I'm concerned.

S-G on Campaign Finance

Reader Elmer sends a link to today's Star-Gazette story about campaign finance. The subhead notes that Kuhl receives twice as much political action committee (PAC) money than Massa.

There's also a short discussion of Charlie Rangel's money. Rangel has donated to the Massa campaign, and also run group fundraisers where Massa and other candidates received direct donations. The Massa campaign position in this article and in Sunday's Corning Leader is that Rangel has not been charged with any crime, that he has requested an ethics investigation and cooperated fully, and that Kuhl has taken donations from a list of Members of Congress who are also under investigation.

Today's New York Times has the current state of the Rangel affair.

Debate Remainders

The Hornell Evening Trib has a debate story. It points out that only one of the events the candidates have agreed to attend is a real debate. One of them, an appearance in Elmira, is a forum, which I assume means that neither candidate will directly address the other.

WENY's coverage contains this telling remark:

“We've had, at this point, about 20-25 requests to do debates and there just isn't enough time to do them all but we're trying to do as many as we can,” Kuhl told us.

I thought 10 was a big number until the Massa operation sent me a list. 20-25 is just an exaggeration.

Plans: What Are They Good For?

Some would say a House candidate's plans are good for absolutely nothing. Jeff from the excellent 26th District blog puts it this way in a comment yesterday:

In the end though, a first-term Congressperson from NY-26 will NOT end a War, has almost no influence whatsoever on Abortion or Gay marriage, cannot revolutionize the economy or single handedly fix the energy crisis. Promises to the contrary might sound nice but they are empty.

We need to learn what these candidates understand about the process of creating policy, working their way through bloated and complex systems, how to follow procedure and understand organizational rules and how to leverage and bargain. It isn't sexy, but its what they will be doing. Turning thought and promise to policy is an enormously complex task especially in the House of Representatives but most of the questions I hear always focus on issues that have nothing to do with the job.

I agree that there's a huge disconnect between ambitious plans and what a Member of Congress can accomplish on his or her own. I still think candidates should release some sort of position statement on the issues of the day, and it's inevitable that political statements will come out in the form of bold plans. But we shouldn't get bogged down debating the fine points of those plans.

Jeff's second point is also important. How a potential Member of Congress will interact in the House and in his or her caucus is critical. My take is a little different. The House is such a lockstep institution that what I want to see is whether my candidate has a personality that will allow him or her to buck the leadership once in a while.

Finally, one last consideration: if your relatively junior Representative is not in the majority party, they have much less influence than a junior Member of the majority. The majority's goal is to keep its majority, and senior safe-seat Members will often help a more junior member in a tough district.

It's almost certain that the House is going to be more Democratic next session than it is now. Massa will be a relatively independent voice in tough seat that the Democrats will want to defend. It doesn't get much better than that for junior Representatives. If your vote is on influence rather than issues, that's worth considering.

Bath Debate Canceled

Syracuse News 10 is reporting that the League of Women Voters debate in Bath has been canceled. Both Randy Kuhl and George Winner [R-SD-53] declined to attend.

I covered this debate in 2006. Compared to the usual televised debates, it was a tea party. The League screens the questions. Kuhl was born in Bath. It's the friendliest imaginable format in a Kuhl stronghold.

I had thought that Kuhl's delay in accepting debate invitations was just political jockeying. But now it looks like he's trying to minimize his debate appearances.

At the Massa press conference two weeks ago, Eric Massa claimed that there were 10 debates scheduled in the 29th. I was skeptical about that claim, and asked his campaign to sent me a list. It turns out that ten non-partisan third parties really do want to hold Congressional debates. This includes WHAM, which has offered to post those debates on their website.

Conventional wisdom says that incumbents who are ahead in the polls shouldn't debate, because debates give your opponent legitimacy by appearing on the same stage. If there's a poll that shows Kuhl way ahead, his campaign hasn't paid for it recently. The last public poll in this race was taken on November 7, 2006, and it was pretty tight. And I doubt that there's anyone in this district inclined to listen to debates who hasn't heard of Eric Massa.

Kuhl has accepted only two of those ten debate invitations. He's stopped town hall meetings. He spent a good part of last month in Washington participating in a silly, meaningless protest that isn't even supported by his party's President or Senate. I don't know if there's a master plan underneath all this, but from where I'm sitting, it sure looks like Kuhl is simply hiding from the press and the public.

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