Posts containing my opinion of the race.

The Foreclosure Bill

Randy Kuhl was the only Western New York Republican to vote against the Foreclosure Prevention Act. An Olean Times-Herald story includes his explanation for the vote, and Massa's critique.

Kuhl repeats the Bush Administration line that one portion of the bill, $3.9 billion in grants for towns to secure foreclosed housing, was too generous. Unlike the Bush Administration, Kuhl also opposes the federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Kuhl's opposition to the Fannie/Freddie bailout makes sense. Even though those institutions are a weird federal/private hybrid, they issue stock, and the stockholders should lose that equity before any bailout. We have a quaint little tradition in this country called "capitalism", which seems to have been forgotten of late by the supposedly conservative, market-driven Bush Administration. The market is operating just as it should by devaluing Freddie and Fannie stock. There's no tragedy there.

But Kuhl's opposition to the $3.9 billion in grants makes no sense. It is in our national interest to help towns and cities where a lot of foreclosures have taken place. Those towns didn't create the mortgage crisis, and allocating money to let those towns board up or demolish abandoned homes is no different from helping after a flood or tornado.

If we were feeling the heat of the mortgage crisis in the 29th, this vote would have been political suicide. As it is, I think it will be forgotten, despite Massa's best efforts to make it an issue.

Campaign Office Update

Both the Kuhl and Massa campaigns continue to open local offices.

Last week, Kuhl opened an office at 15 State Street, in Pittsford, which is next door to Massa's 2006 office. I don't remember a Kuhl office in the Monroe County area last cycle, certainly not in Pittsford.

Yesterday, Massa opened an office in Horseheads, Chemung County. Chemung was the closest Southern Tier county in the 2006 race, with Kuhl winning by 4 points.

Mailing Receipts and Vets Issues

WETM carries Randy Kuhl's call for his constituents to mail gas receipts to Nancy Pelosi. Kuhl's justification is that "Democrats have failed to take any action on lowering gas prices."

Setting aside the question of whether Congress can do anything to affect gas prices in the short term, it's also true that Republicans have failed to take any action on gas prices. Here's Minority Leader John Boehner's address, for those who want to waste time and stamps on this idiotic venture:
1011 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

In other news, the Hornell Evening Tribune has a story about Massa's new plan for Veterans, and Kuhl's mental health caucus.

Massa Press Conference: A New Veterans' Plan

Since Grievous Angel at Rochesterturning has a full write-up of Massa's Press Conference, I'll stick to color commentary on this one.

This plan is a big deal. It advocates major, systemic changes in the way we handle Veterans' health. Veterans' care has been effectively rationed by a system where Vets must travel to a VA hospital or clinic to receive care. In rural areas, as Massa pointed out, this means hours of car travel. Even in the Rochester area, there's no inpatient medical facility. If a Vet needs surgery, they must travel to Buffalo or another area hospital.

In other words, today's VA is a treatment system. Massa's proposal would turn it into a hybrid treatment and insurance system. Vets would be able to receive treatment at non-VA facilities "when there are no VA facilities in the area." In those cases, being a Vet is like having an insurance plan.

Massa's proposal to change the VA system to the equivalent of an insurance card may lead to more utilization of VA benefits, and therefore more cost. Veterans who use private insurance today because of the hassles involved in the VA system might choose to use the VA if they can keep their local providers.

The most controversial part of Massa's proposal is the inclusion of Veterans families in the mix. This is an extension of the traditional role of the VA which will probably draw a lot of criticism.

Other than the family provision, it's very hard for a politician to stand up and argue against Massa's plan. It's mainly a practical list of things we must do if we're going to keep our promise to take care of the Veterans of our two lengthy and costly wars.

A Very Smart Move

I've been hard on the DCCC in the past, so it's only fair to say that I think their new ad buy is absolutely the right strategy for the 29th district.

The first thing that stands out about the buy is its size -- $900K per candidate. It's a big buy, the biggest we've seen from the DCCC in this area.

But even more significant is that all three candidates are grouped together in the buy. That's critical because the Rochester-area districts are so gerrymandered that a lot of residents don't know who they're voting for until they enter the voting booth. If the DCCC ad campaign emphasizes what the candidates hold in common, a voter who agrees with the candidates' shared positions will feel comfortable pulling for the Democrat in that voter's district, even if the voter is surprised in the booth on election day.

The co-marketing of the candidates is also powerful because of the expected Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. It indicates that voting for a Democrat is voting for a team that can work together to bring federal dollars back to all of Western New York.

Of course, this assumes that the grouped buy indicates a co-marketing strategy, and that the DCCC will actually use the time they've reserved. The former is just a hope, but I have little doubt about the latter, since the DCCC has been raising money hand over fist.

D&C Fundraising Story

The Democrat and Chronicle has a fundraising story covering all four Rochester-area districts. Based on fundraising ability, it looks like two will be competitive: the 29th and the 26th, the seat held by retiring Tom Reynolds.

Since a spokesman for Dale Sweetland, the Republican hoping to replace retiring Jim Walsh in the 25th, said "It's impossible for us to raise $900,000 before the election — let's be real", I'll be real, too. Dan Maffei, who raised half that amount last quarter alone, is on track for a big win in that district.

The 28th district, held by Louise Slaughter, is uncompetitive this year. Her challenger didn't even raise the $50K required for a campaign finance report.

Hard Money

The Messenger-Post's money story gets it about right: this is a close race. I've looked through the Massa and Kuhl fundraising reports, and both reflect tough realities for each candidate.

Massa's hard reality is that his nut is much bigger than Kuhl's. He is running two fully-staffed campaign offices, and his payroll is bigger than Kuhl's. One of the many benefits of incumbency is that Kuhl can have a presence throughout the district without spending a penny. Massa doesn't have that luxury, and he spent $120K more than Kuhl this cycle, mainly on office expenses.

Kuhl's burden is that PACs aren't going to cut it. Last cycle, he got twice as much money from PACs as he did from individuals. This quarter, those numbers were almost even. At this point in 2006, he had almost $100K more in PAC money than he did at the end of June.

Kuhl is almost even with where he was last cycle, and he's had to make up the PAC shortfall by soliciting big-money donors in the district. Though his effort there is impressive, he doesn't seem to be able to match Massa's volume of small-money donors. This quarter, 30% of Massa's donors gave less than $250, versus 15% of Kuhl's. Massa gets a number of contributions via ActBlue, a clearinghouse for Democrats who want to give to a number of different candidates.

Overall, Kuhl is almost exactly where he was in 2006. Massa has raised almost three times what he did in 2006. If the trend continues, Massa will surpass his $3 million goal, which is double what Kuhl raised in 2006.

Golisano and the 29th

As news slowly leaks from billionaire Tom Golisano's Responsible New York political committee, it appears likely that David Nachbar will be one of the candidates receiving Golisano's help. Nachbar is challenging Republican incumbent Jim Alesi in State Senate District 55, which overlaps part of the Northern 29th district.

Golisano will probably also endorse other area Democratic challengers, including Rick Dollinger in SD-56.

Well-funded challengers in lower-tier races means more interest. This is probably good for Eric Massa, if you believe the conventional wisdom that more turnout means more Democrats at the polls.

T. Boone Pickens and Marcellus Shale

In his Wednesday press conference, Eric Massa mentioned T. Boone Pickens' energy plan. Pickens' plan is very simple: replace natural gas power generation with wind power, and use that natural gas to power vehicles. The goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, using a strategy that can be implemented in 10 years or less.

In the recent past, the Southern Tier's role in the Pickens Plan would have been wind power, even though this area is a relatively poor location for turbines. However, as the Corning Leader recently reported, the Southern Tier sits upon a formation called the Marcellus Shale, a natural formation containing up to 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Using recently invented extraction techniques, some geologists believe up to 50 trillion cubic feet could be extracted from the Marcellus Shale, a volume of gas that corresponds to two years of total US production.

Natural gas is an excellent transitional fuel. We have pipelines to distribute it, we know how to make cars burn it, and it burns relatively cleanly. Natural gas is also about half as expensive as fuel oil for winter heating. The Southern Tier might see an economic shot in the arm from natural gas, and it will be interesting to see if it becomes an issue in the campaign.

FAIL-o-Tron Version 2 - New and Unimproved

The DCCC has to make tough decisions about where to spend its money. This is well-understood, and if the DCCC doesn't want to spend money in the 29th district, that's their choice. I think they're wrong, but that's nothing new with an organization that has a long record of poor money choices. (I've examined some of those choices here and in more depth here, including an explanation of the FAIL-o-tron reference.)

However, letting their list of targeted ads leak is a simple unforced error. It sends a signal to fundraisers, donors and pundits about the races where they think some extra money will make a difference. Leaking, or letting out, this list in July, which is 2-3 months before the ad buys will occur, damages any Democrat in a tight race who isn't on that list.

The DCCC may have some clever reason for leaking the list (if it wasn't an accident). If they do, I guarantee that it's too clever by half.

Update: Here's the DCCC response:

Our initial media buy is the first act of a many act play. As we have been all cycle, the DCCC is focused, prepared, and organized. Watch what we do over the next four months and our aggressive strategy to expand the playing field and strengthen the Democratic Majority will become clear.

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