Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Where's the Drama?

In a blizzard of conflicting information, rumor and innuendo, sometimes one needs to think about human nature and political tradition. Philbrick at Mustard Street makes a good point on that score.

In short, knowing what we all know about Eric Massa, the way he has used his history as a cancer survivor, and his instinct for the dramatic, wouldn't you expect a Lou Gehrig moment if he were resigning because of a serious health issue? Do you really think that he'd exit stage right after a hasty press conference?

Backing Down

Yesterday, Massa was Mark Foley.

Today, this is the best The Hill can muster:

We don’t yet know what kind of trouble Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) has with the House ethics committee, but it’s going to dog Democrats for now. If he is to believed, he said something rather “salty” to a staffer. Democratic aides, meanwhile, said that the staffer was made to feel “uncomfortable.”

Article I, Section II of the US Constitution

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen. [emphasis mine]

In other words, there is no requirement that a person running for Congress live in the district they want to represent, only the state.

What's Next

There's a shoe left to drop in this whole mess, and it belongs to a man named Ronald Hikel. Hikel is the former deputy chief of staff and legislative director named in this Politico story who took the complaint to the House Ethics Committee. In Sean Carroll's interview with Massa's current chief of staff, that person said that the Massa office had not seen the complaint. But Steny Hoyer said that he informed the Massa office to forward a complaint to the Ethics Committee.

Connecting the dots, maybe Hoyer forgot that Hikel had quit Massa's office, or perhaps Hikel quit over the allegations. In either case, Hikel may well play the role that Kirk Fordham, Foley's ex-chief of staff, played in that case. Fordham blew the whistle on Foley, but the leadership didn't listen in that case. They apparently did here.

Related to the Foley comparison, Jay Newton-Small at Time's Swampland blog gives 5 reasons why Massa is no Mark Foley. Some excitable Democratic aide made a comment that the allegations against Massa would have the same impact on Democrats as the Foley matter did on Republicans. It won't. Massa wasn't hitting on underage pages, he might well be sick and, most importantly, Foley's pattern of behavior was condoned by Republican leadership for a long time, whereas the Democratic leadership apparently referred the first complaint to the House Ethics Committee.

The Foley remark was interesting because it typifies the type of panic that seems to grip Democratic staff and members whenever Democrats hit a little bump in the road. That panic is the opposite of leadership, it's unseemly, and Democrats will continue to hit below their weight as long as it remains part of the House culture.

Should Reed Bow to His Betters?

Today's news is full of discussion of area Republicans who think they have some sort of entitlement to run for the 29th seat, now that it's become an easy get instead of a hard slog. Before anyone gets excited about any of these candidates, let's review a few facts.

First, the spectre of re-districting hangs over this seat. In 2002, some furious gerrymandering left Western New York with three Republican incumbents. Only one of those districts (NY-26) is currently held by a Republican, and given current registration trends, it's unlikely that any Republican gimme districts will be left. Any Republican running for the 29th seat has to face the possibility that they'll be redistricted out of a job in two years.

Second, every single member of the New York State Legislature is politically stunted by unopposed elections and easy fundraising. When they step into a real political environment, they end up like Randy Kuhl -- easily led by party hacks, mediocre at fundraising, and bound to make gaffes. George Winner's recent weak performance in the Pulteney frack water controversy is a great example. When he wasn't absent, he was late to the party, and when he finally got to the party, he was uninformed and unimpressive.

Finally, the Southern Tier representative has a special position in the political life of the region. He's the top of the foodchain, a valued consultant to local media on all matters political, and a sought-after guest at civics classes and community events. There's no way that someone from Rochester is going to get a lot of votes in the Tier. Maggie Brooks is popular in Rochester. She's an interloper in the Tier.

Put that all together and it's hard to find a better candidate than Tom Reed. Senator Cathy Young seems a little more intelligent than the average New York Legislator, which is not high praise. Young has also denied interest in the seat. Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli is another possibility -- he gets good press and lives in the right place.

Whatever I think of Reed's politics and political skills, he did have the grit to get into a race that he was pretty sure to lose. Now that the race has opened up, I doubt that he's going to roll over. With the brutal New York State primary schedule, Republicans might want to avoid a costly, reputation-draining contest by keeping Reed as their candidate.


Reader Stanley sends this Roll Call item about Charlie Rangel's ethics issues and its impact on the New York delegation. Rangel's a major fundraiser, and he's been responsible for about $40K of donations to the Massa campaign. The Star-Gazette also mentioned the Rangel issue yesterday.

Massa hasn't yet issued a statement about whether he'll return the money, but he did vote to refer Rangel's case to the House Ethics Committee.

I've mentioned the Rangel money issue here and here, and I still think that this won't be a major campaign issue, for the reasons given in those posts.

Healthcare Summit

Reader Vincent sends this link to the Sunlight Foundation's live blog coverage of today's summit at the Blair House. They're a non-profit good government bunch and can probably cut through a lot of the bullshit that's going to be flooding that meeting.

By the way, in case anybody wonders, no, Eric Massa has not changed his position on the reform bill. I'd be surprised if this meeting changes anybody's mind, including his.

Reed Opposes Federal Drilling Regulation

Today's Democrat and Chronicle and Star-Gazette cover Tom Reed's latest position on the regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling. He's against almost all Federal regulation:

Reed said he would vote against giving the Environmental Protection Agency authority to use the Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate such drilling. He also would oppose requiring drillers to disclose the chemicals they add to the water injected into the rock.

Reed's position is that the state should do the regulating. However, Federal water laws like Clean Water Act have been around for decades because water doesn't respect state boundaries.

Here's a simple hypothetical. Say St. Bonaventure College, which is about 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border, finds chemical contamination in their drinking water. In Tom Reed's world, they would have the right to find out if a Pennsylvania fracking operation caused that pollution only if Pennsylvania law says they can. In Eric Massa's world, they'd have that right because Federal law requires drillers to disclose what they inject into rock that could contaminate the water supply.

I'll leave it to the reader to imagine which world Saint Bonnies' students (and their parents) want to live in.

MCDC Failure Explained

A couple of years ago, I posted a long rant about the Monroe County Democratic Party. I thought that the chair, Joe Morelle, should step down, because he had failed to place even a token candidate on the slate for County Executive, the top race on the ticket.

Today, at Mustard Street, writer Philbrick explains why Morelle didn't field a candidate in 2007: he wants the job himself. The evidence that Philbrick gives in his piece is fairly convincing. Morelle has risked the ire of public unions, critical in the inner city but not a power in the suburbs, to support Mayor Robert Duffy's plan to take over the Rochester schools. And Duffy has engaged the services of a major strategy group, which would indicate that he's looking at Federal or statewide office, not County Executive.

If you're not convinced by Philbrick's analysis, here are a couple more points. First, Morelle is sponsoring Katie's law, which is a "tough on crime" measure that would allow cops to take DNA samples from suspects, not those convicted. That's probably unconstitutional, but it would certainly be popular with suburban conservatives. Second, there's the whole 2007 County Executive debacle, mentioned above. If you're county chair and want to run for County Executive, but the time isn't right, you're going to make sure that nobody else runs, no matter what this does to the party.

Monroe County is key to Massa's victory in 2008, and to his re-election in 2010, but the party apparatus here is completely useless. In the last 10 years, Democrats have gone from a 4,000 voter registration advantage to a 40,000 voter advantage over Republicans. Yet Republicans still control the legislature. After the last election, one Democrat even switched parties, which indicates that there's little hope that Democrats will regain control anytime soon.

Since he's now running for County Executive, I'm sure Joe Morelle will be hoarding MCDC assets for his coming race. Eric Massa will once again have to run his own get out the vote operation. The status quo in Monroe County won't change until the leadership changes.

So, About Those Regulations

Reader Don sends this DEC spill report [pdf] which documents a 1,143 gallon petroleum product spill at a Chesapeake well near Pulteney. The spill, which was apparently caused by a rusted-through holding tank, occurred last August and hasn't been cleaned up, according to the DEC report. The report was part of a letter sent by Walter Hang, who runs the hazardous waste tracking site Toxics Targeting, to the state DEC.

This could be just a bookkeeping issue, or it could be something more serious, but it's another example of how Chesapeake's actions are getting the utmost scrutiny by local activists.

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