Nov. 2 is going to be an unusual time for New York’s 29th District voters. Unless something changes, they’ll be voting for their representative — twice. After the spectacular downfall of Democrat Eric Massa in a sexual harassment scandal, the governor of New York succeeded in pushing the special election back to the same day as the general election, leaving the seat vacant. In this largely Republican district, Massa was an unusual win to begin with, which means things do not bode well for the Democrat’s pick Matt Zeller. Former Corning Mayor Tom Reed is the Republicans’ hope for picking up this seat.
Candidates for New York’s 29th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes all or portions of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties and the cities of Corning and Elmira. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Matt Zeller
Political experience: Zeller has no political experience.
Professional experience: Zeller is a former CIA analyst and veteran. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008.
Key issues: Zeller believes the nation needs to cut federal spending and prevent further bailouts, which he feels are irresponsible leadership, according to his website. He is against unfunded mandates and wants to clean up waste and eliminate fraud from unscrupulous contractors. He says he thinks making smart investments in clean energy will help create jobs and drive the country in the right direction in the next century.
As a veteran, he has an interest in standing up for those who have served. He’d like to see the VA fully funded and the claims backlog cut in half.
Endorsements: Zeller has been endorsed by former Sen. David Boren (D-OK), Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Veterans Alliance for Security and Democracy, Veterans and Military Families for Progress, AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, United Food and Commercial Workers and United Steelworkers of America.
Chances of winning this seat: Zeller’s chances are not very good. He’s low on money and low in the polls. (As of late September, he had about $50,000 cash on hand; his opponent, Todd Reed, has about $361,000 in cash on hand.) The district was a possible pickup for the Republicans even if Massa had been able to remain in the House, but now it’s starting to look like a long-shot election.
Candidate: Todd Reed
Political experience: Reed was elected mayor of Corning in 2007.
Professional experience: Reed has worked at the Law Offices of Thomas W. Reed II; Gallo & Iacovangelo; and Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley.
Key issues: Reed feels the stimulus was a “horrible mistake.” The stimulus, coupled with a budget increase, is contributing to a massive national debt. The deficit is putting the country at risk of owing China for the sake of pork-barrel projects.
In his campaign platform on his website, Reed suggests that the White House considers those who oppose spending, the health care reform and higher taxes “un-American.” In doing so, he’s tying into the Tea Party movement and sentiments to some degree.
Endorsements: Reed has been endorsed by New York state senators George Winner, Jim Alesi and Cathy Young, former N.Y. 29th Rep. Randy Kuhl and former New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Donald Davidsen.
Chances of winning this seat: Reed has a strong lead over Zeller in a Sept. 21 poll issued by the Siena Research Institute. Reed has been given 44 percent to Zeller’s 30 percent. 26 percent remain undecided, giving both candidates plenty of voters to reach in the remaining weeks. Making matters worse for Zeller, he’s missing the money he needs to win.
Key Differences between Todd Reed and Matt Zeller
Jobs: When it comes to jobs, Reed feels his business experience will be helpful. He wants to make sure that the Bush tax cuts don’t expire, and he would reduce tax rates in general if given the opportunity. He wants to see incentives and benefits for employers who hire. Zeller would like to see tax cuts, but primarily for small businesses. He would like to promote economic growth through advanced research technologies and facilities. He would adjust the tax code which he feels benefits New York City more than agriculture and business interests in the district.
Energy: Zeller supports renewable energy. He would work to pass tax cuts and credits for those who upgrade energy efficiency and cut consumption. Reed is opposed to cap and trade legislation and he says he feels those increase the cost of energy. He backs incentives for nuclear, wind, solar, biomass and hydrogen. He is also in support of natural gas, which he says could be a source of jobs in the district.
National Security: Reed argues that timetables in Afghanistan aren’t needed and are, in fact, counterproductive to fighting the Taliban. He is supportive of the gradual draw down in Iraq and suggests that given the right resources, our troops could have the same impact in Afghanistan. He’s against unrelated earmarks that have found their way into wartime funding. Zeller wants to emphasize the longstanding relationship and alliance with Israel, which he feels would strengthen our security in the Middle East. He’d expand continuing education grants for GIs, work to stop terrorism before it starts and secure the borders through better cargo screening.
New York‘s 29th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The New York 29th District is made up of the Appalachians in the southwestern part of the state. It borders Pennsylvania.
2008 results: Democrat Eric Massa beat Republican Randy Kuhl 51 percent to 49 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 91.3 percent of the district is white, 2.9 percent black, 2.1 percent Asian, 1.8 percent Hispanic and 0.6 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the New York 29th District a rating of R+5, giving an edge to Republican voters in this district.