This is an opinion piece written by Richard Stewart, who runs the left-leaning blog, “New NY 23rd.” 

Should anyone wish to write a response, we would gladly run it. The column is about the Congressional election in New York’s 23rd District (which includes Ithaca). Democrat and Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson is running against incumbent Republican Tom Reed.

— Jeff Stein


The title of the Ithaca Voice August 2 Opinion Column asks the question: “Is Martha Robertson toast?” Opinion-sharer William A. Jacobson seems to think so. I’m not going to comment on the evidence he uses to support his opinion. I’m going to present evidence based on facts to support my conclusion.

Nate Shinagawa, in 2012, didn’t even know which re-drawn congressional district Ithaca was placed in until March. By November he ran and won a primary campaign, ran a congressional campaign, and came with 4 points from unseating a well known incumbent. Rep. Tom Reed, whose had the powerful republican machine working for him, raised 2.5 times as much money as Shinagawa. The DCCC quickly realized that Reed was a flawed candidate and decided to targeted energy on the NY23rd.

Martha Robertson announced her intentions to run for the NY 23rd seat in the House of Representatives in March, 2012 —19 months before the elections. She had no primary race to distract her, and she inherited the network of support Shinagawa cultivated. Advantage to Robertson.

Although in this year’s campaign Reed, as of June 30, has out raised Robertson by $1,036,00, the people of our congressional district gave 2.3 times more money to Robertson than Reed ($430,000 to $180,000). They are the people who have suffered with Rep. Reed since 2010. They are the only ones whose votes count in this race. If people donate, they vote, and they urge their friends and neighbors get out to vote. Advantage to Robertson.

Robertson received 3.7 times small donations (under $250) than Reed (only 3% of his campaign fund are from Small donations.) Robertson out-raised Reed by over $46,000 in large donations. She reported that she has had over 6,000 different people donate to her campaign. Retired Citizens has donated over $200,000 to the Robertson campaign. Retired Citizens do not show up on Reed’s donor radar. Advantage to Robertson.

Who contributes to Reed’s campaign? Business PACs (Political Action Committees) account for 45% of his campaign funds. The Insurance Industry is Reed’s biggest industrial contributor, followed by Securities and Investment (aka Wall Street) and the Oil and Gas Industry. No wonder Reed wants to shift the tax burden from corporations to the middle class. Advantage to Robertson.

Interest groups often keep track of how congress members vote on the issues that they are interested in. Planned Parenthood’s 2013 Scorecard has given Rep. Reed a ZERO rating. American Association of University Women also gave him a ZERO rating. His votes earned Rep. Reed a League of Conservation Voters of 3% rating (His life time rating is 9%.) The Alliance for Retired Americans was an 11% rating. He earned a 31% rating from Food Policy Action, and a 10% rating from the Council for a Livable World (National Security). These issues are important to the voters of the NY23rd. Advantage to Robertson.

The winner in the race for our congressional seat will have to have a good voter turn out, and get independents to vote for him or her. People are tired the Governing by Crisis of this “do nothing” congress. The economy is better, unemployment is down, with no help from the Republican House. Reed voted against keeping the government open in 2013 and later said “I think the initial strategy of defunding Obamacare that started us down this path, to me, was something that clearly was unachievable.” If Reed realized his Tea Party’s goal “was something that clearly was unachievable,” why did he agree to go along with in the first place?

After Watergate and Nixon, and after Iraq-Afghanistan and Bush-Cheney, independents and moderate republicans deflected the lure of the radical right and Democrats were elected. Moderate republicans of the NY 23rd are embarrassed of their party’s civil war and the dysfunction it has created in the our government. Advantage to Robertson.

The Robertson-Reed campaign will be entering a new phase. It is not going to be easy for Robertson to overcome Reed’s name recognition or his anticipated media assault, but Martha’s supporters are eager to get their boots on the ground and campaign for her.

Martha Robertson is not toast.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.