ITHACA, N.Y. — U.S. Navy Reserve commander  and Western N.Y. native John Plumb has announced that he will be challenging Rep. Tom Reed in the race for the 23rd Congressional District, which includes the Ithaca area.


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“Growing up in rural Western New York, you can’t help but appreciate how special it is here,” said Plumb, a Democrat, in a statement.

“I was raised with the same core values that run deep through the Southern Tier and its surrounding areas: hard work, independent thinking, and a dedication to family, community and country.”

The election will be held in the fall of 2016 at the same time as the presidential election.

Here are five facts about the upstart challenger, who local Democrats appear to be rallying behind in a bid to unseat Reed:

1 — White House experience

Plumb was the director for defense policy and strategy at the White House National Security Council. He left that job for the Congressional run.

We’re still learning about Plumb’s role in the White House. But he was initially Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space Policy before joining the National Security Council staff.

“(Plumb) spent two years there working on a variety of policy issues including missile defense, nuclear weapons, reassurance of NATO, Russia, and the conflict in Ukraine,” according to a news release.

2 — Local roots

Plumb, a fourth-generation western New Yorker, was born in Jamestown in Chautauqua County and raised in the town of Randolph in Cattaraugus County. He earned varsity letter  in basketball, cross country, and track.

“His parents both still live in the same house (Plumb) was raised in,” according to a bio provided by local officials. “John has three sisters and a brother, and he is an uncle to nine (!) nephews and nieces.”

3 — Military background

Plumb graduated from Notre Dame and received a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado before joining the Navy as a submarine officer. He still serves as a commander in the Navy Reserves.

“In 1993, John was commissioned as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He spent over six years on active duty, including almost three years on the fast attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751), and two years teaching new officers the principles of safe operation of submarine nuclear power plants,” according to a statement from officials.

His military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal, and the Arctic Service Ribbon, which he earned for spending more than 28 days north of the Arctic Circle on his submarine.

4 — Personal life

Plumb is single and purchased a house last month in Lakewood, a community west of Jamestown along Chautauqua Lake, according to the Elmira Star Gazette.

He also has a dog named Gunner, according to his campaign page.

5 — Positions emerge

Plumb’s website is light on policy details, but he did tell the Buffalo News that he would oppose fracking for the Southern Tier and the Elmira Star Gazette that casinos would not be a “silver bullet” for the local economy.

Adds the Buffalo News: “Plumb said he intended to focus on bringing jobs to a district that stretches from the Chautauqua County shores of Lake Erie all the way to Tioga County, with a northern extension that carries it past the New York State Thruway in Ontario and Seneca counties.”

Jeff Stein

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