ITHACA, NY – Congressman Tom Reed, who represents Ithaca and the rest of New York’s 23rd Congressional District, drew criticism after making comments that seemed to conflate his opponent’s military service with a lack of commitment to the district.

Reed’s opponent, John Plumb, is a former Navy Reserve Commander and White House advisor. Reed had previously criticized Plumb as being a Washington insider who has forgotten his way around New York, but enjoys support from “extreme Ithaca liberals.”

Earlier this month, in an Ithaca Journal interview, Reed said of Plumb: “His house is his commitment to the area… And, you know, he’s obviously served the country in his Navy career, which I applaud. But … I’ve been (in the district) for generations. I’ve been there with my family.”

Days later, Plumb shot back in a press release, saying, “No matter where I served – whether I was in the depths below the Arctic Circle or in the deserts of the Middle East – New York was always in my heart because in the military, home is what we fight to protect and defend every day we put on the uniform.”

Plumb’s statement went on to question Reed’s record and understanding of the needs of local veterans. The statement quoted several veterans from the district who felt disrespected by the comment, including Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe, who said that Reed fails understand that the goal of communities should be welcome veterans back home after their service.

Plumb got support from outside the district as well, with Massachusetts Congressman and former Marine Corps officer Seth Moulton also calling Reed out.

“It’s unconscionable to hear anyone, and especially someone who never served a day in our military, criticize John for the time he spent away from home serving this country. Our Congress, and our nation, will be better off with more selfless servants like John Plumb,” Moulton said in a report from The Hill.

Reed’s response

Reed responded in an article in Hornell’s Evening Tribune, saying that he respected Plumb’s six years of military service and that Plumb was trying to blur the lines between that service and Plumb’s political service in Washington D.C.

“This is a career individual who has worked in the Obama administration, trying to blur the lines between the political service he did for Ken Salazar (former Democratic senator from Colorado) and in the political operations in Washington, D.C … This is a D.C. philosophy of trying to blur the lines rather than be upfront with the people of the district,” Reed said.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.