Ithaca's U.S. Congressional district, the 22nd, has long benefitted from representation by Maurice Hinchey, one of the most progressive members of the House.
Now, the neighboring 29th district, long a Republican stronghold, has a chance to choose new and progressive leadership, with Democratic challenger Eric Massa running a strong campaign against incumbent Republican Randy Kuhl.
The 29th district includes much of the Southern Tier, including Schuyler and Chemung counties.
Kuhl won election to the district after the retirement of Amo Houghton, a Republican with a long and distinguished record of bipartisan leadership in Congress.
Kuhl's main commendation for the job, after an undistinguished stint in the New York State Assembly, seemed to be his party affiliation.
Kuhl's one term in Congress is similarly undistinguished, and in sharp contrast to Houghton's. In a long career in the House, Houghton was respected as a pragmatic and independent leader. Kuhl, meanwhile, voted with Tom DeLay on over 90 per cent of his votes, until DeLay's resignation in a corruption scandal. Kuhl also received money from DeLay's PAC fund.
Enter Eric Massa. Massa is a Navy veteran identified as a "Fighting Democrat" - one of the scores of armed service veterans running as Democrats for Congress this year.
The appellation is meant to contrast the military service of the Democratic candidates with the lack of service among many of the Republicans responsible for the war.
Massa seems eager to continue fighting, on the political front. He made national headlines this week with vigorous criticism of Donald Rumsfeld.
In a speech to the American Legion this week, Rumsfeld accused Bush administration critics of "myths and distortions."
In a statement released by the Democratic national party, Massa said, "After 21 months of trying to find something I can agree with Secretary Rumsfeld on, it is true: the American people are being lied to and I totally agree with Secretary Rumsfeld. What I disagree with is the fact that he's the one doing the lying." Massa specifically accused Rumsfeld of lying about current progress in Iraq.
Congressman Hinchey was among the first and most outspoken critics of the invasion of Iraq. His leadership has not been matched by New York's senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, who voted for the Bush invasion, and might speak out against it, it seems, if it becomes expedient.
Meanwhile, New York voters in the 29th district have a chance to send Hinchey an ally in an active effort for peace, and truth in government. Likewise, New Yorkers statewide have a chance to vote for a Senatorial candidate, Jonathan Tasini, who has called for an immediate halt to the war. Tasini is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the Senate in the primary election on September 12 (see related Ithaca Blog article).
for Ithaca Blog