I didn’t vote for you, but job well done, Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning)

I didn’t vote for you, but job well done, Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning)

Nazareth College, Pittsford, NY, October 26th, 2010. Headline: Zeller, Reed, cover issues in congressional debate Caption: Democrat Matt Zeller, left, and Republican Tom Reed, candidates for the 29th Congressional District seat, shake hands at the start of their debate Tuesday. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Oct 27, 2010

Today, finally, Congress is expected to pass a covid relief package to be signed by President Trump.

For those millions who lost wages, jobs and businesses during the pandemic — including me when the schools closed and the baseball and softball games I umpire evaporated — the last months have been an excruciating wait.

We watched the endless and fruitless political dance between McConnell, Pelosi and Trump. Inexplicably, Trump, the candidate with the most to gain from a robust relief package — checks bearing his names delivered to the populist masses — was ineffectual.

The impasse was broken by the hard work of a bipartisan group of eight senators and two representatives, many of whose recommendations are included in the bill. One of the representatives, Thomas Reed (R), co-chair of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, was my representative in the NYS 29th congressional district from November 2010 to January 2013.

In this screen grab from a C-SPAN broadcast, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed speaks Dec. 1 during a press conference on Capitol Hill. At left is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and at right is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. (Olean Times)

Following the 2010 congressional redistricting, Reed shifted to the 23rd District (Corning), and mostly fell off my radar screen. Reed came back into full focus when he, admirably, was one of the first House Republicans to congratulate President-elect Joseph Biden, a few days after the Nov. 3 election. Later, Reed did not support the GOP amicus brief to overturn state elections, the case summarily rejected by the Supreme Court.

And now, Reed is a driving figure in crafting the successful package. Throughout the negotiations, Reed’s positions were closer to the Democrats than the Republicans in the caucus. He pushed for state aid, especially for New York. Reed also did not support any more than a narrow liability protection. Reed also lobbied for 16 weeks of extended jobless benefits, 5 weeks more than was included in the final bill.

I didn’t vote for you in 2010, but job well done, Congressman Tom Reed.

In early March 2010, Rochestarians learned that Congressman Eric Massa — who in 2008 had defeated incumbent Randy Kuhl (R) in an election rematch¹ — was resigning.

Democrat and Chronicle, March 06, 2010

March 09, 2010

Massa had been accused of fondling a male staff member, precipitating a House ethics investigation. Ultimately, Massa said he was resigning due to health problems, while claiming that House leadership wanted to punish him for advocating a single payer health program in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Massa’s supporters were deeply disappointed. A good friend liked Massa for his strong stance against the Iraq War. In the 2008 campaign, she hosted a house party for Massa and put his bumper sticker on her car. After Massa resigned, she scraped off the bumper sticker, although remnants are still visible.

2006 Eric Massa for Congress campaign button. [Carol Kramer’s collection]

We also learned that the Monroe County Republican committee was poised to select Reed, the former Mayor of Corning, over Maggie Brooks for Massa’s unexpired term.

Later, Democrats chose Matthew Zeller, a CIA analyst and war veteran living in Washington, DC at the time of Massa’s resignation. Zeller had never previously run for elected office and proved to be a far less formidable candidate than the incumbent Massa likely would have been. Reed won handily, 56 – 44%, and has been in Congress since.

On October 26th, 2010, I watched Reed and Zeller debate at Nazareth College.

Tom Reed (R) and (right) Matt Zeller (D). From Campaign Trail Hits Naz – Nazareth College, Rochester, NY (October 26, 2010)

When re-reading the 2010 Democrat and Chronicle article, I felt Jill Terreri accurately captured the atmosphere of the debate based on my recollection.

The differences between Democrat Matt Zeller and Republican Tom Reed were in stark contrast during a debate in Pittsford on Tuesday. Zeller, of Victor, and Reed, of Corning, Steuben County, are running for Congress in the 29th District, which has not been represented since Rep. Eric Massa resigned in March. They are on track to compete in 11 debates across the sprawling district, and for the most part, they were cordial. Zeller put Reed on the defensive several times, while Reed kept to his conservative positions and upbeat demeanor during the hour long event at Nazareth College. On a question regarding the new health care law, Zeller noted Reed was a medical debt collector. “You’d repeal health insurance if you could,” Zeller said. Reed, a lawyer who has collected debts for Corning Hospital, among other types of legal work, did not engage with Zeller on that point, but said the health care law is something that is going to create long-term fiscal problems and that he supports repealing it. Reed also noted how many miles he has put on his car 7,400 since his campaign began, and though Zeller said people don’t care about that number, Reed said it is indicative of the work ethic he’d have if elected. Wearing his camel-colored combat boots against a dark dress suit, Zeller referred frequently to his military service in Afghanistan, in answers to questions about a proposed Islamic center in New York City, the military’s policy on gay service members and on the economy. On the military’s policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Zeller said morale of his unit in Afghanistan was never affected by its members’ sexual orientation, and in making the case to repeal the policy, said the military needed all of the willing soldiers it could attract. Reed disagreed, saying the military needs to focus on the wars at hand and warned the audience not to get distracted with social issues, because the country’s biggest problems are economic. Zeller has lagged in the polls and he has not attracted national Democratic funding, and he is running in a district where Republicans hold an enrollment advantage of 11 percentage points. Zeller stressed his support for manufacturing and his belief that clean energy is the economic engine of the future. On Park51, the proposed Islamic. Center and mosque, Zeller said it was the planners’ right to build it, but he doesn’t prefer it there. Reed said he would try to personally  dissuade the planners from building it there, though he said they had a right to do so. The debate was organized by Nazareth College students and was broadcast by WXXI-AM. Voters in the 29th District will have to vote twice on Nov. 2, once to fill Massa’s unexpired term, and once to fill a new term that begins in January. In addition to Reed and Zeller, Republican Janice Volk of Allegany County is running a write-in campaign. JILL TERRERI STAFF WRITER 10/26/20 Democrat and Chronicle

I remember the cordial handshakes and generally collegial tone of the debate. I recall Zeller “Wearing his camel-colored combat boots against a dark dress suit.”  As Terreri notes, Reed “kept to his conservative positions and upbeat demeanor” — but did not come off as a strident partisan. Reed was equivocal on the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, but did not seem motivated by homophobia. Reed argued that the ACA would produce long-term fiscal problems, but did not rail against ObamaCare as a socialist government takeover.

I voted for Zeller, but found Reed to be a reasonable centrist whose government experience as the Mayor of Corning might produce effective constituent services. In the end, Reed did.

POSTSCRIPT¹

In 2006, I voted for Massa, but liked Randy Kuhl — who I supported in 2004 — because of his constituent services. I was teaching a course at RIT that included studying the Constitution. I contacted Kuhl’s office inquiring about Constitutions for the class. Kuhl personally drove up a batch from his Southern Tier office, left them for me in his Rochester office that later delivered the Constitutions to my house. In 2008, I voted for Massa.

Constitution

108th Congress, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Document No. 108-95. The CONSTITUTION of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, As Amended, Unratified Amendments, Analytical Index, PRESENTED BY MR. NEY, June 20, 2003 , Ordered to be Printed. From My first election: Horton and Cuomo. And some 2018 endorsements.

My first election: Horton and Cuomo. And some 2018 endorsements.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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