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