Issues? We don't need no stinkin issues!The Post-Star ran a good editorial on the local campaign for the US House of Representatives. The race for New York's 20th Congressional district seat pits GOP incumbent Rep. John Sweeney and Democrat challenge Kirsten Gillibrand. There is also a Liberal Party candidate, whose name eludes me and who went unnamed by the daily. Though in fairness, it would be hard for the paper to find out even if it wanted to; the state Liberal Party is so irrelevant that even their website doesn't list any of their candidates for the upcoming election (except for a giant photo of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton).
The Post-Star's editorial echoes my annoyance with the superfluousness of the present campaign. Not only have the Democrats not won the seat for this area since the mid-70s but the area is so overwhelmingly Republican, GOP incumbents have almost never been seriously challenged. Sweeney won the last election with over 65% of the vote, which is less than the staggering 73% he won in 2002. Such nastiness is not surprising. Republicans aren't used to having a race on their hands and for whatever reason Democrats smell blood in the water.
That said, the comments from each campaign are bordering on the comical. The Post-Star noted several non-stories that have been played up by the campaigns including:
-That Sweeney used the same photo on his campaign website as on his Congressional pages
-That Gillibrand's brother ran a gas station in Albany that was cited for minor violations by the state yet she was endorsed by the Sierra Club
-That Gillibrand's father is a lobbyist
-That Sweeney was involved in a ski trip junket in Lake Placid
Democrats were titilated by published photos of Sweeney at a frat party at Union College. Republicans attacked Gillibrand for not denouncing a Democrat National Committee spot that used images of dead soldiers.
(Exposing people to the reality of war by showing dead soldiers is partisanship... though apparently exposing people to the reality of abortion by showing dead fetuses is perfectly fine)
The ski trip story is the most interesting to me. The trip was sponsored by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and was paid for in part by the New York Power Authority (NYPA). The event, designed to showcase the Olympic facilities, has taken place since 1998. NYPA chipped in $25,000 for the event.
The state Assembly has launched hearings into ORDA's and NYPA's roles in the events. Sweeney declined to testify.
Naturally, Democrats have attacked Sweeney, calling the ski weekend an abuse of power. They say it's a clear example of the Congressman's ethical deficiencies. Yet, as The Post-Star ably reported last week, ALL of our federal representatives are used to taking junkets.
Noted the paper:
US Sen. Hillary Clinton and her aides took 115 trips valued at $182,676, while [US Sen. Chuck] Schumer and his aides took 45 trips valued at $75,542. Sweeney and his aides took 25 trips valued at $35,774.
If what Sweeney did was so unethical, I'd like to hear Democrats attack Clinton and Schumer. If these trips demonstrate ethical deficiences, then it's certainly a bipartisan issue. Then again, the Green Party* has been saying this for years.
The real issue with the ski trip is not Sweeney's participation in it. The real issue is why the infamously opaque and wasteful state authorities are spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars so that John Sweeney's hangers-on can battle each other on the bobsled track. But that's one for the state legislature to look at.
These candidates say they want to represent YOU in Washington. But do YOU really care about which photos Sweeney uses on his website? Do YOU care if Gillibrand's father is a lobbyist? Or do you care about things like health care, war and energy policy. If these guys have nothing to say about issues that anyone with a life would care about, the least they can do is stop bombarding voters with trivialiities.
*-Clinton's Green Party opponent, Howie Hawkins, spoke in Glens Falls yesterday. I'll have a report on the visit later this week.