OLEAN - Three weeks ago Janice Volk, a community activist from Cuba, decided she would run for Congress because she wasn’t satisfied with the Republican candidates headed for a primary in September.
An Allegany County Republican Committee member, Mrs. Volk wasn’t happy with the endorsement Republican Tom Reed of Corning got from the eight Republican chairmen in the 29th Congressional District.
“The Republican Party needs a new face,” she declared. “It needs the compassion of a mother and a grandmother. I know what it’s like to struggle and start a new business.”
She said Mr. Reed’s company was eager to take $1.2 million from the state to remodel the Masonic Temple Building in Bath, but said he wouldn’t have voted for the federal economic-stimulus package that could benefit the district. She said she was more troubled, however, by his former job as a collections attorney before be became Corning mayor, when he sued hundreds of district residents who fell behind in their debts.
A 43-year-old mother of six and grandmother of four, Mrs. Volk and her husband raise alpacas. She’s also a fisherman and a Cessna pilot. Her son Luke’s wife and their four children are staying with them while he’s on his fourth tour of Iraq as a U.S. infantryman.
“I would like nothing more than to sit at home with my grandbabies,” Mrs. Volk said.
However, she doesn’t believe Mr. Reed, or Monroe County businessman Angelo Campini, who is also listed as a candidate, can represent the district as well as she could. As a member of the Allegany County Republican Committee, “no one ever asked me” about endorsing Mr. Reed.
Mrs. Volk, a Chautauqua County native and graduate of Jamestown Community College where she studied business administration, worked at the former St. Francis Hospital and for a private physician. She moved to Cuba about 14 years ago, where she considers herself a community activist. She was chairman of the county Bicentennial Taste of Allegany County, as well as the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport Support Group.
In three weeks, Mrs. Volk has put together a volunteer group of advisers including campaign manager Terry Cary and attorney Joseph Miller along with several other local residents. She has started a website, http://www.janiceforcongress.com">www.janiceforcongress.com, and begun driving around the eight-county district seeking primary campaign volunteers. Many people have contacted her through her website offering to collect signatures on petitions.
“It’s mostly by word of mouth, but the website has reached out to places I haven’t been able to get to,” she said in an interview at the Times Herald on Friday.
“A primary is democracy at its best. I’m in it to win it,” she said.
Her analysis shows Mr. Reed and Mr. Campini splitting the established Republican vote in their respective areas, with her receiving enough of the disaffected Republican primary voters and women to win the primary. Once she’s on the ballot, she’ll ask Mr. Reed and Mr. Campini to participate in at least one debate.
Mrs. Volk said after concentrating her efforts on getting the 1,250 valid signatures to get on the Republican primary ticket, she plans to meet with managers and chief executive officers of companies from around the district to listen to their concerns.
If she’s elected to Congress, she said the first thing she would do would be to vote to repeal the federal health care bill.
“I don’t like the idea of private citizens being fined or arrested if they don’t carry private health insurance,” she said.
She said there were already rules and regulations to help those without health insurance. She said her husband is currently unemployed and the couple are not covered by health insurance.
Mrs. Volk’s biggest challenge, however, is finances. The 29th Congressional District is served by television stations in Rochester, Elmira and Buffalo. It is television spots in the days before a primary or general election that convince undecided voters who to vote for.
“Most of my money will be spent on television spots,” she said.
Then-Rep. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, and Eric Massa, Democrat of Corning, spent nearly $4 million combined in the general election two years ago. Mr. Massa resigned March 8 amid allegations of sexual harassment of a male staffer.
“I didn’t cause the primary,” she insisted. “Angelo Campini caused the primary.”
“It is going to be a challenge,” Mrs. Volk admitted. “My core group is tapping into the compassion of the 29th District.”
If she wins the Republican primary, Mrs. Volk will face Democratic candidate Matthew Zeller, a Monroe County native, in the special election.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org)