OLEAN - Those angry about “taxation without representation” in the 29th Congressional District will get the change they wanted, but not until Nov. 2.
Some local, political-minded residents learned the breaking news that Gov. David Paterson would hold a special election for Eric Massa’s vacated seat while they attended Wednesday night’s Cattaraugus County Tea Party meeting. Most were there to listen to Republican candidate Tom Reed, who paid a visit to the tea party as he tries to gather supporters.
About 35 curious citizens listened to Mr. Reed in the Olean Senior Center after a last-minute change of location from Olean Middle School. It was the third-ever meeting for the local tea party - a group that has focused on the outrage over Paterson’s stalling.
“I’m one of you guys,” Mr. Reed, the youngest of 12 children, told his audience.
An attorney, the Alfred University graduate served in 2008 and 2009 as mayor of Corning. However, Mr. Reed has spent the last several months getting to know his potential constituents in the eight-county district of about 660,000 people.
Mr. Reed and Democrat candidate Matt Zeller have been on hold as the state government has allowed the seat previously held by Democrat Eric Massa to remain vacant since March 8. Mr. Massa resigned amidst an employee-groping scandal.
An attempt to contact Mr. Zeller’s camp for comment this morning was unsuccessful.
Gov. Paterson has agreed to hold a special election Nov. 2 for the open seat - Republicans have already called the move a continuation of a delay designed to boost Democrats’ chances in the election. Mr. Reed himself said the governor told him a special election would be announced as soon as Mr. Massa’s spot officially opened.
“The governor thinks it’s a joke,” event organizer Carl Edwards said. “I think the governor’s a joke.”
The crowd seemed irritated over Gov. Paterson’s continued acceptance of “taxation without representation” in the district. The special-election winner will serve immediately - depending on when Congress swears him in - until the general-election winner takes over in January, according to the Associated Press.
“Since the vacancy, Western New Yorkers have been served by a working congressional office that has and will continue to address their needs,” the governor said in a statement Wednesday night.
“Due to serious concerns over the rollout of new electronic voting machines in several counties within the district, the local financial burden of holding a special election so close to the regular election cycle, as well as the possible disenfranchisement of overseas military voters who would not be able to participate, I will call for a special election to be held on Nov. 2, 2010. This will ensure a fair and open election process.”
Mr. Reed’s speech seemed to cater to tea party members who are sick of the Democrat governor and large government involvement and spending as a whole. The candidate criticized federal officials for stepping into areas, like the auto industry, that government has no business being in.
“The government is not the answer to all problems, Mr. Reed said. “It should be their last resort. America’s going to go bankrupt. And that’s not acceptable to me.”
Mr. Reed is giving himself a fixed amount of time to get practical and fix problems in New York and the country. A proponent of term limits in state, local and federal government, Mr. Reed himself only wants to serve 12 years maximum in Congress.
Upon Mr. Reed turning the issues over to the audience, more than one visitor brought up the Marcellus Shale oil and gas reserves and asked Mr. Reed if he supported developing that resource. He voiced his approval of easing away from foreign-oil dependency while keeping drilling practices safe.
“We all live in this area. None of us want to see our environment destroyed, he said. “We won’t let that happen.
One visitor spoke up and wanted to know how government could stop environmental incidents like the recent BP oil spill from happening again. The visitor even mentioned his stance against the proposed windmills in Allegany, which drew applause from some in the crowd.
Again citing the Marcellus Shale, Mr. Reed explained the need to punish those who violate safety and environmental codes. Still, he feels the positives of oil exploration outweigh any negatives.
A retired dairy farmer questioned the well-being of his former industry, one that is key to Western New York. Mr. Reed used the opportunity to tackle the immigration debate, as many dairy-industry employees are seasonal or migrant workers.
“Work can be done to have these people in the U.S. legally,” he said.
As the tempers of many simmer over the special election and perceived excess of governmental control in various issues, Mr. Reed challenged the audience with two options - do nothing about the nation’s current situation, or fundamentally change things. Another young adult asked if the candidate would make these changes, if elected, based on his own beliefs or his constituents’ beliefs.
“A hundred times out of 10, what we do in Washington is going to be based on the beliefs of the people, Mr. Reed said.
(Contact reporter Adam Vosler at email@example.com.)