OLEAN — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed is working the campaign trail from one end of the 11-county 23rd Congressional District to the other.
He’s making sure voters know where he differs with his Democratic challenger, Tracy Mitrano, former director of Information Technology at Cornell University.
In a meeting Friday with members of the Olean Times Herald editorial board, Reed described issues where Mitrano has changed her position from what it was during the Democratic primary.
Reed’s campaign staff often showed up at Democratic primary events, videoing the candidates answers and cataloging them.
Since Mitrano won the Democratic primary June 26, Reed said she has pivoted to more moderate positions designed to conceal her true colors that emerged in the primary. For example, he said her website was scrubbed of her Second Amendment position. Democrats would repeal the liability protection for gun manufacturers over gun deaths, Reed said. This would lead to more frivolous lawsuits against gunmakers, he said.
While Democrats have made inroads in these midterm elections over healthcare, Reed insisted that the single-payer system Mitrano and other Democrats are endorsing will cost $32 trillion over 10 years.
It would more than double New York’s healthcare costs and increase physician shortages under a Medicare-For-All program, Reed said. The elderly and low-income would have to increasingly compete for fewer healthcare resources.
“We have to get costs under control,” he said. “Medicare, one of the best programs we have, is nearly insolvent.” Under single-payer, “you are under bureaucrats’ control.”
Reed has also been critical of Mitrano’s stand on safe injection sites for heroin/opioid addicts, saying she is an “extreme liberal” and out of touch with much of the district.
Reed also said he was familiar with the Southern Tier Anesthesiologists group losing its long-standing contract with Olean General Hospital. He said it was “ridiculous” to pay such a high salary to Timothy Finan, president and CEO of Upper Allegheny Healthcare System while calling the anesthesiologists too expensive.
Reed incorrectly cited a $1.6 million figure for Finan's salary, which in fact it is far less. The salary was reported to be $739,836 in 2016.
Still, Reed said the future of healthcare in rural areas would be dependent on large groups like Kaleida Health, which includes Olean General Hospital.
Reed also defended the 2017 Republican tax cut and said it wasn’t responsible for a 17 percent rise in the federal deficit this year. The growth in federal spending was the real reason the deficit grew to more than $900 million, Reed said.
“Spending is the issue,” not the tax cuts, he said. He reminded that he voted against the budget deal.
Reed said he agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent comments that Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid would have to be cut to reduce the deficit.
“If we do nothing, what’s going to happen?” Reed asked. “We have to solve it.” He has voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Reed faulted Mitrano for not being more supportive of manufacturing in the district and criticized her for saying the Wellsville Dresser-Rand facility manufactured “car parts” instead of marine turbines for the U.S. Navy.
Asked about the caravan of thousands of Central American residents seeking asylum in the U.S. from violence and economic hardship in their homelands, Reed said it raised the threat that violent gang members could be among the families headed toward the U.S.-Mexican border.
“I support a wall,” Reed said, echoing President Trump’s insistence on a border wall. “We need a wall, plus technology and resources for people guarding the border,” he said, adding, “We don’t have enough judges or holding facilities” to make the vetting process for immigrants more fair and safe.
Reed admitted the separation of children from their parents at the border was a mistake. Congress, he said, should pass legislation to allow parents and children to be housed together instead of separated.
Earlier Friday, Reed toured Mazza Mechanical and Pierce Steel Co., with owners Daniel DeRose and Michael DeRose, respectively, in Olean.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)