With Dems undecided, Reed gets stronger

Before the snowstorm hit Thursday evening, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed was to have a full schedule in Chautauqua County. This morning, he was to be in the city to kick off the 16th annual March for Meals with the Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels organization.

Around noon, he was to be in Mayville at Chautauqua Suites for his annual conversation with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. He was also slated to be in Silver Creek for another meeting.

Dialogue is what Reed has been excelling at since he took office in 2010. Contrary to what some of his vocal opponents say locally, he has made himself available here often to discuss local and national issues.

That, in itself, is no easy task. Reed’s district, the 23rd Congressional in our state, covers a large portion of the Southern Tier. It comprises 11 counties, including Chautauqua and goes as far east as the suburbs of Binghamton in Tioga County.

Since his election in 2010 he has been a magnet for controversy. In a region buoyed by a Great Lake and the Finger Lakes, he has been a supporter of fracking. In a state dominated by a Democratic vote and governor, he has been a staunch advocate of current President Donald Trump. He also continues to defend the Second Amendment at a time when America mourns the horrific school shootings in Florida.

Agree or disagree with those points, this current term may be Reed’s strongest. He has not backed down from holding town hall meetings, especially in a tumultuous winter and spring of 2017 when he was greeted by many who are critical of Trump and angered by the 2016 election loss of Hillary Clinton. You cannot say the same for others in Congress, including U.S. Rep. Chris Collins from Erie County.

He stands by his vote for tax reform, which has led to a minor increase in take-home pay for many workers — and he kept his word regarding the nation’s $20.7 trillion debt crisis when he voted against the most recent Trump budget proposal in February. “It’s easy to come to a bipartisan agreement when you spend taxpayer dollars,” Reed said after the vote. “It’s hard to fix the root cause of the problem that’s causing the debt crisis and that is to reduce our spending, reform our entitlement programs and get our fiscal house in order.”

But Reed remains a target of the Democrats — and has been since 2012 when he faced his greatest competition in Nate Shinagawa. That race proved to be the closest of the last three though the anti-Reed sentiment often has a louder platform than the supporting segment.

This year, Democrats seem unorganized as the party’s candidate for the seat has not yet been determined. Locally, our county has backed Jamestown resident Eddie Sundquist for the seat.

Other counties, however, are following different trends. In the districtwide straw poll held in October in Randolph, Tompkins County businessman Ian Golden was the winner with 30 percent while four other candidates held less than 15 percent of the vote.

Finishing third in that poll was Tracy Mitrano, who continues to have a presence in Chautauqua County in recent months. In January, she attended the Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon at the Moose Club in Dunkirk and was in the city again last week and made a stop at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Even though we’re still eight months away from a vote, there’s no clear choice yet for the Democrats. That is a drastic change from the last two elections when Martha Robertson and John Plumb were the chosen candidates long before this stage in 2014 and 2016.

Though the party may seem united across the district in unseating the Congressman, they’re far from being on the same page or speaking in the same voice. That could work in Reed’s favor come November.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.