Tough to stand out in Democratic crowd

OBSERVER Photo From left are Democratic hopefuls Ian Golden and Tracy Mitrano at the debate on Wednesday at Chautauqua Lake school.

MAYVILLE — Perhaps, in his closing statement, candidate Ian Golden summed up one of the greatest challenges facing the five Democratic candidates who are vying for a shot at challenging the incumbent from Corning in the state’s 23rd Congressional district race this November.

“I can tell you that for all the hours of knocking on doors so far,” he said on Wednesday night, “99 percent of individuals don’t know that there is currently someone running against Tom Reed, let alone a primary going on.”

That is not just a worry for Democrats. It is a concern for our democracy — locally and nationally.

In today’s newsbits-by-the-second atmosphere, engagement by individuals in elections may not be what it once was. People expect the news to come to them. But these same people forget they have a responsibility to also seek out information.

In some ways, we have lost our individual and societal responsibilities — and it may be why we allow places like Washington to run rampant with little accountability.

We’ll complain on Facebook and Twitter. But do we really understand all the issues? At the Chautauqua Lake Central School auditorium during the League of Women Voters debate attended by a little more than 150, there was plenty to talk about in regard to Beltway dysfunction. But there also was a problem that will likely be alleviated after the primary: there were too many voices.

Each candidate during the debate had their strengths. Chautauqua County native and Jamestown resident Eddie Sundquist came across as the most polished from this viewpoint. He communicated well, shared anecdotes with the audience and had a strong grasp of the issues.

Those he shared the stage with, Golden, Linda Andrei, Max Della Pia and Tracy Mitrano, also had their shining moments. Della Pia comes across as a voice of wisdom; Golden is a scrappy go-getter; Andrei has a healthy, get-it-done vision while Mitrano is confident and in control.

That being said, Mitrano was a target for her colleagues. After the introductions, both Sundquist and Andrei asked questions in regard to previous debate statements. Later, Golden took to task where she called home. She claimed in the beginning to reside in Penn Yan and Ithaca.

Fortunately, moderator Marcia Merrins put an end to the petty argument that has no impact on the issues of the district.

Mitrano also was challenged regarding the backing she has received from the Working Families party. According to Della Pia, the four other candidates have pledged to back the candidate who is victorious in the June 26 vote. Mitrano, however, has not decided on relinquishing that line if she comes up short. “I will cross that bridge when I come to it,” she said.

Other than these minor disagreements, most spoke in the same voice and of the urgency to defeat Reed. Here are some of the best remarks from the candidates:

¯ Andrei, a retired cardiologist, on Reed’s attack ads — “I don’t really feel any pressure from him. I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is when a 55-year-old man comes to the emergency room with a heart attack. … His wife and four children are sitting in the waiting room expecting you to deliver him home. Tom Reed is a lightweight. When he wants to come up between me and my record for the past 30 years, he should tremble.”

¯ Sundquist on Reed’s liberal label campaign — “He puts a label on you and says this is what you are. Well you know what? If you want to call me an extreme liberal because I care about making sure that everyone gets healthier in this district or I care about making sure that we have jobs or I care about fixing an opioid epidemic, then call me whatever you want because at least you know what I stand for.”

¯ Della Pia on Reed’s accomplishments — “He’s named two post offices and a commemorative coin. Now, I’m not minimizing the value of the post office renaming for the family of the fallen, but that’s not sufficient. It’s not enough to hold a town hall meeting. You have to go back to Washington and do something for the people of this district. The people who need it.”

¯ Mitrano on our split nation — “We are tired as a society of the bullying, derision and division. … It is not helping us. I had a farmer with whom I think others on the panel here have also spoken (with). He was as Republican and red as you get. He said to me, ‘I voted for Trump and I voted for Reed but now I know they don’t care about people like me.’ … This man told me he made $13 last month as a dairy farmer. And what are they doing with that farm bill to help people like him? Nothing.”

¯ Golden on D.C. dysfunction — “Congress is very much broken. We need an individual that’s able to look outside the party lines to unify literally a nation and district. We need somebody who’s going to stand up and fight for living wages, for health care for all. To fight for our unions, who are under attack. … So many things are so messed up.”

In the three previous District 23 campaigns against Reed, the Democrats had one candidate. In this round, five remain. With six months to go, that’s still four too many.

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