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IN MEMORY Never political with Houghton

The OBSERVER's view

The passing of Amo Houghton on Thursday sent many reporters and editors scurrying to their clip files.

What was already a sad day for the area became even sadder when one read the old news clips of Houghton’s exploits as Chautauqua County’s representative in Congress. Nowhere is it as clear how toxic our national politics have become than when reading about Houghton’s efforts to save his Congressional District.

Houghton, a Republican, and former state Assemblyman Bill Parment, D-North Harmony, fought side-by-side for two years to keep Chautauqua County in a district that stretched from Corning to Jamestown rather than be moved into a district with Buffalo. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, but one has to wonder if such an effort would even be possible today.

Houghton opposed the articles of impeachment against then-President Bill Clinton. In 2002, he voted against the Iraq war resolution. During his last visit to Chautauqua County as a member of Congress, Houghton was effusive in his praise of former President Bill Clinton’s work in reducing the federal deficit and lamented that the lessons the country learned about spending under Clinton seemed to have been forgotten under former President George W. Bush.

Because of his well-earned reputation as a moderate who could work with Democrats while remaining well-respected amongst fellow Republicans, Houghton found himself able to criticize policy positions of politicians on either side of the partisan divide and not give the appearance of his views coming from a place of petty, partisan politics. Houghton’s thoughts, critiques and statements were received by Republicans and Democrats as the words of someone who placed his constituents and the good of the nation first and the needs of the political party second.

It is only with the benefit of hindsight that something Houghton said during his final visit to Jamestown before he retired from Congress truly sticks out. After spending about 35 minutes discussing the federal government’s biggest pending issues, Houghton took a second to thank his former Chautauqua County constituents.

“To be able to come out here and meet wonderful people such as yourself has just been an extraordinary experience,” Houghton said in October 2004. “I want to thank you so much for that.”

No Amo, thank you. You will be missed — both in Chautauqua County and in Washington, D.C.

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