Our Republican congressman Chris Gibson is a likeable and modest guy, and that’s why I’d give him the edge in the ongoing congressional race in NY-19. In fact, I like him myself even though I won’t vote for him. We’re neighbors and last time I saw him he was just sitting on his porch in Kinderhook as I went biking past. First time I met him, I was at the 4th of July parade with my grandkids and we were talking for a while and he never mentioned he was running for Congress. His aunt even asked me to write his authorized biography – until Chris apparently vetoed the idea of having an amateur like myself take on such a task. (Fair disclosure: I met the very nice lady while infilftrating a tea party rally)
And Chris is one of only 500 or so people who read my first book, or claimed to, and that goes a long way with me, Republican or no.
Chris Gibson has a great story. He’s a local boy who joined the ROTC at Siena College and went on to serve four tours in Iraq and retire as a colonel. In the course of researching the aborted bio, I talked with a couple enlisted guys who served with him and they think very highly of him as a man and a leader.
However, he’s not quite the country boy who went away to war and came home to be a congressman. In 2006-2007 the Pentagon sent him as a national security fellow to the Hoover Institution at Stanford . If you are not familiar with the Hoover, check out its website and see if you don’t find its coziness with our military out of line.
While at Hoover, Col. Gibson put together a book entitled of Securing the State. This is a fine piece of writing, not surprising since Chris has a Ph.D from Cornell from another sabbatical courtesy of the Pentagon. Available for a hefty $89.95, the book is not aimed at the working class reader. A fellow military man, Col. Stuart Archer critiques what he calls Gibson’s “military bias” and calls his vision of a harmonious balance between military and civilian authorities as “utopian.” Archer, in fact, accuses Gibson of wanting to “raise the status of senior uniformed officers to unsustainable levels of influence in today’s modern political environment.” Read the whole review , or the book if you havea spare $89, and see if you find Gibson’s dream as utopian as Col. Archer does. Or maybe dystopian?
No doubt Col. Gibson is an interesting kind of conservative, not the typical yahoo, but even so, he has been a reliable vote to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood and for the Ryan budget. - Although more recently, in a typical ploy, he was allowed to vote for a somewhat different “bipartisan” budget that was designed as a figleaf for Republicans in purple districts. His most memorable contribution to alternative energy was to call for nuclear plants here in the district but that was quickly slapped down by irate constituents. On a happier note, he has teamed up with neighboring Democratic congressman Paul Tonko to support some promising energy initiatives. I liked Gibson’s vote against the extension of the Patriot Act but it’s hard to say if that was from conviction or only a vote permitted by the Boehner leadership when that bill was guaranteed passage anyway. (btw Obama favored that extension)
Clearly Gibson has a good chance for re-election. But his voting record is troubling, although the votes cited in Schriebman campaign literature all occurredin the first six months of his term:
2/18/11 Voted to defund Planned Parenthood
3/1/11 Voted to protect tax breaks for Big Oil
4/15/11 Voted to turn Medicare into a coupon program and weaken Social Security
6/16/11 Voted to cut funding for rural broadband by $21 million
6/22/11 Voted to undermine and weaken the Clean Air Act
He may have, like Romney, moved toward the middle when it became apparent that he would be redistricted to a new NY-19. The previous NY-20 was a perfect gerrymander, stretching from the Adirondacks to the Delaware River and making sharp detours around any city - about as rural and white a district as you can find this side of Idaho.
So I went down to volunteer some time at the offices of his Democratic challenger, Julian Schriebman from Kingston, an area not in the old NY-20 . All I knew of Schriebman was that he was a prosecutor and the “centrist” who beat my choice, the far more liberal Joel Tyner in the primary. If Tyner had won the nomination, this could have been a really exciting race with some real issues on the table. Schriebman was the "safe" choice and most of the Dems in this fairly conservative area went for him. So be it, but I was not thrilled that Schriebman had been a CIA lawyer during the Bush years, back when CIA lawyers were justifying torture, assassination and rendition. And although there’s no evidence linking him to war crimes, being ex-CIA would ordinarily be a disqualification for my support. But, as I say, this election will be close and we need a Democratic congress. And he has been endorsed by Move On.org and the Sierra Club.
I made almost a hundred calls for Schriebman yesterday. Since I couldn’t make the best case for the guy himself, I pushed the Democratic party while chatting with the senior citizens on my list: “The Democrats gave us Social Security and Medicare and the Republicans have been trying to take it away for decades.” It turned out that was a pretty good argument and I think I convinced four people to switch from Gibson to Schriebman.
As I say, the contest for NY-19 will be close. Gibson is very appealing and did well in the recent debate. Schriebman is not stirring enthusiasm, as far as I can see, but he needs to win. And I will be making more calls and maybe knocking on some doors.
A couple things bother me regarding congressional races and I’d be curious to hear what’s happening in other districts:
During the three debates Obama missed every opportunity to make the case for a democratic congress to support his vision for the next four years. Am I wrong on this? I don’t think he even made one plea for votes for his fellow democrats in the course of the three debates? I’ve seen the television ads but how well in the national campaign supporting races for the House in other ways?
As to the national campaign offices - The local congressional campaign here may be suffering from excessive top-down control and I wonder if this happening elsewhere. The two women at the office where I volunteered were great, but there was only one other volunteer making calls. And the women in the office said that they could not allow us to take home voters lists and call from home. Their concern was that they would not be able to get back the data fast enough if we called from home and evidently the national campaign has made getting back that data a higher priority than having more calls made. Is this a correct perception?
In 2008 the Obama website provided a means for calling from home and I called hundreds of voters in key states – and I think I had some effect. As far as I can see, the Obama campaign site is no longer set up for this. Am I missing something?
What’s going on in other congressional races? What can you say about procedures for calling voters within the next two weeks for both congressional and presidential races?