Editor’s note: Today The Buffalo News begins a series of editorials endorsing candidates for a number of offices. These endorsements by the editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our electoral process. The Erie County Board of Elections (http://www.erieboe.com) has sample ballots and maps showing district boundaries.
For all the heat and money devoted to the race for New York’s 27th Congressional District, the choice is clear and obvious: Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul deserves re-election.
More than that, her Republican opponent, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, flat-out has no business in Congress, unless voters want to see more of the division and rancor that has already made this Congress the lowest-rated ever in an election year.
Collins has a chief executive mindset and lacks both the willingness to compromise and the people skills that effective lawmakers need. Many voters seem to recognize that, given that polling shows a dead-even race in the overwhelmingly Republican district.
What Congress desperately needs are representatives who are passionate about their districts and their country, but who recognize that their political adversaries may also have legitimate viewpoints that their constituents endorse. Hochul has already demonstrated her commitment to that kind of leadership. She is devoted to representing a largely conservative district well.
Hochul is a problem-solver who wants to understand the needs of her various constituencies. Despite the predictable ads seeking to link her with President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Hochul has shown a stubborn independence, and not just as a member of Congress.
As Erie County clerk, she opposed then-Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and then-Gov. David A. Paterson on plans to require expensive new license plates at the start of the Great Recession.
Hochul has also had notable successes, prominently including her ability to bring Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to Niagara Falls, where he pledged critical support for the region’s threatened military airbase.
Collins, meanwhile, lacks the ability to perceive shades of difference in issues. He says he would be willing to compromise with Democrats as long as they first agree to his vision. That, in fact, is a barely disguised pledge not to compromise. That destructive tactic, routinely practiced by House Republicans, nearly led the country to default on its debt last year and consequently led to this January’s looming – and economically disastrous – fiscal cliff.
Collins is a single-minded, intensely focused individual, a quality that has no doubt helped produce his notable success as a businessman. But it didn’t work well for him as county executive and it will work even worse in what should be the collaborative process of lawmaking.
The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a staunch Massachusetts liberal, was widely regarded by his peers – Democratic and Republican – as a top-notch legislator. Why? Because he was willing to form relationships across the aisle to achieve important national goals. He worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is at least as far to the right as Kennedy was to the left.
Hochul has the necessary combination of vision, pragmatism and friendliness to adopt that model. Collins does not.
Collins clearly has an interest in public affairs and we encourage him to continue that interest. But he is not cut out for legislative office. Sometimes leaders have to play different roles than the ones they imagine. Collins should find that role and Hochul should go back to Congress.
Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, has earned our endorsement for a fifth term with his strong work for Western New York.
His opponent, Michael H. Madigan, a tea party activist, campaigns on improving inner-city education – think vouchers and charter schools – but that strict focus is more suited to local office, where his talent and passion can have a positive effect.
The top prize delivered by Higgins was a 2005 settlement with the New York Power Authority that accelerated payment of $279 million in long-term economic development funds. That money, along with the work of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., changed the downtown Buffalo waterfront landscape from a wasteland into a destination.
Indeed, what’s happening at the waterfront is a confirmation of the strategic vision Higgins has had for Buffalo’s waterfront: removing the barriers to access and creating an interconnected system of parks and public places along the water’s edge. All of this creates the conditions that make the waterfront attractive for private investment.
Higgins does not accept the word “no” when it comes to improving this community, whether it is with NYPA, the waterfront, eliminating Thruway tolls, blocking the U.S. Postal Service decision to close the William Street mail processing facility, or pushing for continued work on the Peace Bridge.
He works hard, marshals his facts and wins the fights. It’s working well, and we should keep Higgins.
Two attractive candidates are running in the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches across the Southern Tier from Lake Erie to Ithaca. Republican incumbent Tom Reed is seeking his second term in office after succeeding the disgraced Eric Massa. Reed is being challenged by Nate Shinagawa, a Tompkins County legislator.
Either could be an effective member of Congress and while there is much to like about Shinagawa’s energy and resume – he was a health care reformer before he was a politician – we lean toward Reed. We like his brand of Republicanism. It’s a passionate yet pragmatic approach to governing that is built on conservative principles yet is open to the possibility of compromise. He’s more out of the Jack Quinn mold than Paul Ryan’s, and that’s something that the Republican Party – and the nation – desperately need.
Given the polarized nature of politics today, Reed didn’t come out and say he would compromise with Democrats on the deficit, but he did say that “more and more of us are coming together” to get things done. We hope that’s true and we endorse Reed mainly because of that commitment.
The country cannot solve its problems without compromise, for the obvious reason that no one vision holds sway and the problems require immediate attention. We’d like to see Reed take a leading role in moving his party back toward the political center and in working to bring the federal deficit under control.
Shinagawa, meanwhile, is young – he just turned 28 – and would seem to have a bright future in politics. We hope and expect to see him again.
Friday: State Senate and county comptroller.