Tag Archives: Rep. Christopher Lee

The Latest News in #NY26

10 Feb

Within thirty minutes of Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation from Congress, my phone began buzzing with texts and calls from political insiders, hacks and hangers-on with updates on the behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy in the race to replace Lee.

According to the law, the candidates to succeed Lee are chosen by a weighted vote of the county party chairs in the district. The 26th district includes parts of Erie, Niagara, Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming and Orleans counties. It is a far-flung district that was drawn as a Republican safe haven for former Rep. Tom “Boss Hogg” Reynolds.  For the Republican Party, Erie and Niagara County hold 51% of the weighted vote in the designation vote by the county chairs.  I can’t seem to find the weighted vote breakout for the Democrats in this district but I recall that it is similar or higher.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the formalities…lets get to the feeding frenzy.  I spoke with several Republicans and many Democrats both local and statewide in the last twenty four hours and this is what I’ve gleaned from those conversations.

Not Running Nor Under Consideration:

Carl Paladino

The former NY GOP Gubernatorial candidate is not even remotely under consideration for the designation.  Under no circumstances would the local, state or national Republican Party support his candidacy in this race.  Carl is a proud, lifelong resident of South Buffalo (NY-27) and would need to move into NY-26 to run, which is doubtful.  He is absolutely toxic and since Lee just committed political suicide with topless email photos, it is unfathomable that Carl “Horse Porn, N-Word Email” Paladino would garner any demonstrable level of support.

Chris Collins

The reports are that the current Erie County Executive is not interested in the race.  Several sources close to Collins tell me that the he is focused on running for re-election and a future run for Governor.  While he has a formidable war chest for a Congressional campaign, Collins will continue his laser-like focus on taking things away from “the poors” and destroying the urban fabric of WNY.  As an aside, Collins does not possess a legislative temperament.  The very idea of being just 1 of 435 voices in Congress must sicken him.  The daily compromising, the mixing with the hoi polloi, and the good-nature tickle fights with guys like Eric Massa would drive this egomaniac insane.

Kathy Konst

Former Erie County Legislator has been hard at work trying to get her name out as a candidate.  Reporters who aren’t in tune with our petty local politics might remember Konst as an up and coming reformist legislator. However, that’s no longer the case.  During her ill-fated 2008 state senate campaign against Republican Dinosaur Dale Volker, it was revealed what an enormous train wreck her husband was financially and she was publicly hung out to dry and beaten like a filthy carpet by Volker.  She never recovered.

She turned on the local Democratic Party and basically handed her County Legislature seat to the Grover Dill of local politics, Dino Fudoli.  She was immediately appointed as Commissioner of Environment and Planning under Chris Collins in the least transparent political sellout in recent local memory. She is persona non grata with local and regional Democrats.  In fact, I think it’s more likely that Jimmy Griffin (deceased former Mayor of Buffalo) would win this seat.  Since Konst would need to secure certificates of authorization from Erie County Dem Chairman Len Lenihan and Niagara County Dem Chair Dan Rivera (who share the majority of the weighted vote) Kathy doesn’t have a chance in hell.  All done with that rumor, okay?

The Republican Frontrunners

George Maziarz

Maziarz has been in the New York State Senate since 1995 and is an entrenched Albany politician who maintains appeal with the tea party lunatics and centrist Republicans.  Sources say he has the full support of former Rep. Tom Reynolds who is still a local kingmaker in Republican circles.

During his time in office, Maziarz has demonstrated the kind of tone deaf leadership which has made Albany famous for its epic level of dysfunction.  His “government reform” sensibilities have been on display in recent years.  For example, Maziarz spent $906,831 of our tax dollars on staff expenditures between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.    In 2009 and 2010, Maziarz raised campaign funds with tutti di tutti scumbag of the New York State Senate, Pedro Espada.  Maziarz is also the leader of a chorus of legislators who denounce “downstate” interests while accepting massive campaign donations from public employee unions, downstate interests, and lobbying groups.  He has been a proponent of generic Republican causes like “lowering taxes” and “lowering taxes”, “protecting the sanctity of marriage”.  Also, “lowering taxes”.  He likes that idea.

Recently, Maziarz was appointed to a cush “lulu” position in the State Senate as Vice President Pro Tempore and serves as a lynchpin of the narrow Republican majority in the senate.  If Maziarz were to accept the designation for NY-26, it would alter the balance of power statewide.  Jimmy Vielkind of the Albany Times-Union has more on the potential side effects of a Maziarz designation.

Jane Corwin

State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin represents the Fightin’ 142nd Assembly District, which covers parts of Erie and Niagara Counties.   Corwin has experience following disgraced Republicans into office, so she has that going for her, which is nice.  Jane defeated Assemblyman Mike Cole in the 2008 primary after Cole was formally censured by the New York State Assembly. He admitted to drinking excessively with a student intern and then spending the night in her apartment.

After a career of working at her father’s company, inheriting money and serving on charitable boards, Corwin served as the Assistant Treasurer of the Collins For Our Future campaign and was rewarded for her support by being pushed into the Assembly seat by the aforementioned Collins.  Did that sound dismissive enough?  Good.  That’s what I was going for.  She has been a reliable conservative vote on issues close to the hearts of right wingers everywhere.  You can check out her ideological positions by clicking here.  Good news for you people who hate the environment, she loves hydrofracking!

Most importantly, as an entitled millionaire who earned her money the old fashioned way, she is the perfect choice for the designation.  She can self fund this special election and she has enough money in the bank to take on whomever she’ll have to face in 2012 when NY-26, NY-27, and NY-28 are collapsed into two after redistricting.

Democratic Frontrunners (Pretty short bench for this race)

Mark Poloncarz

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz has not stated privately or publicly that he is interested in the race, but he has the name recognition required to start the campaign.  In 2005, Poloncarz won a county-wide office that had been under Republican control for three decades.

Mark has a pretty solid record of fiscal conservatism and good government ethics while developing a reputation as a fighter after nearly four years of daily battles with the County Executive.  Not a lot to go on policy-wise as he is the beancounter for the Erie County and rarely stakes out positions aside from fiscal issues, but Mark is known to be a solid progressive and is popular with the netroots.  He polls very well in the outer suburbs of Erie County and would be a dangerous candidate for any opponent.

Kathy Hochul

In 2010, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won re-election to her office and is rumored to be interested in the Erie County Executive position as well as the designation in NY-26.  Recent polling data gives her very high marks for likability, name recognition, and credibility.  As Erie County Clerk, she hasn’t taken many positions on matters of public policy, but she has stepped out on occasion to assert herself in the public eye.  Most notably, Hochul challenged Former Governor Eliot Spitzer on his plan to to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.  Hochul is not viewed as a “progressive” by the netroots/activist class, but she is a qualified, professional government executive.  Can she raise the money for the race?  Can she put together the organization required to run in a district as large as NY-26?

Jon Powers

A 2008 democratic candidate in NY-26, Powers lost in a three way primary to local businessman/soup fanatic Jack Davis and environmental attorney Alice Kryzan.  Powers was widely seen as an ideal candidate due to his military experience, educational background and dreamy good looks.  However, after losing the primary, Mr. Powers quickly left WNY for a job with a progressive national security think tank in Washington D.C. and is currently employed as a Special Advisor on Energy to the US Army.

Powers also burned some bridges on his way out of town by not giving up his Working Families Party line to Kryzan after she won the Democratic Primary. This alienated local Democrats and WFP officials alike.  Powers faces a massive uphill climb if he is interested in the race.  Most notably, the perception that he was a “carpetbagger” who parachuted back into WNY in 2008 only to run for Congress, which was solidified when he immediately moved to DC after losing in the primary.  He would need to assemble an organization, raise six figures of money in a hurry and mend some serious fences.  An unlikely candidate.

The Backbench Candidates:

Let’s dispense with the candidates who are just happy to have their name included in the discussion; Assemblyman Jim Hayes (R, Williamsville) Erie County Legislator Ed Rath (R, Amherst), Erie County Legislator Ray Walter (R, Clarence) and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks (R, Fairport).

Due to the weighted vote favoring candidates from Erie or Niagara County, Brooks starts out with a massive disadvantage but she is a leading compromise candidate.

Hayes is usually rumored to be a candidate when positions open up, but it appears he likes his comfortable position as a high ranking minority legislator in Albany.

Walter and Rath are relative newcomers to elective politics, but if the Collins and Reynolds factions cannot agree on a candidate and Brooks cannot secure support, one of them could emerge as a potential compromise candidate.  Rath, by nature of his Mother’s name recognition and reputation and Walter by nature of his strong right wing fiscal positions, likability and ties to Collins.

Due to her fat bank account and relationship with Chris Collins, I suspect we’ll see Jane Corwin emerge as the Republican candidate and she’ll be difficult to beat.  It looks as if Kathy Hochul will emerge as the Democratic candidate and her only real limitation would be raising enough money to compete with Corwin.

If a respectable candidate is identified who can raise in the neighborhood of $200-500K on short notice, the DCCC will reportedly inject a serious amount of cash into this race.  Even in a right leaning district, a centrist technocrat like Hochul could steal the seat for the Democrats.  So, can Kathy turn around a quick fundraising operation to get the necessary national support?

Did I just write 1800 words about this race?  YOU’RE GOD DAMNED RIGHT I DID! If you read all the way to the end, you get a prize…an autographed picture of Marc Odien!  Please send a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to:

Self Loathing Political Nerds Anonymous

327 Niagara Street

Buffalo, NY 14201

Chris Lee & the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill

29 Sep

Today, the House passed the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill 268 – 160. Named for a New York City police officer who responded on 9/11 and died in 2006 from a respiratory illness that’s been causally linked to exposure to chemicals in the air on that day, the bill provides a $7.4 billion fund for the medical expenses and other compensation to those whose health is similarly affected.

To pay for it, Congress closed a loophole exploited by many nominally American, and multinational corporations whose headquarters are removed to foreign tax havens in an effort to avoid or minimize exposure to US corporate income taxes. The Zadroga bill closes that loophole and requires those companies to pay taxes on income earned from business in the US.

The sole member of the New York State congressional delegation to vote against guaranteeing health care and monitoring for the heroes of 9/11 was Chris Lee from NY-26. Lee’s objection? He can’t STAND the government having the job-killing audacity to expect companies making a profit in the United States to actually pay income taxes on those profits. Only the little people pay taxes.

So, there you have it.

When given a choice to stand with the heroes of 9/11, or to stand with tax-avoiding multinational corporations, Chris Lee stands with big business.

Darwin Martin House Funding (Not) at Risk UPDATED

30 Jul

UPDATE: The Flake Amendment was defeated in the House last night 165 – 258. To his credit, Chris Lee voted “Nay”. Now, call and thank him at (202) 225-5265.

Tonight, the House is expected to take up an appropriations bill including $1 million for Buffalo’s Darwin Martin House, which is nearing its final restoration phase. Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona has introduced an amendment to strip that funding from the bill. Of the local delegation, both Representatives Higgins and Slaughter intend to not just vote against Flake’s amendment, but also to take to the floor to defend federal funding to restore a national treasure – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House..

As of right now, no one knows how Chris Lee will vote – with the Republicans, or whether he will instead vote to defend a WNY institution. Since Rep. Lee loves communicating by phone, call and find out! (202) 225-5265.

Aw, They Let Him Hold “KILL”

22 Mar
Chris Lee (NY-26)

What an unfortunate sign for Chris Lee (NY-26) to hold (click to enlarge)

Chris Lee (NY-26)

Chris Lee (NY-26) Pandering to the Tea Partiers (click to enlarge)

Holding “KILL” is like Teabagger Christmas. 

You stay classy, Chris Lee (NY-26).

Dear Chris Lee,

12 Mar

I know you adore the telephone town-hall meetings, but let me tell you why they’re pretty lame and inconvenient.

Now, I’m really happy that you hold anything at all. Some representatives don’t. But invariably, you hold your “town halls” at 5:40 pm. At 5:40 pm, I’m just getting home from work and scrambling to help get dinner ready. Or I’m helping with homework. 5:40 literally couldn’t be less convenient for regular working families.

Move the time to 6:30. Give us a chance to take a breath after a long day at work.

And more to the point, on the one occasion I stuck through a few minutes of a telephone town hall meeting, the one comment that got through was merely parroting your current position. I rolled my eyes and figured that the calls were being screened so as not to be too contrary to your stated position. Now, admittedly that may not be the case, but it was the impression I got.

How about this. Your district isn’t all that big. Maybe 60 miles across at its widest? How about holding genuine, in-person town hall meetings throughout the district, and do them at times when working people can attend. 6:30 is about right.



Feelings. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings

10 Sep

When discussing some topic of any import, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people use, “I feel” when they really mean, “I think.”  I’m not Dr. Phil, so I don’t care what you feel about very much of anything.  I may care what you think, however, because thinking is important when discussing policy or business with people in an arms-length scenario.

So, it’s fascinating to watch many, many conservatives do what they used to accuse liberals of doing – there is a new phenomenon, the bleeding heart conservative.

One need only look as far as the Glenn Beck Carnival Barker Hour on Fox to see an example of bleeding heart conservatism, as Beck weeps for this ‘n that.  More often than not, he’s weeping for the alleged destruction of America by President Commie Muslim Soetoro (CPUSA-Hell).  Which isn’t happening.  So, he’s weeping over nothing.  He’s overcome with emotion about nothing, really. Last night, as I pointed out here, some idiot from South Carolina interrupted the President’s speech with an astonishing outburst unprecedented in recent memory.  After all, when George Bush said Iraq had WMDs, no one yelled out, “liar”!

When we implement President’s Questions, then the backbenchers can go ahead and yell out shit.  In the meantime, they ought dummy up and do the standing-o/sit-don’t-clap dance.

Representative Wilson apologized this morning, and he indicates that he’s a bleeding heart conservative, too.  Expect him to be lauded by the bleeding hearts on Fox and talk radio as some sort of big hero today.

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.

Remember – the President was in the middle of debunking myths and misinformation about his health plan when Wilson screamed.  He was in the midst of explaining that illegal aliens don’t get health care under his plan – something expressly done in the bill.  Wilson screamed, “liar!” The emotions and feelings that prompted him to burst out like a toddler whose toy was taken away probably stem from the fact that his own bullshit was being debunked.

I expect my 3 year-old and my 9 year-old to keep their emotions in check.  Especially in public settings. I think it’s fair to expect the same of adult congresspeople.

Chris Lee (NY-26)

19 May

The Buffalo News did a quick review of Lee’s first few months in office, and I have to agree with them that Lee has turned out not to be the Republican robot I thought he’d be. He has quite evidently voted and introduced legislation in a thoughtful way – not a way I might always agree with – but also not necessarily in a knee-jerk manner that I was most afraid of.

I was wrong about Lee. The guy really seems to care about his constituents, and he’s taken an interest in the issues that matter. Even the people on my team are digging him:

In Washington, amid a Congress harshly divided along party lines, the new congressman’s approach has lent his early days in office a Mr. Lee-goes-to Washington quality.

For example, Democratic congressional staff members were surprised to see Lee at a meeting earlier this year with Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, given that other GOP lawmakers had not always attended such gatherings.

In addition, Lee has worked hard to build a relationship with Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, faithfully attending meetings of her Upstate Caucus and serving as the strongest Republican voice for high-speed rail in upstate New York.

Lee, Slaughter and Higgins teamed up on a proposal to get the Government Accountability Office to study pilot training after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 killed 50 people.

In addition, Lee and Higgins announced joint initiatives aimed at cutting the cost of applying for new documents that will be required for crossing the Canadian border starting June 1 and for opening a passport office in Western New York. In response, the State Department last week agreed to open a local passport office.

“Those good ideas that we announced were his ideas, not mine,” Higgins said. “But they were good ideas for Buffalo and Western New York, and that’s why I was there.”

Higgins acknowledged that he had no relationship with Reynolds. Not so with the new congressman.

“I see Chris Lee as a guy who is very serious. . . . I see great opportunities for he and I to work together to move Western New York forward,” Higgins said.

Like I said, I don’t have to agree with the guy all the time, but I can recognize that he’s actually thinking about stuff and ways to help the district.

Local Congressional Reactions

25 Feb

Chris Lee (R, NY-26):

“I appreciated President Obama for his remarks tonight during this great economic crisis. The fact that consumers and investors have not responded positively to the stimulus plan demonstrates that we can’t just spend our way to prosperity. What we need is a responsible, well-thought out plan to create jobs and promote economic recovery. Hopefully the President’s speech tonight was the first step in that process.

“And while I applaud the President’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, I am concerned that Washington politicians in Congress still have not gotten the message. The Congress is about to consider another massive spending bill that in many cases simply duplicates the spending in the stimulus measure. When the President says one thing and the Congress does another, it sends the kind of mixed messages that breed uncertainty among the public.

“A return to fiscal discipline will require a sustained commitment from both parties, and I am committed to working with President Obama to make it happen. My hope is that bipartisan progress on this fundamental challenge will pave the way for action on other pressing national priorities, including foreclosure relief, energy independence, and health care reform.”

Brian Higgins (D, NY-27)

“Tonight Congress and the country listened as our President, in office just four short weeks, laid out a very realistic and optimistic picture of the state of our nation. With a strong focus on our national economy President Obama provided new hope for middle class families like many in Western New York struggling to find work and afford quality healthcare.

The President shared how a renewed focus on domestic priorities such as education and energy reform, which have not received the attention they deserved in the past, can set our economy on a better path to the future. And with this President, a goal I have long advocated for is finally now truly America ’s goal, with the commitment to ‘launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.’

President Obama is honest about the real challenges ahead of us. He clearly recognizes the magnitude of this recession and plans to demand greater accountability and transparency of our government as a means to restore the confidence of the American people. The path to recovery will not be easy and will require a multifaceted approach that covers a spectrum of issues and includes short and long-term solutions for revival. Nevertheless, America is resilient. We are a nation of innovators, workers and leaders. With approval of the stimulus package, which will provide tax breaks for families and businesses and millions of dollars in investments in infrastructure, healthcare and education in Western New York , we have begun to lay the necessary groundwork for local and national economic revitalization. We live in a great nation that, even during this difficult time, continues to provide opportunities like no other. Western New Yorkers should be confident that our best days are still immediately ahead of us.”

Who is Lilly Ledbetter, and Why Does She Get an Act?

27 Jan

In 2007, a woman named Lilly Ledbetter saw a lawsuit of hers go to the Supreme Court. According to Congressman Brian Higgins,

Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly 20 years at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. She sued the company after learning that she was paid less then her male counterparts at the facility, despite having more experience than several of them. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex.

However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination, despite the fact that she filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as she received an anonymous note alerting her to pay discrimination.

While Ledbetter filed her charge within 180 days of receiving discriminatory pay, the court ruled that, since Ledbetter did not raise a claim within 180 days of the employer’s decision to pay her less, she could not receive any relief. Under this Supreme Court decision, employees in Ledbetter’s position would be forced to live with discriminatory paychecks for the rest of their careers.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act would reverse the SCOTUS’s decision, and permit aggrieved, discriminated-against plaintiffs to bring an action such as this within 180 days of any improper paycheck.

Higgins explains,

“This decision merely encouraged employers with discriminatory pay practices to continue such practices and keep them hidden from their workers, thereby running out the clock on a worker’s opportunity to challenge them. What we accomplished today was simply returning to the commonsense rule accepted for decades, that every discriminatory paycheck is a violation of the law that restarts the clock for filing a claim.”

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would apply to workers who file claims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability.

In a country such as this, with a constitution such as ours, the principle of equal pay for equal work by those with equal qualifications and experience is a pretty fundamental one. The Act passed 250-177. Higgins, Hinchey, Massa, and Slaughter voted in favor. Chris Lee voted against. (In 2007, it had passed 225 – 199).

Chris Lee: Surprise, Surprise

15 Jan

Freshman Republican Chris Lee (NY-26) voted in favor of SCHIP, a program whereby the federal government funds state-administered programs providing health insurance to families that have children, and don’t make a lot of money, but too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Lee’s office released this statement, which I pick up via the Albany Project:

“I am proud to support legislation that strengthens SCHIP’s ability to provide children living in poverty with access to affordable health insurance. This program has a solid track record of covering children in families who don’t have enough resources to keep pace with the rising costs of health care.

“Ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly is one of my highest priorities, which is why I am pleased that this measure does not add to the federal budget deficit. At the same time, I have concerns about whether this legislation does enough to focus coverage to help children most in need. We cannot tolerate any loopholes or abuses, especially now in the middle of an economic crisis, when the situation for many families is dire. I hope the legislative process will yield a better final product that addresses these concerns and ensures that SCHIP continues to serve the needs of low-income children first.

“Today’s vote is a victory for Western New York families, but it is only a first step in our efforts to reform America’s broken health care system.”

I am proud to see that Congressman Lee has reversed Tom Reynolds’ vote on this issue, which is a lifesaver for working families throughout the district.

I won’t agree with Lee on everything, but this came as a very pleasant and welcome surprise, indeed.