The GOP is bringing in some heavy hitters to stump for New York Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in hopes of taking back the 20th Congressional District seat left vacant when Kirsten Gillibrand was tapped to fill Hillary Clinton’s former Senate seat.
The New York congressional race is shaping up to be a national contest, with Republicans turning the special election into a referendum on President Obama and his economic policies.
Several top Republicans — including newly named Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — have lined up to campaign for Tedisco this month in Albany.
Tedisco, who is challenging businessman and venture capitalist Scott Murphy, a Democrat, in the March 31 special election, is minority leader in the State Assembly. He been a vocal conservative advocating fiscal responsibility and lower taxes, and also is a social conservative on issues like abortion.
The sprawling upstate New York district, about two hours north of New York City, has a history of conservative leaning. The district has had a Republican congressman 18 of the past 24 years.
RNC Chairman Steele recently told CNN that the congressional contest is of “serious symbolic importance,” noting that the race is a top priority for the party before it begins focusing on gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey this year.
"This is a very important special election,” Tedisco tells Newsmax. “All across New York's 20th Congressional District, times are tough and people are hurting. I am running for Congress because I can hit the ground running and make a positive difference for our district.”
GOP colleagues are lining up to help the longtime representative from Schenectady, raising money for his campaign, and urging Capitol Hill members to support him in what they say will be a key race to win after the devastating Senate, House, and presidential losses in November.
The GOP has a significant voter registration edge in the district — about 70,000 more GOP voters — and the Democratic candidate has several vulnerabilities.
Murphy is not originally from the area and has failed to vote in multiple elections. Those elections include city council races, four primary elections, four general elections, and the 2000 U.S. Senate and presidential election. Murphy was registered to vote in New York City, according to the Glens Falls Post Star.
The National Republican Campaign Committee highlighted Murphy’s missed votes in a recent news release outlining Murphy’s missed votes.
"I think the release speaks for itself," GOP spokesman Paul Lindsay told The Post Star, noting that Murphy was registered to vote in New York City since 1996 despite failing to vote from March 2000 to March 2004, and reportedly living in Missouri from October 2000 to January 2001.
Criticism over Murphy’s voting record comes after the GOP alleged that he also failed to pay taxes on a company he owned, the Journal News reported. Tedisco notes that voters are most likely disenchanted with financial executives, adding that financiers "got us into this mess, and I'm not sure that they are the ones to get us out."
“Middle-class families in upstate New York deserve a representative in Congress who has a proven track record of fighting for their interests and needs, not someone who still has so many unanswered questions about his past,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain told The Journal.
Tedisco says in Washington he will remain an advocate for New York's forgotten middle class. He plans to support "any legislation that cuts taxes for working families and creates jobs. I’m going to stand up and speak out for fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, accountability to the taxpayers and getting our economy back on the road to recovery,” he tells Newsmax.
"It is very important” for the Republican Party to take back the seat,” he says. “I have a proven record of leading the fight for lower taxes, more jobs and a stronger economy. But more important than partisan politics is the fact that Upstate families and small businesses are hurting and need help. In Congress, I'll fight for them."
Tedisco says once he is in Washington, he will propose an amendment to eliminate wasteful pork and drive the stimulus money toward more tax cuts for middle-class families, as he has done many times as a member of the State Assembly.
“We need to get our economy back on track to lift our state, and our nation, out of this recession,” he tells Newsmax. “We need to deliver real tax relief for overtaxed, overburdened middle class families and small businesses."
Tedisco, who is running a positive campaign focused on “my proven record of public service and delivering real tax relief and fighting for more jobs," is hosting a series of “Tele-Town Hall” meetings throughout the district to outline his agenda for “creating more jobs, building a stronger economy and delivering real tax relief to middle class families and small businesses.”
The RNC — hoping to boost party morale and fundraising efforts — is pumping cash into the race it is referring to as the “battle royale.” The party spent $80,000 on a new television spot supporting Tedisco.
The 30-second spot airing in Albany is titled, “One of Us,” and points to Tedisco as being the son of a foundry worker and loving mom whose life “was changed forever when he lost his young brother with Down Syndrome.” The campaign ad goes on to note that Tedisco “has dedicated his life to serving others as a special education teacher, guidance counselor, coach, and public servant."
Tedisco tells Newsmax the new ad is getting good feedback from constituents in the district.
"Our grass-roots campaign has been receiving a tremendous response from voters across the 20th Congressional District,” Tedisco tells Newsmax. “We have been blessed that so many people have expressed an interest in, and are excited and enthusiastic about, this race."
Tedisco will debate Murphy March 24 in a format that will include 30 minutes of questions from the audience and 30 minutes of moderated discussion.
The largely rural, middle-class congressional district composes much of the eastern edge of the state; stretches to include parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Valley; and includes all or parts of Columbia, Dutchess, Delaware, Essex, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties. It includes the cities of Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs, and once was represented in Congress by legendary New York pols Fiorello H. LaGuardia and Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. The district has nearly 700,000 mostly white residents.
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