by Bill Claydon
With this blog entry, I would like to offer a belated but heartfelt congratulations to Chris Gibson for winning the congressional election for New York’s 20th Congressional District! This was an amazing double digit point win. Gibson will enter Congress with a mandate. The people have clearly spoken and said they want real change.
This was a hard fought battle as is any battle where an incumbent is involved. An incumbent has name recognition and the ability to continuously generate publicity via his/her office’s press releases and mailings to constituents. The act of doing one’s duties in office creates media exposure. The opponent must work harder to get his or her name out there and get people excited about supporting them. This is a tough hill to climb.
Some might dismiss this victory as merely being from a district with an advantage in terms of Republican registrations. I think that assessment is plain wrong. For three elections in a row, the district went to a Democrat candidate. The shift in the 2006 election is understandable because John Sweeney was the incumbent at the time. But based on 2008 and 2009, this district could hardly be classified as a “safe Republican district” regardless of registrations. Colonel Gibson beat an incumbent with roughly three times as much money in campaign funds who had support of major political celebrities like Bill Clinton and Andrew Cuomo.
Having spoken with Chris Gibson a number of times, he struck me as fresh, personable, genuine and someone with whom I could trust to mean what he says and say what he means. I firmly believe he will truly represent the people. Kinderhook is his hometown. And, as one who did not simply enter the district as a millionaire and run for Congress a short time thereafter, he understands the concerns of the ordinary people he will represent. He held numerous campaign events with the people (not just the politically connected) and was willing to take questions and engage with those who do not necessarily share his positions. He will represent both those who voted for him and those who did not.
Listening to Colonel Gibson at length about his solid in-depth knowledge of the history of our nation’s founding and deep understanding of the meaning of our founding documents, I was greatly impressed. Unlike various other campaigns in this country, this was not someone who just cherry picked certain favorite amendments of the Constitution and zeroed in on those. He spoke from the perspective of being totally immersed in the full picture and rich history of the founding era and early years of the republic. As a student of history myself (though with a major focus more on the years of 1820-1860), I am especially looking forward to seeing that perspective in action in Washington, DC.
But above all, there was one thing that I felt was most important. In one of his appearances that I attended (and I’ll bet he said this at many others I did not happen to attend), Colonel Gibson asked us to hold him accountable. He asked us to hold his feet to the fire and vote accordingly should he not stay on the straight and narrow. This is precisely the kind of attitude we need from our elected representatives. This is the attitude of someone who does not feel he “deserves” office or “owns” the office. He recognizes that it is the people’s seat. He realizes that the people can and will give it to someone else if the people lose trust in the seat’s officeholder.
Obviously, the ground game was most important. Gibson had an excited group of supporters. While I did not have as much time to attend all of the rallies, I did go to a small number. The energy was fantastic, most especially during the Gibson rally when Bill Clinton unsuccessfully campaigned for Scott Murphy. While there were many sign waves for Gibson throughout the district, election day was certainly THE day of sign waves. Spending a little bit of time participating myself, I was heartened at the enthusiasm from drivers and the very limited negative reactions. I drove near Scott Murphy’s campaign office expecting to see at least a few people waving signs for him. There were none. Murphy simply did not seem to have an enthusiastic group of volunteers, despite the claims of a limited number district residents who said they supported his votes. Where were they when it came to trying to keep Murphy in office?
While I agree with many of Chris Gibson’s views, as most people know, I am pro-life and do not agree with his views on abortion. As the Declaration of Independence states, we are endowed by our Creator with the right to life. However, I voted for him. I will pray for him for all areas of his work but especially this. His position is far better than that of Scott Murphy’s. Further, as Gibson has said he would promote efforts for adoption and vote against taxpayer funding of abortion, I can support that. During Scott Murphy’s partial term in office, a vote came up to remove taxpayer funding (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year) of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. Murphy voted against this. Forcing taxpayers to subsidize domestic abortion businesses, or to fund organizations overseas that promote or provide abortions, is hardly “pro-choice.” As our nation continues to pile up debt for future generations and we need to examine ways to reduce spending, this seems like a logical item to cut. Nothing stops individual abortion supporters and big corporations from continuing to donate to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood.
In addition to congratulating Chris, I want to congratulate the campaign staff and volunteers for running/supporting an excellent campaign! But I’d like to particularly recognize Patrick Ziegler, Kate Better, Dan Odescalchi, Brad Littlefield, Steve Bulger, and Brandon Myers. Each of them did a tremendous amount of work.
Some have laughed off this victory, gleefully suggesting New York’s 20th congressional district will be axed when redistricting happens. My response? The best idea is to take things one step at a time. We can debate what the future may hold when it becomes more clear. Starting in January, we will have Congressman Gibson. We will watch his time in office. THAT is what is certain now, and THAT should be the focus.
Once again, congratulations Chris!