- Article first published January 26, 2016, at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com, written by Michael Vasquez -
There is seemingly no end to the number of candidates indicating interest in the 2016 New York 22nd congressional race. Rumors of new candidates are appearing almost as fast as potential candidates are dropping out, while new unknown names are entering the race. One of those unknowns is of particular interest.
In Madison County, one of the 8 counties that in part or whole make up the NY-22, a new name that apparently is preparing to make an announcement appears to be Steven Wells. The general public is certainly unaware of who Mr. Wells is, as he has never made a public statement about any political issue or matter of substance. But among political circles Mr. Wells is far better known.
Mr. Wells is the President/COO/Executive of American Food and Vending Corporation (AFVC). AFVC is the parent company of American International Foodservice Corporation and American Vending. In addition Mr. Wells is a partner in Kirkwood Ventures LLC. The confusion in the titles is connected directly with the reason Mr. Wells is known among politicians.
Mr. Wells is a prolific campaign donor. Via his various companies he has donated to multiple campaigns including: Former Assemblyman John Faso, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Rep. Tom Reed, and retiring Rep. Richard Hanna. While some of his recent donations may seem to favor Republicans, Mr. Wells is not limited to that Party. He has made donations to Former Rep. Dan Maffei and Former Rep. Bill Owens. Just last year Mr. Wells, via the companies he controls, made donations of $10,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2015 (interestingly after losing a legal case over the Empire Zone tax status of his company). In all, Mr. Wells has been an active and avid campaign donor since 2000.
The item that is curious about all these donations is that they are all reported as being from multiple cities in New York State. While attributed to the same companies, under the various titles noted above, donations have been made from Binghamton, Cazenovia, Faetteville, Liverpool, and Syracuse. It should be noted that the headquarters of AFVC is listed as in Syracuse, NY, though its direct subsidiary is reported as being headquartered in Pompano Beach, Florida. It is confusing.
Beyond the multiple political donations, there appears to be almost no other connection to politics by Mr. Wells. He has no public record of any positions on any issue that has faced the nation, ever. Having supported Republicans and Democrats alike, there is no clear indication of where he stands either. In fact the only public record that can be found is a Youtube video attributed to Mr. Wells, where he advises new youthful entrants to the workforce to dumb down their interactions with clients and co-workers. But while he has maintained a low public profile, Mr. Wells was part of the transition team for Rep. John Katco in 2014, who replaced Rep. Maffei that Mr. Wells donated to in 2010.
Regardless of this apparent lack of visibility on the issues affecting Americans for more than a decade, Mr. Wells has made several moves to enter the congressional race according to our sources. A few Republicans have advanced his cause in Madison County. Separately we have confirmed Mr. Wells has spoken to several Chairmen of the various Republican committees across the district about his interest in running. In addition we have sources, who requested to not be named, that have indicated that moves to create a formal campaign are under way.
Our attempts to contact Mr. Wells for this article have gone without response. This leaves several questions up in the air. Is Mr. Wells going to continue moving forward with his campaign? Where does Mr. Wells stand on the issues, and why has he been silent? What does he hope to achieve in Congress? What motivated his political donations to Republicans and Democrats, most of whom seem to not be connected to his County of residence? Where exactly is Mr. Wells County of residence, and why has he made donations in such a confusing manner?
Of course the penultimate question would have to be what is it that Mr. Wells believes he can present to the voters in the NY-22? Beyond the story of his success as a businessman and political donor, what can Mr. Wells bring to the congressional race. This may be the critical question that could be the final factor whether Mr. Wells will move forward or add his financial support to the existing candidates as he has done in the past.
Regardless, one thing is certain. With the start of the petition season beginning on March 8, 2016, given the lack of name recognition throughout the New York 22nd congressional district of every known and potential candidate (with the exception of Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney who ran in 2014), the need to make an official entry into the race is increasingly a more urgent matter. Madison County Republicans will be meeting on February 9, 2016 to discuss the declared candidates (to be followed by Oswego County 2 days later, and other County Committees thereafter).
We extend the offer, to Mr. Wells and all candidates and incumbents, the opportunity to have an interview with us about this or any election. We do not endorse any candidate. We seek to provide information for voters about all candidates and any matter relevant to primaries and elections.