As written on April 12, 2016, for Binghamton Political Buzz by Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Our on-going comprehensive and leading coverage of the New York 22nd congressional race continues with the latest developments from several of the candidates. Even as the various campaigns are submitting their petitions to gain access to the June 28, 2016 primary ballot, several have begun to move forward with the second stage of their efforts. The growth of advertising in this congressional race is a telling foreshadowing of what may be likely on the horizon.
But before that can be discussed, we must first recognize that the 8th candidate in the NY-22 race is Martin Babinec. Mr. Babinec, seeking the Independence Party line for the election is an unknown to all but some in Herkimer County. It was in the Herkimer County Republican Committee meeting of February that set the path for Mr. Babinec, a businessman with no prior experience in politics. Mr. Babinec failed in his attempt to gain the Herkimer Republican Committee endorsement – as he is not a registered Republican and could not be considered – which led him to the Independence line, which has far lower requirements to gain the ballot.
Though Mr. Babinec is known regionally, he did not have District-wide acknowledgement. Even the news that he will largely self-fund his campaign, having reportedly filed to give his campaign $1 million as he has no significant financial support from the public at large, was only covered in local papers with the media ignoring him overall. Like every candidate that has announced in the NY-22 race, we have extended an offer for interview to Mr. Babinec – we have received no response thus far (a trend that seems to be consistent among the 3 richest candidates in this race).
Part of the funds of the Babinec Campaign have been used to pay for workers to seek out petitions. Normally petitions are passed by County Committee members and volunteers, but paid workers are not illegal – though often considered an indication of a weaker campaign. Many were college students, including the paid petition worker we met on April 8, 2016, who had just arrived in Binghamton, NY, along with a handful of co-workers. As we were told directly, many of the workers have no knowledge of the race, but were working to meet their quota which was difficult as the pool of potential signatures was quite small. Simultaneously on that day, the George Phillips campaign was collecting signatures. Many of the campaigns similarly collected petitions over the weekend, with the Claudia Tenney Campaign already filing 3,600 petitions on Monday, April 11, 2016.
But the Babinec Campaign was not just satisfied with just paid workers. As of at least April 11, 2016, the Babinec Campaign began to advertise on social media – specifically Facebook – to gain greater attention among voters. By no means was this the first campaign to reach out to the voters via advertising. As we reported previously Republican Aaron Price was the first to advertise via radio ads (which eventually revealed he is supporting succession in opposition to what he stated in our interview with him). He was followed by Republican Steve Wells, also on social media – again specifically Facebook.
It should be noted that Martin Babinec and Steve Wells have generally avoided the public thus far. While both have websites (in fact the Wells Campaign having revamped its initial website after receiving criticism), and having spoken for articles promoting their campaigns, neither had explained their positions, reasons to run, or plans if elected to-date. This is equally true of Democrat Kim Myers, whose only public contact has thus far been a website containing a single 4 sentence paragraph and a request for donations.
Apparently Steve Wells feels confident that he will be among those to hurdle the requirement of petition signatures (at this time we are only aware of 1 campaign that may not achieve access to the ballot). Thus, in his first direct contact with the Southern Tier, the Wells Campaign has delivered the first round on campaign flyers. Much like the Facebook ads of Babinec, and those for Wells, more questions are raised than answered. Some of those are:
- Why are the candidates with the most wealth the least active in explaining their run for the congressional race to the public directly?
- Why are Babinec, Myers, and Wells, so adamant in separating themselves from the public – none have had any public events within the Southern Tier (and only a handful in any of the 8 Counties of the District)?
- Specifically for Steve Wells, how can a volunteer Chairman for the NY State GOP who has a 15 year record of political donations (for both Parties and most recently to Gov. Andrew Cuomo), be considered as a political outsider as has been claimed in the Wells advertisements? [See attached photo of mailed flyer]
- Specifically for Kim Myers, how can a single paragraph (containing no details) and a donation button be the only justification for a run for Congress? [A question we raised against George Phillips for the same reason]
There are many more questions that can be asked. Given the reluctance to appear in front of any news media to answer questions in an interview it seems that the strategy among the most wealthy congressional candidates will be to buy votes via a slew of advertisements in lieu of actual discussion. Like a crowd of peacocks, the plumage of paid advertisements are beginning to be spread to bedazzle voters with style over substance and equating wealth with political acumen.
Regardless of the mounting questions, that we again invite all the candidates for the NY congressional race to answer in interviews with us, there is one thing that is clear. The second stage, a battle of 30-second soundbites and self-promotional material, has begun in earnest. While all remaining candidates will of course join in this battle, the wealth of the Independent, Republican, and Democrat millionaires will try to dominate the marketplace.
How successful this will be is unclear. Unlike a soda or a pair of jeans, politics affects the masses in ways that can be generational. Name recognition, a major factor in contested elections, is often useless unless that name can be matched to a cause or issue that voters care about. Considering the 3 most wealthy candidates are actively being least definitive on what they stand for or what they will do, the hope of some would be that merely buying ads will not be enough to influence the public.