When I first heard that Rep. Hanna has been selectively inviting individuals to meet with him at the Vestal Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015 I had some reservations. Not because I wasn’t invited to the public event but on Rep. Hanna. I was reminded of the 2014 election, and the votes to-date in Congress. I was also reminded of the flyer that suddenly was sent just weeks ago, again selectively, to voters and the actions of Assemblyman Brindisi this month. The picture it all paints is anything but a benefit for residents in the 22nd Congressional District of New York.
Elections, at all levels, are supposed to be a lightning rod. They are the combined message of constituents and their views on the issues of the day. From these elections, politicians are supposed to recognize exactly what their directive will be for the tenure of the time in office – whether they are newly elected or re-elected. An election is a mandate from the people to Government.
Well, that is the ideal at least. In reality it is far from that. As our President has clearly demonstrated, elections can be taken as merely an indication of how many people need to be handed 30-second soundbites and political propaganda to sell whatever vision the politician may decide unilaterally is best for them (and by extension their constituents). Yes, elections have turned in marketing leads. If an election goes badly, it just means that a new ad campaign needs to be rolled out – by both political parties.
I say that especially when I consider the race for the NY-22. For a year, 2013 until 2014, I ran for Congress. I traveled across the District, speaking with the public directly. At the same time I challenged Rep. Hanna to a debate, or at least to even address the issues that the people were telling me they were concerned about. Rep. Hanna ignored every question and every challenge.
In 2014, Assemblywoman Tenney, with far more access to the media and an existing base of supporters stepped into the race. She holds many of the same positions that I and most of the people in the District hold. She too called on Rep. Hanna to speak about his “schizophrenic” voting on abortion, immigration, veterans, fiscal responsibility and more. Once again Rep. Hanna turned a deaf ear and amped up his advertising on everything but the issues (mostly on mudslinging if we are honest).
But after a narrow win, by a mere 2,000 votes, Rep. Hanna won the Republican primary. In November 2014 he faced no one, as Democrats abandoned their Party in hopes of protecting the Senate majority they had. The Democrats lost and Rep. Hanna won the general election. But 26% of the votes in the general election voted for “Blank”. That is a critical statement. It’s a clear indication of the public lacking confidence so much that they would rather have Mickey Mouse or Goofy in Congress than Rep. Hanna.
If this were an ideal world, then Rep. Hanna would have learned from these election results. He would have realized that Republicans, and Conservatives that had rejected him since 2012, were fed up with a politician that actively says one thing and votes another. His own party was tired of a politician that claimed to hold their values, only to toss those values aside every time a critical vote took place.
Someone that was there to represent the people of the NY-22 would have changed, or at the very least stood talk and publicly explained the definitive stance on the issues that they held. That is my opinion.
Instead, Rep. Hanna apparently learned about advertising and marketing. He learned that the number one asset for any sitting politician, his name, was unknown in vast portions of the NY-22. While he would not release the results of his internal polling, I believe he found out that in some portions of Broome, Tioga, and Chenango counties there were as many people that thought he was the Democrat that he inherited the District from (former Rep. Maurice Hinchey) as knew of him directly.
Rep. Hanna learned that he was weak. A man with no political background but a clear understanding of the issues and defined positions (myself, without being modest or overly self-promoting), was able to take a race that in 2013 was thought of as a foregone definitive win and change the situation. With $5,000 the awareness of the issues and reality of a choice was enough to have people from Herkimer to Washington D.C. take notice and question if Rep. Hanna could win. In the end, I raised the bar enough to let another candidate, Assemblywoman Tenney, step in and nearly win the race.
Another lesson Rep. Hanna learned. When faced with someone who actually had enough money to stand up to him, and enough status that he could not scoff at her credentials, he had no plan B. Rep. Hanna only won by slinging a lot of mud, and the good graces of PAC’s that hold positions the people of the NY-22 don’t believe in.
Rep. Hanna knew, or was told by his staff I would imagine, that in a year where a Democrat was running and he was challenged again, he would lose unless he did something. He could have sided with the people. He could have come clean with the positions he held convictions in. Instead he chose soundbites.
Rep. Hanna, after voting for and against President Obama’s wildly unpopular grab of power via Executive Order decided to vote in favor of abortion. Rep. Hanna further capitulated on the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. But to make up for it, he spent taxpayer money to send out flyers telling half the story of what he was doing. PT Barnum would be proud. If the truth won’t work, sell only the parts of the truth that will work for you.
But the staff of Rep. Hanna were likely not the only ones to notice how weak he was. Democrats saw an opening, and leapt forward apparently with Assemblyman Brindisi. The race for 2016 had started. Rep. Hanna responded with robocalls (again paid for by taxpayers to my knowledge), talking up his highly edited voting history.
The next phase appears to be Vestal, NY. Without doubt there will be appearances, to selected voters, in Tioga and Chenango counties before the summer and candidates officially signal their intentions to run. Rep. Hanna is spending money (taxpayer money) to make sure in 2016 he has name recognition – the biggest weapon in the arsenal for a politician. It doesn’t make him better at his job, just better known. Kind of like why Glozell Green (search Youtube for her name and fruit loops if you don’t know who she is) got to meet President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t.
I wish I were wrong. But in my opinion, I see no change in the chaotic voting that is Rep. Hanna’s history. I see no more credibility in his sitting on the fence, or actively voting against the wishes of his constituents that he is keenly aware of by his own admission, than I did in 2013.
Still, I will be at the Vestal Diner on March 13th. If Rep. Hanna dares, I will speak with him (again, though for the first time in public). I will give him the chance to explain his apparently self-serving actions, and his vision for representing the NY-22. I am a fair man, and while I have reservations, based on my opinion as described above, I will hear him out objectively.
What I hope to hear is how Rep. Hanna’s actions are helping the nation and the NY-22. What I want to hear is that he has taken a position, and a willingness to let the public know what he actually plans on doing in our collective names. If I were to demand anything, it would be to have him declare that he has learned to represent the people that narrowly elected him as that is his first priority in the job the public gave him.
Whatever the outcome, I will present it. Objectively, with the same passion and honesty I have provided in every article I have been writing for years upon years now. I have never had anyone question or deny a quote I have written, I will not lose that reputation in covering Rep. Richard Hanna in Vestal, NY. Yet, at the same time, I cannot be bought nor can I be distracted with 30-second soundbites and political double talk.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Former 2014 candidate for Congress
President – M V Consulting, Inc.