EDITORIAL: In primaries, Faso, Teachout

CAUTION: THIS IS AN ill-informed editorial. No surprise, huh? Why should this week be any different? The answer is that the subjects, one of whom will be the next member of Congress representing Columbia County, didn’t have a chance to contribute even though it’s about them.

We did reach out to them… kind of. Last week The Columbia Paper emailed requests for information from the four candidates in the two primary elections taking place next Tuesday, June 28 from noon until 9 p.m. The two candidates in the Democratic primary are Zephyr Teachout and Will Yandik; the two Republicans in their party’s primary are John Faso and Andrew Heaney. The winners will face each other in the fall campaign for the seat in the 19th Congressional District, which meanders through 11 counties.

Mr. Faso responded after our deadline; nothing from the others. Our email was last-minute and smelled of desperation on our part. Maybe the candidates were miffed that we asked them to limit their statements to 200 words. Or, with only a week left before the primary, they may have had better ways to use their time. In Columbia County neither Democrats nor Republicans account for more than 10% of their parties’ total enrollment in the 19th District.

The seat is currently held by Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, a popular Republican who’s declined to run for a fourth term. So it might seem like the GOP nominee will have a clear path to victory. But this is a presidential election year when more voters typically go to the polls, and Democrats have a commanding lead in voters statewide. While they’re voting, they’ll pick their party’s congressional candidate on the ballot line next to president.

Democrats hold a slight overall plurality in this district, but that’s offset by the Conservative Party and by the wild card voters who don’t enroll in any party. Those small-party and no-party voters might be critical in the general election November 8. But in New York State only party members may vote in that party’s primary, which means those party faithful decide the candidates next week.

Most of the money for the local primary campaigns comes from individual donors. This year three of the four candidates raised more than $1 million each between the launch of their campaigns earlier this year and June 8, when the most recent federal campaign finance reports were filed. Mr. Heaney, a businessman, raised the biggest amount, $1.6 million.

His opponent, Mr. Faso, raised $1.2 million. A little less than 5% of Mr. Faso’s money came from political action committees, called PACs. Mr. Heaney didn’t receive any PAC money, but he personally contributed about 22% of his total campaign budget. Without that self-funding the two GOP contenders have had raised roughly equal amounts and are using it for equally annoying TV ads trashing their opponent’s character and qualifications. That’s the game.

Judging from their websites and public statements, there isn’t much of substance that separates them. They offer conservative solutions to problems facing the nation, with Mr. Heaney emphasizing his business skills and perspectives and Mr. Faso his experience and public service.

It might be a difficult choice but for the decision by Mr. Heaney endorse Donald Trump and advertise their common goals. It’s understandable that voters who’ve been left on the short end of the economy for a generation might find something hopeful in Mr. Trump, despite his racist, hateful message. But a candidate for high office in this country has no excuse for endorsing Mr. Trump or his message unless the candidate shares those views.

I urge Republican voters to remind the community and the nation that bigotry is not a fundamental principle of conservative politics. I urge them to choose John Faso as their party’s nominee.

Will Yandik raised the least amount of money of the four candidates–about 1/3 as much as Zephyr Teachout. He might do much better at the money part if he were the nominee, but sadly, the ability to raise campaign donations is the measure a candidate’s strength.

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